Notre Dame Play Calling Stats

 The Notre Dame game seemed to spawn a lot of playcalling discussion. Here's a look at some of the statistics that involve playcall and formation. Remember to check the Notre Dame script for the play-by-play calls.

Caution - these aren't official stats, but they are the best I can do from watching game tape. I'm sure the coaches have it broken down differently and much more usefully. But for Joe Fan, this will do.



  • Formations run: 12 (almost all of the 13 Coach Solich alluded to in the preseason)
  • Formation choices: Wide (25%), Tight (21%), Power (12%), & Trips (11%) were the top 4. Nebraska didn't run Pro (what most would consider their base formation) until the last drive of the first half, and only ran it a total of 4 times..
  • 58% of offense was run from 2 TE formations [of the top 4, Tight, Power, and Trips have 2 TEs]

If you'd have asked me in the off-season what I thought the Huskers' most frequently called formations are, I would have said Pro, then Ace, then Tight. I would only have been correct on Tight for this game. Note the high percentage of 2-TE formations - this percentage has been more or less the case for the three games that I've done drive charts for. It only underscores the fact that for all intents and purposes, NU considers the top two TEs as starters. Here and elsewhere, I consistently see comments asking why the Huskers don't "run more 2 TEs?" My answer is that they run it WAY more than most fans think we do, to the tune of half the offense.

Interestingly, and as Greg pointed out last week, NU is showing a lot of TE motion. They're beginning to explore the H-back concept.


Here are some statistics on general play selection. Sacks are counted as yardage AGAINST the play type.


  • Counter/Trap - 24% of plays called, 27% of yards gained
  • Dropback pass - 9% plays, 18% yards
  • Option - 24% plays, 28% yards (~ 60% of yards on the big Crouch TD)
  • Play action pass - 13% plays, 3% yards
  • Power - 28% plays, 24% yards


For the running plays, the yardage mirrors frequency (realizing that the option's are heavily helped out by the big Crouch TD run). But look at passing. They were significantly more effective in dropback passing than they were in play action. As I watched the game, I thought NU was scoring pretty well with play action passing. But when you take into account the sacks and the incompletions, it wasn't a tremendously effective play selection for them. When you beak down the play action passes, you see the following:

  • 10 passes, only 3 completions. One incompletion is a pretty fortuitous interference penalty - certainly Davison was interfered with, but he was tightly double covered, and NU ended up getting a positive play from a dangerous decision to throw a ball into tight double coverage.
  • Of the 3 completions, two were option passes off our belly series (QB starts option, then cuts short and drops a couple of steps to a pocket). Nebraksa threw back across the field twice on these plays for big gains. They only tried one other option pass -- the interception intended for Judd Davies. That play was there, they just didn't execute the throw and catch.
  • When they passed off dive/iso/draw action (i.e., fake handoff), they completed only one pass, the game opener to Nuke. NU gave up three sacks off these plays. ND was all over this component, which is truly the staple in the play-action game (I think NU's favorite play-action call is off of the 43/47 Dive. I'm sure the coaches are working hard to get to the bottom of this.)

There have been numerous comments in various internet forums regarding a desire for more play action passing, especially on the final three drives. In my opinion, considering that :


  1. play action wasn't a great play selection for NU all day
  2. the only turnover had come from it
  3. NU was on its side of the field against an inspired defense that had been sacking them when they did it
  4. the defense was playing well

I can see why they avoided it at the end of the game.



I'm defining these as no gain or lost yardage. Total of 20 out of 76 or so plays.


  • Counter/Trap - 5% of plays, 0% of yards lost (i.e., none lost)
  • Dropback pass - 25% plays, 0% yards lost (no sacks)
  • Option - 30% plays, 13% yards lost
  • Play action pass - 30% plays, 77% of yards lost - ALL SACKS
  • Power - 10% plays, 10% yards lost


OK, back to play action passing. NU ran it our typical amount (from above, 13% of play selection). But check out the yards lost - 77% of all yards lost from scrimmage came on sacks in the play action game. Nebraska gained good yardage on a couple of plays, but when considered as a whole, it was very much high risk, high reward. I personally tend to consider play action passing the safer and more productive component of the passing game, but this was definitely NOT the case in the ND game.