Notre Dame got back in the win column this weekend with their 24-17 Senior Day escape against Navy. It wasn’t pretty, but there were a few players who made the difference between sending the seniors off with a win and a wild week speculating about Brian Kelly’s future. Here’s the last 4 Horsemen of the Week following a home game of the 2017 season.
1. Kevin Stepherson
The sophomore wide receiver had his best game in a Notre Dame uniform after serving as Brandon Wimbush’s go to target following the injuries for Equanimeous St. Brown and Chase Claypool. Stepherson topped 100 yards for the first time this season and scored two touchdowns against the Middies after scoring just two all season coming into the weekend. Stepherson and Wimbish have not been connecting deep when Stepherson has gotten behind defenses, but they did this week. When Notre Dame needed someone to step up and make plays, Stepherson was there.
Given the tumultuous season Stepherson had with his mysterious non suspension-suspension to start the season perhaps the most encouraging sign from Stepherson came after his first touchdown when he immediately pointed to the name on the back of his jersey – “ROCKNE” – following the score. Kevin Stepherson can become a big star in this offense if two things happen: 1) he keeps his head screwed on straight and avoids a similar start to next season and 2) either Wimbush solves his passing woes, or Notre Dame finds someone who can get Stepherson the ball. Both Stepherson and St. Brown could each have an additional 4 or 5 touchdowns this year if Wimbush had been able to hit them deep.
2. Drue Tranquill
Greer Martini racked up the tackles, Julian Love moonlighted at safety, and Troy Pride held contain on the edge, but Drue Tranquill had two of the three tackles for loss that Notre Dame had in the game. Not many players were making plays at or behind the line of scrimmage for Notre Dame last weekend, but Tranquill was one of the few who were. This was one of the better games of the season for Tranquill and the first time we’ve seen him in this column since the Georgia game in week two.
There’s been some Twitter chatter that Tranquill might not come back for a 5th year. If that is the case, this defense is going to sorely miss him. In fact, he might be the most missed starter on the defensive side of the ball should he not return.
3. Greer Martini
Just because we gave the nod to Tranquill for 2nd place this week, it doesn’t mean Greer Martini’s 16 tackles weren’t impressive. Martini has made almost a season’s worth of tackles in four career games against the Naval Academy now. His play earned him the game ball from Brian Kelly and some props from the other sideline in the post game. It was a very fitting and storybook ending in his final home game in his collegiate career. Was tempted to go with Khalid Kareem here since he was one of the only defensive linemen who got into the Navy backfield consistently, but Martini’s tacklefest got him the nod.
4. Quenton Nelson
Could have gone with Love or Pride here, but it didn’t feel right not having Quenton Nelson in here after in all likelihood, the final game of his collegiate career. I hope everyone realizes just how special of a player Nelson is and how lucky Notre Dame has been to have him in the lineup the last three years. No player will be tougher to replace on either side of the ball for Notre Dame next year than Nelson regardless of what happens with any of the 5th year decisions. Notre Dame didn’t have one of its signature 300+ rush yard games like they did so many times this year, but Nelson has done more than enough the last three years to show up here one more time.
Even after three straight weeks off the board in this column, Josh Adams still has the top spot in the standings.
|Player||1st Horseman||2nd Horseman||3rd Horseman||4th Horseman||Total Points|
|Equanimeous St. Brown||0||1||0||0||30|