Notre Dame 4 Horsemen of the Week: Boston College ’17

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.

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.

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    1. Ryan,
      If you mean the silly 5 yards behind the line screen (with the out of bounds line acting as a fourth or fifth defender) I totally agree. Those coaches should be required to sit down for an hour and watch every one of those run by us for the past three years, one after another. First contact is almost always BEHIND THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE! Why are we still trying to run it? It’s usually WORSE than a wasted down. It’s so frustrating to see it blown up every single week. I would not call it a bubble screen though.

      Bruce G. Curme ’77 ’82

  1. Alley O’Cat signing off. For some reason my posts require extra long “moderation” time. I must be a baaad man. Keep up the good work and if you fix the moderation issue, I might return.

    Still all Irish all of the time!


    1. Editor,
      I once complained to you about the “moderation” thing and it disappeared from my posts. Do us all a favor and “disappear” it from Alley too. Guy’s one of my favorite posters.

      Bruce G. Curme
      La Crosse, Indiana

    2. AOC , my post under this article was also under moderation. It does now appear down below. I didn’t use any foul language , sexual innuendos , racism etc. I was thinking that my critique of Irish performance for 3 quarters and the passing of Wimbush was “over the top.” I have had some posts under moderation and glad they didn’t appear — because they were non-sensical rants. Anywhoo , hope you continue to stay on at UHND.

  2. Winbush needs to complete over 50% of his passes. If he can do that the offense can score enough points to beat most teams on their schedule. I bet QB coach Tom Reese (aka Tommy Reese) works with him on his accuracy. If he can complete over 50% of his passes he will force the defense to respect the pass. This team is a work in progress and may get better as the year goes on or they could fold. We will have to see

  3. I’m really glad to see that we routed BC. We HAVE to do this the rest of the way out, especially against inferior teams.

    Also, I think the offseason poundage Adams put on has actually had a negative impact to his overall speed. His freshmen year, he doesn’t get caught when breaking free like that. I still want Williams splitting reps with Adams all game. The dude is so quick to the line and more shifty and I think does have better overall speed than Adams. I really don’t get it.

  4. People keep saying Wimbush is just inexperienced and that is why his passing game is off.
    Aren’t there half a dozen first year QBs doing just fine in their passing? Love the kid, but it’s
    not like he just switched from running back to QB a few months ago.

    1. I actually completely agree with you Dr. Paul. Wimbush is in his 4th year with the Irish right? I don’t think his lack of starts are an excuse. I’m very positive though that he will hone in on his accuracy and when he does, we have a Heisman type QB.

      1. Come on Chris,

        N D hasn’t had a HEISMAN quality QB in, well I can’t even remember, it’s been so long.

        I watched USC-Texas and saw TWO truly talented, mature, clutch QB’s that are light years ahead of anywhere Wimbush will ever be. One is a sophomore the other a Freshman… so much for ” needing more time ” or ” if ” this and “if” that.

        Brian Kelly recruits and plays average, at best, QB’s just because they are black. Does it soothe Kelly’s white guilt? Is he a racist? Is he just incredibly incompetent?

        Because of ND’s football history and TV contracts ND could, and did in the past, get the best QB talent in the Country and a good coach makes him better. This hasn’t happened in many decades

        Accepting mediocrity and just hoping is Not a recipe for a championship team.

        Good luck when you play a decent team.

        Is Kelly’s incompetence and hang ups the problem, or is a dysfunctional AD the real issue?

      2. Wow, Tim, way to be optimistic about Wimbush there buddy. I’m pretty sure he just set the ALL TIME ND record for yards gained by a QB in a game AND rushing TDs by a QB in a game and really could have had a 5th running TD had they reviewed that play. That is his 3RD GAME, yeah 3RD GAME ever starting for ND and is already setting rushing records. Today’s college QBs that win the Heisman or are in the running for it, the majority of them are ridiculously good runners. The passing isn’t what wins them the Heisman, it just helps it. Sorry but if Wimbush does learn to pass, he has the running talent already. It has been displayed so me saying that he has the possibility to be a legit Heisman candidate is not a dumb comment as the way you’re making it seem.

