Notre Dame Post Game 6-Pack: What The Heck Did We Just Watch Edition?

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 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.

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.

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  1. I hope Notre Dame turned in the Tony Jones targetting tackle to the authorities. Once again, a clear helmet to helmet collision, this one with gold shards flying everywhere, with no call.

  2. Wimbush really needs a lot of work on his mechanics; in High school he relied upon his arm only but not here. Not too sure how I feel about this game either. Watkins like most of our CB’s over an extended period never turns around to locate the ball. He is beat far too much

  3. This was the one game a year that I get to see in person. I characterized it as a decisive but not a completely satisfying victory.

    The good news – they were supposed to beat Miami handily and they did. Their defence was supposed to shut down Miami and they did for the most part. Somewhere in the commentary below somebody said something about offensive interference. There was plenty of pushing and shoving but nobody seems to want to call that. More good news – Joshua Adams played like a beast. The Offensive line was supposed to control the game and they did that for the most part.

    The not satisfying news (I hesitate to call anything from Saturday bad news) – Brandon Wimbush is still an uncertain passer. He clearly did not see several folks who were wide open. He made a couple of passes that were simply bad decisions and was lucky that they were not picked off. On the other hand, the very first play of the game should have been pass interference but goes down as an incompletion. At least 3-4 of his first 6-7 passes were dropped. He also thread the needle perfectly to Miles Boykin for that long TD. Work in progress?

    The ‘what the heck was that?’ news – with a 30 point lead why in the world was the quarterback taking off so much? Why risk the health of a QB when you already have the game in the bag?

    Is this team ready for USC? I hope so. Are they trending in the right direction? That seems absolutely certain.

    Go Irish?

    1. The very first play should have been a touchdown, as the receiver had his man beaten by several steps. Brandon was late with the pass and badly underthrew it.

  4. Sounds like I missed an ND ‘instant classic’.
    Foolishly, I watched Wash. St./USC Friday night, and spent Saturday at a beer fest.

  5. Notre Dame’s ONLY two losses against North Carolina came in Joe Kuharich”s 2-8 year, this was in the middle of the Dark Ages of Notre Dame football, and in ’08, under fat boy Weis, trasher of Notre Dame traditions (ignored Leahy and Ara)
    Champion of divorced men (Belichick and Parcells) sycophant of bastard-whelpers (Tom Brady) and blasphemer (May God strike me down dead if I ever say we are in a rebuilding year, which went uncorrected by the feckless John Jenkins)
    this occurred in the same year Notre Dame lost to Syracuse and Boston college-in FOOTBALL

    However, this all predated Weis’ EROICA of incompetence, losing, at home, FOOTBALL, to Connecticut, Navy and Syracusewithin one 365 day period.

    Notre Dame has handled good North Carolina teams. This is not one of them.

  6. The best part about yesterday was that they easily dispatched a team they were supposed to despite having some glaring issues.

    1. Yeah, I agree. A blowout is what I expected, anything less would have been concerning. I’m not ready to say all is right in the world of ND football yet. The USC game will tell the tale of where ND stands. But of course they need to take care of UNC. Another rout would go a long way. At least I don’t get the sense that they are overlooking teams this year. I don’t think they’ll take anything for granted, so that’s a good thing.

    1. OK, GK.

      I’m still concerned about ND’s track record in Chapel Hill. The Irish need to come out strong and run the ball at UNC’s soft D.

      Hopefully my updates will be more to your liking this weekend ;)

      Go Irish!

    1. ND hasn’t had much success playing UNC at Chapel Hill. Hopefully things change next Saturday.

      Like I’ve told you repeatedly, GK, I couldn’t care less about predictions. Never heard of anyone winning a NC based on predictions of how they would do.

      The only thing that counts is the final score of the actual game.

      Let me know what you think after kickoff or after the final whistle.

  7. I was finally able to attend a ND game yesterday and it was awesome. Just a few thoughts…

    Miami playing their biggest game of the century so they’re pretty pumped…ND playing a lower level MAC team so they’re just taking care of business and getting out with a W. Much more effort will be seen in future games.

    Wimbush will get better and without some drops (maybe 5 of them yesterday) he has a decent day. Smith needs to catch the ball or sit. It’s time to get Stepherson in there with St. Brown, Boykin and Claypool.

    Lastly…Adams will have to prove himself against USC and Stanford because Barkley at Penn State and Love at Stanford are having great years. Josh needs to throw a TD pass!


