If I had told you three years ago after Tulsa beat Notre Dame that a Brian Kelly coached team would run for almost 400 yards, possess the ball for almost 40 minutes, and hold Miami to 3 points in a 41-3 rout to improve to 5-0 on the season you probably would have looked at me like I was crazy. Well, after Notre Dame’s latest romp, the Irish hit the trifecta and head into next week’s showdown undefeated and improving every week.
Here are my initial thoughts on last night’s dominating win over Miami.
- Brian Kelly said after the game that Everett Golson grew up a little last night and it’s hard to argue. Golson looked more comfortable in the pocket last night than he has been all season and his numbers reflect that. Golson ended up completing 17 of 22 passes for 186 yards without turning the ball over once.
- The key difference for Golson this week was his running. Golson ran 6 times for 51 yards and for the first time this season, Kelly and Chuck Martin let him run some zone read plays. The designed runs really got Golson into a grove and hopefully are something that we will continue to see.
- I have been saying this for weeks, but it bears repeating, Cierre Wood is the best running back on the team. George Atkinson III is the home run threat, but Wood needs to be getting 20+ carries a game. Wood notched his first 100 yard game of the season with 118 yards on 18 carries and 2 touchdowns.
- Speaking of Atkinson though, he is the home run threat Notre Dame has largely missed outside of Jonas Gray over the last decade or so. He is a big play waiting to happen and should continue to see carries throughout the rest of the season – especially in the second half of games when opposing defenses are starting to wear down.
- Staying at running back, Notre Dame is lucky to have a #4 running back as good as Cam McDaniel. The sophomore from Texas runs hard and makes the most of every carry. McDaniel might not make much on his own, but he’s a very disciplined runner who could do well behind a good offense line.
- Really liking what I am seeing out of Davaris Daniels now that he is healthy again. #10 has all of the makings of being a #1 wide receiver in this offense and it looks like he and Golson are starting to develop some good chemistry.
- Continue to be impressed with TJ Jones and Roby Tomas as well. I think both are going to be pretty good weapons in this offense as Golson continues to develop and Kelly and Martin open up the passing game more.
- Great job overall by the offensive line allowing Notre Dame to control the game in the second half and hats off to Martin/Kelly for continuing to run the ball when it was clear Miami wasn’t interested in playing run defense in the second half. Notre Dame might not run for 376 yards in a single game again this season, but it was a joy to watch them wrack up all 376 of them last night.
- Notre Dame held almost a 2:1 time of possession edge last night just just over 39 minutes of TOP. Who would have ever thought we would see that stat from a Brian Kelly coached team 3 years ago?
- Notre Dame was a little too aggressive early on and it nearly cost them dearly. Luckily for Notre Dame, Miami dropped two of the surest touchdowns you’ll ever see on their first drive or this game could have played out differently. Remember, this was only a 10 point game at half time so if Miami connects on either one of those, it changes the entire complexion of the game.
- For the first time this season, the Irish defense failed to record a sack or a turnover. Notre Dame has been collecting both at a rapid pace coming into the game, but after the first series the defense went primarily with a 3-man pass rush and refused to let the Miami receivers get behind them.
- Notre Dame has now gone 3 straight games without surrendering a touchdown and has given up just 12 points over the last three weeks. Who would have believed that Notre Dame would give up a total of 12 points to Michigan State, Michigan, and Miami if they were told that in the pre-season?
- Through five games, Notre Dame has given up just 3 touchdowns with all of them coming through the air meaning they have yet to surrender a rushing touchdown in 2012. Stanford will put that stat to the test this weekend, but regardless, that is very, very impressive.
- Kei’Varae Russell has come a long way in a very short time, but the biggest area of improvement for the true freshman corner might be in the tackling department. Russell and the Irish secondary had a very rough outing tackling in week two against Purdue, but last night Russell and his secondary mates were very solid in that area.
- All of the Notre Dame linebackers did a great job in coverage – an often overlooked aspect of why this defense has been so dominant so far this year.
- Kyle Brindza missed his first kick since his first attempt of the season but was still 2/3 in the game and is 8/10 on the season.
- Ben Turk only had one punt last night, but it’s one he probably would want back. Backed up in his own end zone, Turk’s lone punt went for just 32 yards. Amazingly the Irish defense held Miami from putting any points on the board after the short punt though.
- George Atkinson still isn’t getting many opportunities for kick returns because the defense is keeping opposing teams from scoring so much. This is a great, GREAT problem to have.