        Also, really about the white guilt thing?? I think Kelly has legit played the best QB on the roster each year regardless of their skin color. The problem is that our white QBs that he has played have been Dayne Crist and Tommy Rees. I’m not sure but I personally think that Everett Golson was better than Tommy Rees and therefore coach played him. That was just a stupid thing to say. Phil Jurkovec is white and appears to be a stud. My guess is he will probably end up winning the QB job at some point because he is the best QB on the roster.

        I immediately questioned the validity of your comments when you said ND hasn’t had a Heisman quality QB in so long that you cannot remember. Well either you’re a bandwagon ND fan or like 10 years old because Brady Quinn who owns the majority all of ND’s passing records was a Heisman finalist two years in a row in 05 and 06. This was a Ty Willingham guy who Charlie Weis “coached up” as he didn’t do much his freshmen and sophomore years (under Willingham) and then became a Heisman finalist in Weis’s first two years. I’d say that is an ND coach “coaching up” a QB to me and was within the last “couple decades”.

        Sorry but you sound like a troll dude.

      3. Brady Wiinn was Very average WB and not great by ANY standard. A runner up is s RUNNER UP !

        my point is vindicated by you.

        As for Wimbush, totally average at best regardless of how many starts. His passing is terrible and his decision making is immature.

        Again, compare him with the Texas Freshman QB and the USC Sophmore QB and there is NO comparison.

        Saying Kelly has played the best QB on the rooster ignores the rooster problem….and yes, Kelly does have s black Quarterback fetish, probably because of one of his hang ups I’ve mentioned previously.

        Keep your dreams alive Chris, but reality is going to come home to roost for you sooner rather than later I’m afraid.

        BTW, I couldn’t care less if you think I’m a troll.

  5. Hopefully, we’ll find a passing game soon. It would be helpful if we played our best receivers such as

    Stepherson who has big potential and speed. It is difficult for E. Saint Brown because he needs to quickly grow another three or four feet taller and to have a shot at many of the passes thrown in his general direction. As for punt returns, BC had a very good kicker and because we don’t rush the kicker, the punting team worries about only one thing – getting downfield to nail the punt returner. When a QB cannot
    Throw an accurate deep ball, it’s much easier to cover 20 yards than 70.

  6. Last week I said I wanted to see a rout of BC. And they did it. But why is it I don’t feel completely satisfied? Is ND the only team out there that can give you the desired result but still feel like you just ate sour grapes? On the good side they had a much better running game. I read after the game that the coaches challenged the O-Line to take their game up, and they did. The rushing yards were just phenomenal. Also the defense continues it’s development. They still have work to do, but they are playing more solid and taking care of the fundamentals better.

    The bad, well the first half and the passing game. They seem to be trying to work on their passing game in the first half and there was nothing doin’ there. Part of it was the receivers, yes. They need to go get some of those balls. Part is Wimbush. He throws almost every pass like it’s 75 yards away it seems. They know they can run, the coaches have to work with the team on their passing game. That has to get better or this team will get one dimensional the other way. I don’t know what to expect when they play MSU, but esp. against Miami (OH) they should take the opportunity of that game to tighten up their passing game. They will need it later in the year.

    And a question. Where was Williams again? He did get to play but it was mostly in garbage time. What does he have to do to prove he deserves some touches when it counts earlier in the game? Adams is the #1 guy, but you know, you can have more than one RB in a game. It was nice to see Book get some playing time. In CFB your backup QB is typically your QB of the future and it’s always good to get them some practice time against other teams whenever you can. I like that they even called a few pass plays for him.

  7. MTA, William “Fridge” Perry everyones favorite Bear of all time. A distant second Bobby Douglass 13-33-1. An ol’time high rise worker from South Chicago would spit then say” Bears no defense” Did Rusty Lisch ever start a game for the Bears?

    1. Greg , I liked Bobby Douglass too. I met him later on in a 40 and over 3 on 3 basketball tournament at Grant Park. Those Bear teams were not too good — under Abe Gibron , but still fun to watch. I believe Douglass actually led team in rushing one season.