    1. Jack , Barkley is being tossed around in Heisman talk already. He’s a running back that also returns kick–offs for the Nittany Lions. Any chance Dexter Williams can return kick offs for Irish ? Just a thought. I like the duo of St. Brown and Claypool coming around each game–especially Claypool who has come on in last few games. What a catch he made in the endzone–getting the one foot down for the touch down. If Stepherson can come in and be Will Fuller type with speed— Irish have the 3 receivers that were all the rave last spring. Boykin was also highly praised in his spring outing. Wimbush getting better with the talent of receivers getting better leads to good things.

      1. Southside,

        Dexter would be great for returning kickoffs. With his vision and speed and being able to take hits (which sometimes are vicious on returns), he would be a much better fit than Sanders. I don’t like how Sanders just kinda jogs to the hole and “expects” one to open up for him. The great returners typically go full speed into the defense and create their own holes if they aren’t there. It is much harder to arm tackle a guy at full speed than at half speed. You do take some big hits running like this but if you want to take more kickoffs to the house, you have to be fearless and just go for it. I don’t see this from Sanders.

    2. No, Jack, that is absurd.

      Notre Dame has always played TEAM football. If the four backs are healthy, they will all (well at least three) play.

      Hornung, Brown and Huarte, to say nothing of Lujack, Hart, Lattner, and Bertelli, played team ball. Hell, Bertelli left midseaon to serve in the military. THAT is the Notre Dame way. You know, God, Country, Notre Dame.

      Adams did not become a captain because he pandered to people who give out individual awards.
      Adams will play team ball
      Chip Long will call team plays.
      Denson will manage the rotation to WIN games.

      If there are some people in Buck’s County ( with muddled brains because they are so jejune and disloyal to NOTRE DAME that they actually believe that Adams “has to prove himself” and want Long to gimmick up his offense to satisfy a bunch of dolts in Trevose or Cornwells Heights, they are irrelevant) where Adams comes from. that want him to get awards, well, that’s kind of nice and homey. But they and their desires are irrelevant in St. Joseph County.

      The team, The Team, THE TEAM!

      Go Irish!

      1. My point wasn’t to belittle Adams it was to point out that the media is in love with those two players and they ignore the highlight reel runs of Josh Adams. I was sarcastically saying he needs to throw a TD pass like Barkley to me Heisman worthy. If you look at his rushing stats he’s a better back than Barkley. Now Love is another story…he’s putting up big numbers.

    3. There were not five drops. You might want to actually watch the game next time. The pass to Smith was horrifically under-thrown. The pass to Adams was inaccurate as well. Not sure where on earth you’re getting the other three. My guess is you’re just throwing out a nice, round number in an attempt to make excuses.

      1. The pass to Smith was underthrown because he got smacked, though he did hold on too long. Adams could have caught the pass on the wheel route it just wouldn’t have been a touchdown.

  8. Frank , good article on status of this Irish team so far. I call this team “The Unknowns.” Despite Wimbush “still learning” he threw 3 touch down passes. Despite Adams getting hurt and Dexter not playing — Irish put up 4 rushing TD’s. True , Miami of Ohio is not one of the Big Boys on schedule—and better improvement needed for sure with up coming tough schedule. Yet , this “unknown” Irish team can be worrisome to opponents as they are to us. Despite Wimbush subpar in the passing stats — his 3 touch down passes to Claypool , St. Brown and the rope to Boykin on the deep post were pretty damn good. So , don’t know what USC will be preparing for against the “unknown Irish” — maybe that’s a good thing.

    1. Agree and didn’t Adams have a drop on a perfectly thrown deep ball by Wimbush as well? Wimbush has certainly been inaccurate but at the same time, he needs these guys to step up and help him out when he does make great throws!

  9. Regarding this article. Nick Watkins never turned his head to see the ball and that is poor fundamentals no matter the size of the receiver. As for the poor throwing performance by Wimbush…i noticed on several pass attempts the receivers would run their route and quit and not come back to the ball to try to get open. As for Wimbush’s dynamic legs…Book had less carries but his average per carry was much better. So is Ian Book that bad of an option? He did make the best throw of the night to Chris Finke. Maybe sometimes the best players don’t play for whatever reason. Like Dexter Williams in the past games. Just some thoughts.

    1. Bryan,

      Book is not that bad of an option at all. He was pretty impressive with his throws and running the ball too. However, this is Wimbush’s team until they start losing regardless if Book is ultimately better or not. Fact is, we may never know that because this team is playing pretty well all around. Wimbush also “deserves” it too. He put in his time behind other qbs, didn’t transfer and now it is his team and they are 4-1 with all blowout wins and the tough GA loss. I do think Wimbush is one of the main reasons we lost this game but it was his 2nd start ever in an ND uniform and lost by 1. Otherwise, he has been setting records and winning. Hard to argue that Wimbush isn’t the guy.

