Three keys: Notre Dame vs. Air Force

Three keys: Notre Dame vs. Air Force
October 25, 2013, 2:45 pm
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1. Assert your dominance. Notre Dame may be without nose guard Louis Nix to clog up the middle against Air Force's option attack, but the Irish still have size and skill advantages across the board against the 1-6 Falcons. The goal of Air Force's option is to neutralize those advantages, but this is a defense that should be able to use speed and athleticism toward the edges to neutralize big plays — so long as players stay on their keys. For Notre Dame's offense against Air Force's defense, there's less chance of frustration. Air Force doesn't have a good defense, and Notre Dame's skill players should be able to take advantage of that.

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2. Score early. Jumping out to an early advantage is key against an offense that isn't great at playing catch-up. Air Force ranks 113th in the nation in long scrimmage plays (10 or more yards), and has 12 passing plays of 20 or more yards — second-to-last among FBS teams. The triple option isn't designed to come from behind, so if Notre Dame can net a few early touchdowns they could cruise to an easy victory.

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3. Keep Tommy Rees healthy. Pass protection has been a strong suit for Notre Dame this year, but the sack Rees took against USC — he didn't check into the right look on the play, coach Brian Kelly said — knocked him out and brought the Irish offense to a grinding halt. It's worth noting Air Force has a far worse defense than USC, and Andrew Hendrix had a 78-yard run against them in 2011. Losing Rees doesn't lose Notre Dame the game, but it may make things more interesting.