Notre Dame cruises past St. Louis
Nothing fancy, just your basic Friday night win for Notre Dame.
The Pios remained patient through a scoreless first quarter and watched the pieces fall into place for a 34-3 win over St. Louis.
As has been the norm for meetings between these two teams, St. Louis gave a few unexpected looks and kept the game scoreless for the first twelve minutes. Notre Dame coach Lewis Cook was not as surprised as those sitting in the stands behind his team might have been.
“They always do a good job of scheming against us. They took away a few of the things we do with a couple of small changes in their defense. We’re just lucky to have the experience up front we have and to be able to communicate with them what has to be changed.”
It wasn’t like Notre Dame was headed off at any time in the game. The Pios kept the ball the first half of the first quarter on a 10 snap drive and played it safe by punting from the St. Louis 39 yard line. Three plays later, Gavin Bourgeois put the offense back at the same spot with an 18 yard punt return.
Brad Stoma connected with Kevin Frank for completions of 11 and 9 yards for a first down at the Saints 11 to start the second quarter. Shea Zaunbracher powered for 10 yards to the one and Stoma followed center Conner Arceneaux into the end zone with 11:29 to go in the half.
“We converted a fourth down to get that first score and that was a big play for us,” added Cook. “We had the fumbled punt and another bad snap on the extra point, but aside from that we played pretty good and there isn’t much to be upset with about our effort.”
The Pios defense teamed for an interception on the next possession when Christian Landry deflected a pass high into the air. Intended receiver Karlis Gardner leaped to pull down the tipped pass and Pios linebacker Hunter Stelly made a crushing tackle to jar the ball back up into the air for Gavin Bourgeois to intercept at the Saints 41 yard line.
Brad Stoma completed a 14 yard pass to John Michael Besse. On third down from the Saints 24, Stoma again found Besse from the right slot for a 24 yard TD pass.
“That second score was an ad lib play by Besse and Stoma,” explained Cook. “We had a quick out called and usually they will force that outside. J-Mike kind of set it up and settled in the hole and Brad read what he was doing and hit him with the pass. Besse turned it up and outran everyone to the goal line.”
The Pios defense forced another three and out and Notre Dame went to work from the Saints 37. On the first play, Brad Stoma went down the center of the field to sophomore Boedy Borill for a pass completion in stride at the goal line and a 21-0 halftime lead.
The Pios defense allowed just one first down and 8 total yards of offense in the first half. It got no better for St. Louis to start the second half when linebacker Hunter Stelly, who led the Pios with 9 tackles, forced a fumble on the first play and set ND up on the 8 yard line.
“At the beginning, we were keying on what we expected to see and they changed things a little bit,” noted Stelly. “It wasn’t anything we haven’t seen at some time, we just had to make sure we adjusted to get into position to defend what they were doing. We pretty much just played base defense and adjusted to their looks.”
It only took one play and 15 seconds of the third quarter to extend the lead to 27-0. John Michael Besse burst off right tackle for an 8 yard TD run.
“We talked at the half with our offensive line and they told us what they were seeing up front,” added Coach Cook. “I tell tackle Reese Besse to take his guy down, tell J-Mike to run at the tackle and tell the fullback to take out the linebacker. We snap it and boom, boom we get a touchdown. They come back and say coach, it was just like you drew it up. It goes back to what we talked about with our guys up front. They can tell us what is happening and we can tell them what they need to do to adjust and they just get it. Some years, we don’t get that kind of understanding when we get them on the sideline.”
St. Louis again could do nothing against the Pios defense and punted after three plays. Notre Dame needed six plays to cover 59 yards with Damon Comeaux capping the scoring on a 3 yard TD run. Brad Stoma had a 33 yard pass to Joe Faulk and a 25 yard run to the Saints four that set up the final TD.
“We knew they were a little limited offensively and our defense didn’t let them have much all night,” said Cook. “They give you so many looks and all week coach Mac was stressing about having to defend everything we expected they would show us with the unbalanced fronts, four man over and all the movement. We just controlled the front and they could never get anything going against us.”
The Pios reserves mounted a final drive on runs of 22 and 14 yards by fullback Ivy Paul Robichaux. With the outcome already decided, the Pios kept it simple and the drive stalled at the Saints six yard line.
“Those young guys put a good drive together,” smiled Cook. “We limited what we were doing because we were really trying not to put another score on the board. We just ran off tackle the rest of the night, and every one of their coaches thanked us for that. You don’t want to embarrass kids and kick them when they’re down.”
Saints tailback Terrell Rodriguez popped through for a 65 yard run to the Pios 21 yard line with five and a half minutes to play. Cullen Richardson kicked a 34 yard field goal to get St. Louis on the scoreboard for a 34-3 final.
Other than that one long run, the Pios defense allowed St. Louis just two first downs and 13 yards of total offense on 26 plays. The defensive front teamed for 11 stops with Nate Link turning in another solid performance on 5 tackles, one for a loss, a sack and a QB hit.
The offense balanced the attack with 191 rushing yards and 143 passing from Brad Stoma who completed 9 of 10 attempts. Stoma spread it out to five different receivers with John Michael Besse and Kevin Frank each catching three passes.
Notre Dame gets its final test before league play at Catholic, New Iberia next week. The Panthers evened their record at 2-2 with a 41-20 win over E.D White.
“Catholic has some weapons on offense,” summed up Coach Lewis Cook. “We certainly don’t have to motivate them to play us. It will be a tough game for us and we’ll get to work on Monday to prepare for another challenge.”