  10. The MOST significant factor of the season, and the recipient of MY SEASON BALL is whoever scheduled Georgia in the second game. Oh, sure, we lost, but it is always about production capacity, not production, and it is the Goose that provide the Golden eggs, not vice versa.

    By going against a TOP FOUR defense (it appears that, BY FAR, Bama, Clemson, Georgia and Auburn have the stoutest, most impenetrable offenses)d the offense, Wibush, Long, Kelly and the OL, Hiestand included, learned, or were reminded of what it’s like to go against a great college defense.

    The Bard said that “sweet are the uses of adversity” and that Georgia loss, PARTICULARLY because it was close and the Irish could have won, has informed all practice, preparation, film study, coaching and lifting. Each day the Irish, from the scrubs to the head coach and back up and down the ladder play three opponents:

    (1) the next team on the schedule
    (2) the limits of their own potential
    (3) the ghost of the Georgia team and Kirby Smart’s defense.

    It is always a motion picture, not a snapshot.

    This team is COMMITTED to improving, and the yardstick is Georgia.

    The team that plays USC will be vastly better than the team that played Miami of Ohio.

    The team that plays Stanford will be vastly better than the team that will play USC.

    And the team that plays in a Bowl Game?

    Well, shucks, that might be a pretty fair football team.

    Buckle your chin straps, lads; the fun may be just beginning.

    Go Irish!

    1. I am with you on everyone except for Auburn. They have not looked like one of the four best in the nation. Your other points are fairly spot on.

  11. Frank, these last five games were our exhibition season (save UGA). We have but 20 days to prepare for the showdown with The Trojans. Its cat and mouse with them every year;fake injury reports. Basically, its like running a marathon with them. Usually we (the rabbit) run out and builds a lead, then they inch back in. We can’t let that happen if we want to beat them. Congratulations going 5-0 , soon to be 6-0.

  12. ND did what it needed to do last night, rout Miami (Ohio). My main concern right now is the passing game. It’s the one area I think right now that will keep ND from achieving a great season. The defense has played well thus far (though we will get a chance to see just how good they really are when they face USC). Rushing is just phenomenal right now. It’s been a while since we’ve had multiple players that can run up the yards like we do this year. But without a reliable passing attack, you can’t beat the really good teams out there. It could mean the difference this year between finishing the season 11-1 and a possible playoff berth, or finishing 9-3 (or 8-4, though I actually do think they will go 9-3 at least now) and being outside a NY Day 6 bowl.

    I do think sticking with Wimbush is the right call right now. He is phenomenal on his feet and he does have a cannon for an arm. They just have to keep pushing him to make better plays with his arm.

    1. This is my feeling exactly, Damian. I’m reminded of Kelly sticking with Golson for too long, and hope he doesn’t make the same mistake with Wimbush. However, I also think sticking with Wimbush is the right call for now. As you say, if he can start passing the way everyone knows he’s capable of doing, we’ll have something pretty special.

      It could be my imagination, but it seems like he really passes very well under duress. Hitting the only one-foot square he can hit to give a receiver a chance, while on the dead run evading hot pursuit, seems to be something he does very well. Maybe the OL has to stop giving him so much time to think.

      1. How often is Wimbush hit after releasing the pass? That could add to the yips. Part of it could be him holding onto the ball too long, some technique quirks, or not going thru his progressions quickly enough, but that can all be improved with game day experience. Add to that the lack of separation of his receivers and the OL not sustaining their pass blocking could also be part of the problem for Wimbush.

        His mobility and his arm make him a modern day productive QB. I can live with Wimbush, who I trust will only get better Just watched UCLA QB last night and he also missed a ton of receivers, and he’s the projected #1 draft pick. As for Wimbush:
        Don’t underrate; Appreciate. Five starts in= 4 blowout wins versus all the teams they should and did destroy ( how long since that’s been taken for granted?) and a one point loss to an elite team.

    2. I’m telling you guys this again – the so-called New Year’s Six is a New Year’s Nine this year. I’m tired of explaining why. Just wait until the TV advertising comes out and you’ll see…In play for ND (if we win our conference games and have at least one ‘signature’ win, and aside from the NY 6, The Cotton Bowl, The Gator Bowl, and The Citrus Bowl…all the same day as a NY 6 game, and all leading for NY 6 games).
      It’s gonna be a college football feast like has never been seen before! If ND goes 9-3 or better we are going to be a hot commodity Friday, Saturday, and Monday of New Year’s weekend.

      BGC ’77 ’82

      1. Sorry, Clumsy writing: I’d only settle for the Cotton Bowl on Friday, though we can qualify for three other mid-range bowls that day. But the Gator or Citrus on Saturday or Monday…I’d love to play either of them! So call it the “New Year’s 8” (not the New year’s 9).


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