Notre Dame turned in a dominant rushing performance while its passing game struggled and its defense played a fairly vanilla game. The result was a 49-20 victory that felt much closer since Boston College hung on into the third quarter. The Irish have their work cut out for themselves with several areas in need of improvement, but for this week, the Irish engineered a blowout of a team notorious for playing the Irish close largely because of these four players.
1. Shaun Crawford
Shaun Crawford is not only back, he looks as good as he ever did. Coming up a ruptured Achilles a year after coming off a torn ACL, it was questionable if Shaun Crawford would be the same player he once was. Well he is starting to answer that question. Against Boston College Crawford had a hand in all three Notre Dame turnovers. He picked off two passes and recovered a fumble caused by Julian Okwara. Crawford’s first interception of the game was just a thing of beauty too. In fact, let’s take a look at it again.
Straight robbery by the defender pic.twitter.com/m4ITlUEkXF
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) September 16, 2017
Notre Dame has been smart to play Crawford as their third corner this year even though he is clearly a ballhawk because you have to be extremely cautious with him coming off the two major injuries. It would be very tempting to play this kid every down because he is a stud, but long term this is a wise approach.
Forgetting the stats and usage for a second though. Let’s all pause and just be really happy for a kid who has been through a lot and just keeps taking everything life throws at him and persevering. Good on you kid and keep balling out.
2. Josh Adams
If Josh Adams doesn’t stumble on a couple of his long runs, he may have went for 300 and certainly would have taken away some of the those touchdowns from Brandon Wimbush. Adams ripped off 229 yards on just 18 carries for a ridiculous 12.7 average yards per carry. He uncharacteristically got caught from behind on a couple of long runs too as he stumbled and lost his balance through the hole.
What was most impressive with Adams on Saturday though was that a lot of his yards came in traffic. That hasn’t been a strong suit for Adams to this point in his career. He’s been great at taking handoffs and turning the corner and exploding, but he hasn’t always been the most patient runner in the hole. He was on Saturday and the results speak for themselves.
3. Brandon Wimbush
The young man is still a major work in progress as a passer, but damn is Brandon Wimbush fun to watch with the ball in his hands once he takes off. In fact, Wimbush’s playmaking ability with his legs is exactly why you work through the growing pains with his arm. Even when he couldn’t move the ball through the air and Boston College was keying on stopping him from running, he tore off a Notre Dame quarterback record 207 rushing yards and 4 rushing touchdowns.
The passing game is obviously a major concern. Wimbush is rushing things and not letting his plays develop – quicker developing play calls might help there but that’s another story. His downfield touch just isn’t there right now either. He did have receivers open a few times but overthrew them downfield. He’s also not taking what the defense is giving him right now and looking for the big play too much. All of these are normal problems with inexperienced quarterbacks though.
Against Boston College though, Wimbush was a lot of fun to watch running the ball. As he continues to work on his passing game, look for Notre Dame to continue to utilize his legs.
Fun fact, not only was this the first time in Notre Dame football history that the Irish had two runners top 200 yards, but it was also just the 6th time in college football history that it’s happened.
4. Tevon Coney
This one was a toss up for me between Tevon Coney and Julian Okwara, but I went with Coney for his career high 13 tackles. Coney technically isn’t a starter, but he is playing a lot of football and when he is playing, he’s playing at a very high level. He was all over the field again this week and displayed some sound fundamentals. As a team, Notre Dame missed a lot of tackles behind the line of scrimmage yesterday, but when they did, Coney was there to clean up.
With Greer Martini and Nyles Morgan out of eligibility after this year, Coney will team with Drue Tranquill next year to anchor the linebacking corps. Based on what we are seeing from him through three games this year, there might not be much, if any dropoff, when that happens.
Some other players worth mentioning
- Julian Okwara – This kid is really starting to develop. He still needs some time in the weight room but with three years of eligibility left, he has a chance to be a better pass rusher than his brother was when all’s said and done. Great to see him bounce back from that terrible call against him last week.
- Quenton Nelson – Just an absolute monster again this week.
- Alize Mack – Showed much better hands this week, but still has to make more plays after the catch. Baby steps for now though. Led Notre Dame with 5 catches but for just 45 yards.
- Dexter Williams – 6 more carries, 2 more touchdowns. Kid is a touchdown scoring machine
- Nick Watkins – Another really solid week in coverage.
- Jerry Tillery – Had a pretty good game and was credited with his first sack of the season. Ended with 7 tackles overall.