  8. I’m just weighing on latest article , which happens to be Frank’s. I’m really disappointed in the improvement of this team in their 3rd game of the season. I couldn’t believe the lackluster , listless , lethargic play of The Irish going into the 3rd quarter. I thought they looked quite average — nothing to crow about on their performance sans a long run by Adams. I sure hope Wimbush can be better in the passing game—and let’s not all blame the recievers. It was nice to see win — and the ND record broken by Wimbush — but why am I not jumping up and down and elated about this win ? Many of you have already commented about the out come of this game. I got’s the feeling it was not a satisfactory win by ND standards. I agree.

  9. The one thing that isn’t always “growing pains” in a quarterback is lack of downfield touch. I sure hope his arm stops reminding me of Rusty Lisch’s pretty soon. That guy had the cannon arm, too. Devine seemed to prefer him to Joe Montana, and I never understood why. (I recently heard that it was because Joe never seemed to mind when Devine yelled at him. Who knows?)

    Lisch went on to precede Jim McMahon at the Bears, and probably was one of the few guys in the NFL who could consistently overthrow Willie Gault. Gault had Olympic track speed, often got wide open, had average hands. Lisch generally put the ball about five yards beyond his reach on long passes.

    I’m a little nervous to see Wimbush consistently overthrowing when he’s properly set. He has made some amazing throws on the dead run, though. Maybe something will click with him, hopefully sooner rather than later.

    1. Way too early and totally uncalled for re: the comparison with Rusty, Bob.
      A mobile QB who can make first downs/TDs with his feet is necessary in modern football. Ask Brandon’s QB coach.

      As for The Oh!Great Of Hollowed Eyes Devine not playing third-string Joe Montana ahead of Rusty,
      then putting in Gary Forystek against Purdue before future all-pro Keena Turner (which should have
      earned Turner co-MVP of the national championship by breaking Forystek’s collarbone, no offense, Gary) before Devine
      the villainous antagonist of the movie, Rudy, saw it was time to put Montana in at QB, leading to a comeback win and many that followed.

      But I digress.

      May I never again see Wimbush compared to Rusty. Ever. As a Bear fan, I got to see Rusty as a Bear QB, later on.
      Enough of those memories; no desire for recurring nightmares.

      Brandon Wimbush just set an individual game rushing record for QBs at ND.
      That’s the story this week, legendary, and only three games into his career as a starter at ND.
      Incoming DCs scheming for that ought to lead to opening up some offense options for ND. Get busy, coaches.

      BTW. Not getting hit after nearly every pass BW attempts might be a good ND strategy starting point vs. MSU

      1. Everybody, When I was a senior, Rusty L. was our quarterback most of the time. (Joe M. was injured before the season started). Rusty led us to a 9-3 season with a win over Penn State (coached by Papa Joe) in the Gator bowl the first time the two schools met, and a win at home against Alabama coached by the greatest coach of my lifetime. (I don’t count Frank Leahy in that because I was just born the spring before his last season). Just sayin’.

        Bruce G. Curme ’77 ’82

      2. Sorry, I should mention Rick Slager as well for the 1976 season (my senior year).

        BGC ’77 ’82

  10. Nice article, Frank! It seems like the main problem with the passing game is pass protection at times, the actual plays being called and the WR’s/TE’s not getting separation. I think with time, this will be solved. I think Mack is slowly but surely coming around. Would like to see more playing time for CJ Sanders and of course, Dexter Williams. The defense was vanilla way too much and that needs to be addressed. Special teams needs more production. Lot’s to work on, but all can be fixed.


    1. Wimbush will improve his passing but with the receivers we have I doubt if it will be enough to make the Irish offense “nearly unstoppable”; but it should be enough to make it more difficult to defend. Let’s hope the passing game improves before USC. We will need both a good running and passing game that day.

      1. Fitz, I’d be surprised, even stunned, if we don’t need at least an average passing game next Saturday night! These guys always play like a bunch of AA’s against us – even when they stink up the field against everyone else for the rest of the year after that.

        Bruce G. Curme ’77 ’82

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