Before working Saturday’s Vanderbilt-Notre Dame game, NBC Sports’ Chris Simms has some advice for quarterback Kyle Shurmur: Be patient.
Simms, the former Texas quarterback, is serving his second year as an on-site NBC Sports studio analyst for Fighting Irish games. He has seen Shurmur from afar and No. 8 Notre Dame up close.
The combination has Simms believing Shurmur can keep Vanderbilt in this game (1:30 p.m. CT, NBC) by being smart and controlled.
“I don’t look at it as (Shurmur) having to do anything extraordinary,” Simms said. “This is a good Notre Dame defense. They do some advanced things coverage-wise compared to the rest of college football. So early on, Shurmur has to figure out how Notre Dame is attacking him and then play the game from there.
“But I don’t think he has to be overly aggressive or look to make some huge, gigantic play.”
Along with Simms, the NBC broadcast team will include play-by-play announcer Mike Tirico, analyst Doug Flutie and sideline reporter Kathryn Tappen.
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Shurmur hasn’t forced things in big wins
Shurmur has practiced self-control in big victories.
In his first career start as a freshman in 2015, a 10-3 win over Missouri, Shurmur passed for only 89 yards. In a 17-16 upset at Georgia in 2016, he passed for 109 yards. And in last season’s 14-7 win over No. 18 Kansas State, Shurmur passed for 205 yards and one touchdown.
Shurmur did not throw an interception in any of those notable wins, but he played a supporting role to all-time rusher Ralph Webb and All-America linebacker Zach Cunningham. As a senior, Shurmur is now Vanderbilt’s most valuable player and its best weapon.
So does that mean he needs to light up Notre Dame for 416 passing yards, like he did in a 2016 win over No. 24 Tennessee? Not quite, said Simms.
“Notre Dame does a good job of keeping receivers in front of them. They’re not the type of team that will give up a 70-yard bomb over the top,” Simms said. ““They make offenses work their way down the field and prove they can execute a 10-play drive. That’s what Vanderbilt needs to show that it can do.”
How to attack Notre Dame quarterback
As for Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush, Simms said Vanderbilt’s defense must keep him in the pocket and make him complete “NFL-type intermediate throws with consistency.”
Wimbush is Notre Dame’s best runner, according to Simms, but he tossed three interceptions in a lackluster 24-16 win over Ball State last week. The Commodores have shown an effective pass rush against lesser opponents, racking up nine sacks and six takeaways in wins over MTSU and Nevada. If they can pressure Wimbush without allowing him to break off long runs, Notre Dame’s offense could struggle.
“It’s not that (Wimbush) is uncomfortable in the pocket because he’s worried about getting hit. He just second-guesses his throwing at times, and that can affect your decision-making,” Simms said. “He can get away with a lot against some teams. But with an SEC team like Vanderbilt coming to town, he will have to make some throws.”
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Reach Adam Sparks at [email protected] and on Twitter @AdamSparks.