A couple of weeks ago, I was really excited about weekends during the fall (if one day DC decides they want to cool off constantly) for two main reasons: 1) ND Football and Game of Thrones (House of the Dragon) are back.
My first season as a true Irish football fan was 2009, my first year. In the first game I ever attended, the Nevada Irish closed 35-0 (Go Irish! Beat Wolf Pack!). My colleagues and I graduated from the first year department Notre Dame That note with a sense of excitement and the electricity running through our veins that couldn’t convince me at the time wouldn’t last forever. These sentiments were tested but generally maintained for a few more weeks until a week 9 loss to the Navy indicated that I might not have read all the exact scripts when I signed up for my fan membership forms.
The subsequent back-to-back losses of Pitt, Connecticut and Stanford that sealed a 6-6 record for the 2009 season removed any remaining doubts about the ease of being a fan. Much of the recalibration is less due to the stress of actual games or playing on the field, but can often be due to the severity of the collective fan base. Being an ND soccer fan brings a lot of joy and excitement, but the whole package deal includes the inevitable exposure to a shared emotional rollercoaster of the fan cell. You end up having a great deal of control over how much you are personally willing to invest, but if you stick around for an entire season, you will undoubtedly find yourself at some point uncontrollable when scrolling through a comment chain that looks like it was copied live. For the novel by George R. R. Martin.
This weekend, just in time to coincide with the intense House of Dragons storyline, the ND fan base is back in the form of Game of Thrones we all know so well. While I sadly doubt that the brawl had reached an all-time high and that the worst of winter (both literally and figuratively) had yet to be seen in South Bend, things quickly tracked in a way I never expected. Honestly, the lack of performance and apparent glitches on the field didn’t surprise me because I was deliberately approaching this season primarily from a more moderate data angle and before now we didn’t have a lot of data. Powerful data points for making decisions or predictions.
Week two was the point of the season that I was most excited to get to because some of the key pieces of the analytics puzzle will finally be available. I knew there was a possibility, especially based on malfunctions in Ohio State Season opener, this second week may not be a miracle, but he was hoping it was better than what happened and at least kept pressing the grumbling about trouble at the wall for a little while longer.
But here we are, coming out of an unwelcome and unexpected loss for Marshall but we still have to do some data analysis. There’s not a lot of pretty stuff here, so I won’t go into a bunch of text comments (there are a lot more colorful comments already than I can produce). But there are some new tools we can use or start figuring out how the future may hold for the rest of what will undoubtedly be the sludge of the season. If you want more background information, check out my previous article on how to start this season by Marcus Freeman Accumulate next to the beginning of the season for new new coaches as well as Data preview in the second week.
From a high-level data perspective, the game wasn’t as ugly as what we would all agree was in fact the case. Marshall only collected 13 yards more than the ND. The Irish set better pass numbers (from a yardage standpoint only) than the herd but Marshall made up for a notable part of that by rushing. Notre Dame relied on the passing game much more, with Irish passers-by collectively scoring 38 attempts compared to Marshall’s 18. On the pass-efficiency side of things though, you can start to see glimpses of how what actually happened under the hood, using Marshall won 76% of his passes compared to 55% of his complete passes. The Irish dash unit’s low output, from both gross and average yardage advantage points, was notable and even from 30,000 feet wide. Notre Dame’s three objections feature prominently.
offensive ball movement
The Irish and the herd were all about the what and what regarding the first and third dips down.
Summarizing the motivations driven by both teams, these two models tell much of the story of what caused fans around the world to grapple with varying levels of anxiety about the realistic expectations for this season.
The performance on the defensive side of the ball hasn’t been perfect and hard to capture in data form, but it has largely been a saving grace for this team so far. This drive summary for the offensive unit in ND paints a somewhat bleak picture of why the Irish lost this weekend. Perhaps most disconcerting, though, is that the picture hasn’t been so rosy coming out from week one and looks a lot worse now, with the transitions, thankfully just objections, rearing their ugly heads.
The latest addition to data coverage is the dashboard! Now that we have a couple of data games to work with, I started putting together some dashboard to open up data exploration a bit more. The focus is now on providing insight into some of the season’s trends, on a weekly basis as well as a deeper look at individual drives (for both ND and opponents). The Season Trends dashboard focuses on first dips, third down transfers, and hours (total, pass, and lunge) attempts to lunge and rollover. The Drive Details dashboard lets people play while keeping track of the balance of play types within individual drives and yardage scores for plays.
I hope this week’s data review and new updates don’t just add a match to the wildfire many of us feel is brewing within the Keep of the Notre Dame fan base. But even if it did, over the past 10 years at least I think we’ve all seen the winds of ND football change so many times that the bad times won’t last forever and things will get better.
Cheers everyone and go Irish!!