In the encore of the 2015 up-and-down season, every player on the offense played to their full potential, as they racked up 496 yards, 27 first downs and 44 points on an extremely talented Notre Dame defense. The season will ultimately go down as a "what could have been," especially after the mass exodus of underclassmen and the number of players that will be drafted from this team in the upcoming NFL Draft.
There were an abundance of questionable decisions over the course of the season that came from Urban Meyer and the coaching staff, which in my opinion, limited the offense. It started with the quarterback controversy and the flip-flopping of Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett, when everyone knew that Barrett was the better fit for what Meyer's offensive scheme has been all about. The offensive line, which returned four starters, got constantly out-schemed by inferior opponents. And lastly, the playcalling was not fluid and called correctly until the co-coordinators were placed in the coaches box.
How the offense executed against Michigan and Notre Dame is how it should have executed the entire season. They should be preparing to play Alabama next Monday, but the book is now closed on the season.
Let's take a look at the Fiesta Bowl:
|Designed runs||Dropbacks||Completions||Incompletions||TD pass||Scramble||Overthrow||Underthrow||Throwaway|
|Pressured||Sacked||Hit during throw||Pass break-up||Batted at LOS||Drops||Turnovers||TD run||Defensive PI|
*Tap passes do not count as pass attempts
The game was perfectly called by Ed Warinner and Tim Beck. They started out with a healthy mix of run and pass, which quickly got Barrett into rhythm. They worked Michael Thomas early on with hitches, something they have not done all season. Although it was not dynamic, the early passing game made Notre Dame respect it enough where they could not stack the box, which was a problem during the regular season. With the tempo kicked up, the read option game was Barrett at his finest, making all of the proper reads. When the offense is rolling as one unit like it was in the Fiesta Bowl, it is nearly impossible to slow down.
Barrett is the guy next year, which will most likely include a heavy dose of his legs early on, before one of the numerous, unproven skill position players asserts himself from the rest.
Ezekiel Elliott was excellent, per usual, against Notre Dame. He was reading his blocks, running physical, throwing his body around as a blocker and showing off his speed. Going into the game, I am not sure if anyone would have blamed him if he sort of preserved himself for the NFL Draft, but he was the exact opposite. Elliott's consistency, durability and tone setting will be missed next season.
It was nice to see Thomas get involved in the intermediate and short game. He worked the opposing defensive backs with slants and hitches, and then caught the defensive back napping on a beautifully ran post-corner route which resulted in a rare touchdown drop. I've talked about Thomas' precise route running before, and he showed it throughout the Fiesta Bowl, specifically on his touchdown reception. Watching Thomas' career progress from spring game hero to future (potential) first round pick, has been a real joy to watch and he will make a fantastic pro.
On this slant, he slows down his route and makes the defender bite on the hitch route that he successfully ran twice, before roasting the defender on the slant pattern for an easy six. Thomas does the little things that separate himself from other wideouts.