Notre Dame improved to 4-1 on the season on Saturday with their third straight victory of 20 or more points with a 52-17 victory over the Miami of Ohio RedHawks. Former Notre Dame OC Chuck Martin’s troops weren’t able to hang with the Fighting Irish very long on Saturday as Notre Dame jumped out to a 28-7 first quarter lead and took a 45-14 lead into half-time. It was a bit of an odd game though, so there is lot’s to discuss in this week’ post game 6-pack,
That was one weird freakin’ game
I am still scratching my head a little bit on this on. In the 20 years we’ve been open for business here at UHND.com I am having a hard time remembering another game where Notre Dame has looked so dominant and yet so uneven and sloppy in the same game. Notre Dame scored 45 friggin’ points in the first half and its quarterback was having a pretty bad game. That just rarely happens for most schools let alone Notre Dame these days.
Reading the message boards you can sense that Notre Dame fans don’t quite know how to feel about this one either. On one hand it’s a 35 point win after back to back road wins and Notre Dame had a bunch of big plays. On the other hand, yesterday showed there are still some major areas of improvement for this team. It’s a coach’s dream actually. Blowout win, no major injuries (though Tony Jones might miss next week), lots of reserves played, but still a whole lot of game film to use as teaching moments.
Notre Dame was far from perfect, but another 300 yard rushing performance – the third of the year already – and another blowout win is a pretty good Saturday after most of the Saturdays last fall.
Passing game might just be what it is
The Notre Dame passing game took a step forward last week against Michigan State but it took a bit of a step back this week against Miami of Ohio. Brandon Wimbush was just 7 of 18 on the evening. The good news is that three of those seven completions went for touchdowns including a really pretty 54 yard bomb to Miles Boykin. The bad news is many of those 11 incompletions came because Wimbush had a case of the yips. He was overthinking many of them and was getting in his own way.
Right now Wimbush still has some mechanical issues that are correctable and it looks like Kelly and the staff are working with him through them. For all you calling for Ian Book to start, the ridiculous plays that Wimbush makes with his legs are the reason that just doesn’t make sense right now. You work with a guy like Wimbush because if he can start to get his arm to match his legs, this offense could be unstoppable. There is a long way to go between now and then, but as long as Notre Dame keeps winning big keep on working with Wimbush.
Getting Kevin Stepherson back should help some as Notre Dame has a burner back in the fold who can clear out space and hopefully open up some more passing lanes. He barely played yesterday but his role should expand. At the same time, Wimbush looks too hesitant to pull the trigger on receivers who are open but just not wide open. The film room for Wimbush will be key the next few weeks. Getting a few receivers to start making contested catches will help build his confidence too.
Josh Adams is one of the best running backs in the country hands down
Brian Kelly said it earlier this week that Josh Adams doesn’t get the national attention he deserves and Adams backed him up yesterday. Adams had 159 yards on 8 carries before getting banged up early in the second quarter and sitting the rest of the game out. Adams had a 73 and 59 yard touchdown in the first quarter alone. He also looked like he had a bit of an extra burst that he didn’t have in previous weeks when he got caught from behind on long runs.
After yesterday, Adams is now averaging 9.0 yards per carry on the season. He’s is also up 658 yards on the year which puts him on pace for nearly 1,600 yards. In short, each week Josh Adams is showing over and over again that he is one of the best running backs in America and he’s on pace to shatter some Notre Dame records. In fact, had he not got banged up yesterday, he would have seriously challenged Julius Jones single game record of 262 yards.
Adams should be back next week and could have played in the second half if he was needed.
And Notre Dame could beat some future opponents without attempting a pass
For as rough as the Notre Dame passing game was and has been this season, Notre Dame could have won that game yesterday without attempting a pass. There are a few more teams left on the schedule that Notre Dame could beat without attempting a pass too including next week in Chapel Hill. Notre Dame’s offensive line is good enough and it’s backs are explosive enough to beat North Carolina, Navy, and Wake Forest at least without passing if needed. Yesterday Notre Dame’s line simply mauled the undermatched Miami of Ohio defensive front even when they stacked the box.
Notre Dame should have Adams and Dexter Williams back next week but could be without Tony Jones after the helmet to helmet hit that left shards of his helmet flying onto the field. The passing game will be needed against USC, Miami FL, NC State, and Stanford though so expect a similar game plan next week to what we saw this week – try to force the passing game to work then feed Adams if it doesn’t.
Jerry Tillery had a big game, and is having a huge season
Jerry Tillery’s on field antics against USC last year ended up overshadowing what was a disappointing season already. There were a lot of questions about Tillery’s ability to anchor the Notre Dame defensive line, but he responded really well so far this year and had his best game of the season yesterday. Officially he was credited with 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble and was awarded the game ball by Brian Kelly.
Very proud of this man and what he has accomplished on and off of the field. Tonight’s game ball goes to Jerry Tillery! pic.twitter.com/xcVWFeIqvZ
— Brian Kelly (@CoachBrianKelly) October 1, 2017
Tillery was roasted all off-season long and he has responded better than anyone could have hoped for both as the leader of the defensive line and with his performance. Notre Dame’s thin defensive line is about to get tested in October as the snaps they are all forced to play mount, but so far they have all exceeded expectations. Yesterday’s game gave the staff a chance to rest starter’s like Tillery and even the reserves. A couple more performances like that will help keep Tillery and company fresh for the November stretch that features Miami and Stanford in a three week span.
The “new” Brian Kelly deserves credit
Brian Kelly had Notre Dame ready to play yesterday against an inferior opponent after back to back road games against physical teams. Some will inevitably say that shouldn’t be celebrated, but that has not always been the case for Notre Dame in the past. Yesterday though Notre Dame came out and scored 45 first half points – the most in the first half of a game in over 50 years.
On the sideline, there was no purple faced Kelly as Brandon Wimbush continued with his accuracy struggles. Kelly was calmly coaching up his quarterback who appeared to be in his own head at times. After a shanked punt at the end of the game, Kelly went up to special teams coach Brian Polian, put his arm around him, and kissed him on the top of the head?
Who is this guy? Where has he been the last few years? Will he stick around? Who knows if this new Brian Kelly will last or if we’ll see him lose control on the sidelines in the future but so far, Kelly’s reboot is working on the sidelines and on the field.
Couple other notes
- Not worried about Nick Watkins despite a rough outing. He was in position all day but got beat by a 6’4″ wide receiver. That’s not an easy task especially when offensive pass interference rarely gets called these days.
- Deon McIntosh is a pretty good back – especially for a #4 back.
- Greer Martini’s interception was pretty freaking sweet. He’s having himself a damn good 5th year.
- Loved seeing Miles Boykin haul in that 50 yarder, but who would have thought Boykin would be the first Irish receiver to score a long touchdown of the season?
- It was great to see Khalid Kareem get his first career sack yesterday. The young defensive linemen are reason to be excited for the future of this defense. Also, this defense is already pretty damn good.