Statistics can’t take into account inches of rain being dumped on central North Carolina or wind gusts so strong that the light posts at Carter-Finley Stadium were swaying at times Saturday.
So when you see Notre Dame’s defense ranked No. 32 in S&P+ and its offense ranked No. 30 by the same advanced statistical system, it’s not necessarily because DeShone Kizer & Co. suddenly sunk from being a very good group to a mediocre one, or Greg Hudson found Michael’s Secret Stuff and dispersed it to the Irish defense.
The conditions in Raleigh, too, make it difficult for a 2-4 Notre Dame team desperately needing answers to get them.
There’s really not much to say about Notre Dame’s offensive performance, minus calling 36 pass plays against 28 running ones in a hurricane.
Run pass splits in ND-NCSU— Ben Stockwell (@PFF_Ben) October 8, 2016
ND: 28 run, 36 pass
NCSU: 47 R, 17 P
7 of ND's runs came on their last drive.
A 1 score game in a hurricane...
Kizer is still one of college football’s best quarterbacks despite completing only nine passes for 54 yards, while Notre Dame’s offensive line and running backs have been inconsistent to the point of mediocrity on the ground.
Coach Brian Kelly said Sunday he still doesn’t see his offense executing effectively late in games, pointing to Notre Dame’s losses to Texas, Michigan State and Duke as examples.
“It has nothing to do with scheme or coaching,” Kelly said. “We’ve had the ball in each one of our losses on the offensive side of the ball with a chance to either win or tie the game.
“… It's really just about having that demeanor and toughness and that will that regardless of the circumstances, we're going to get it done.
"The players are fine, coaching is fine. There is just a fine line between winning and losing, and we're not making or executing as a unit. Not any one person, but as a group we're not executing effectively in the closing minutes to win football games.”
Defensively, a number of players — led by Jerry Tillery — played well against N.C. State, and Kelly liked the way the Irish defense rallied to the ball.
“Regardless of what the field looks like, are your guys doing the things they're asked to do within the structure of the defense — a lot of those things were happening on Saturday,” Kelly said. “So if you take that away, in other words, if you take the conditions away and you play on a fast-track, our guys are doing the right things defensively. We just need to continue to build on that.”
If anything, that defensive effort is a positive takeaway for Notre Dame with Stanford limping to South Bend this weekend. Christian McCaffrey has just 84 yards on 20 carries in Stanford’s last two games — which the Cardinal lost by a combined 64 points to Washington and Washington State — while the Cardinal allowed an average of 6.63 yards per play in them.
So looking at that, Notre Dame’s offense can reasonably expect to return to its pre-hurricane levels of success. And if the defense is able to translate the effort it put forth in Raleigh into success this weekend, maybe it’ll result on Notre Dame’s third consecutive home win over Stanford.
But Notre Dame needs answers fast, and for most of its questions, it’s tough to find them in the film from N.C. State.
“We’ll move forward,” Kizer said Saturday, “and I can guarantee that we won’t have Hurricane Matthew in South Bend when we get back.”