For a couple of quarters it looked like Notre Dame was going to fall victim to a classic let down/trap game. Coming off an emotional win over Stanford and with a showdown with Oklahoma on the horizon, the Irish came out flat against an inspired BYU team that nearly made enough plays to derail Notre Dame’s undefeated season.
A ground game that came alive in the second half and a defense that survived the first two offensive touchdowns it had allowed in 17 quarters, however, powered Notre Dame to its first 7-0 start since 2002. Here are some initial thoughts on the Irish’s latest victory.
- I have been very adamant about Cierre Wood getting more carries each week, but Theo Riddick played out of his mind today and was one of the few players on offense that didn’t come out flat. 15 carries for 143 yards including – many of which came after initial contact. Yes, Riddick got caught behind on a long run from behind, but without #6’s tough running today, Notre Dame loses. Hands down, this was Riddick’s best game of his career by far.
- Cierre Wood was good again this week too with another 100 yard performance thanks to an 18 carry, 114 yard effort. Wood is still averaging over 6 yards a carry on the season.
- Tommy Rees started off really good by hitting Tyler Eifert 4 times for 73 yards in the first quarter alone, but then failed to connect with him again for the rest of the game. Rees has been great in relief this year, but quarters 2-4 highlighted his limitations when facing strong defenses. After the first quarter, Rees completed just one pass.
- Uncharacteristically, Rees also made a number of poor reads – most notably in the second quarter when he missed a wide open Eifert and then a wide open Robby Toma on back to back drives.
- The offensive line had a pretty good game this week opening up holes for Riddick and Wood and paving the way for 270 rushing yards by the offense, but the false starts really need to stop happening – especially in the red zone.
- Brian Kelly and Chuck Martin called this game like they were only concerned with winning the game and not gaining any style points by completely abandoning the pass on the second half. Their dedication to the run game ended up paying off with Notre Dame taking the lead in the 4th and then running off enough time on their final drive to ice the game.
- Andrew Hendrix’s cameo performance was a nice change of pace and showed why this offense is much more potent when the quarterback is a threat to run. Hendrix only came in for two plays but converted a 3rd down with a 14 yard run on one of them.
- Notre Dame should have scored a lot more points concerning they averaged over 6 yards a carry as a team.
- The red-zone offense was, putting it nicely, poor this weak. Rees was not at his best once the offense got down near the goal line today and as a result Notre Dame failed to score on two different trips inside the 20.
- Just to reiterate, Theo Riddick played a whale of a football game and I will gladly eat a little crow for talking about how much I thought Cierre Wood should get more of his carries.
- The touchdownless streak was bound to end sometime and I guess if it had to end, having it end on a busted coverage instead of just a bad play isn’t a terrible way for it to end.
- Other than the two touchdown drives that the defense surrendered in the 2nd quarter, the defense held tough throughout the game and came up with several big plays to stop BYU drives.
- Stephon Tuitt added another 1.5 sacks to his season total and now has 7.5 through 7 games. He hasn’t been able to keep up the crazy pace he was on earlier this season, but at his current rate, he will still challenge Justin Tuck’s school record. Tuitt has a couple quiet games on the sack front, but now has 3.5 the past two weeks.
- Manti Te’o is building a Heisman resume and at this rate, I think there is a good chance he will at least be invited to New York that first weekend in December. Te’o added another 10 tackles and picked off his 4th pass of the season.
- Kapron Lewis-Moore might have played the best game of his career on Saturday. He was very disruptive and his impact was felt from start to finish. It was also great to see the 5th year senior captain teaching Troy Niklas on the sidelines after his personal foul penalty.
- the 2nd quarter was a little rough for the Irish secondary, but they were bound to have some growing pains at some point. They rebounded nicely though and played very well int eh second half.
- It was great to see the defense wrack up 4 sacks after the pass rush had been slowed down a bit over the last few weeks.
- After how well Danny Spond has played this season, it was nice to see him get his first career interception to end the game.
- It was even nicer to see Manti Te’o get on the field for the last play of the game when Notre Dame knelt down to end the game.
- Hopefully today was just an off day for Kyle Brindza. He has been kicking extremely well this season, but he missed two very makable field goals that would have kept the Irish in the lead through most of the game. Next week Notre Dame won’t be able to afford missing opportunities like that again.
- Don’t know what to say about the punt return game at this point. Was there even a single punt where Davonte Neal had any chance for a decent return?