5 Things I Liked: Notre Dame v. Syracuse ’18

Notre Dame passed the largest test it had standing between it and the playoffs yesterday with flying colors.  The Irish shut down the high flying Syracuse offense and nearly recorded their first shutout since blanking Michigan 31(7)- 0 in 2014.  It was an odd game for the Irish in that they dominated from start to finish but were actually not particularly sharp throughout the game.  Still, anytime you can beat the #12 team in the country 36-3, there is going to be a lot to like so let’s jump in.

1. Kurt Hinish’s 1st sack of the game

With Notre Dame up just 13-0 in the second quarter, Syracuse drove to the Notre Dame 40 yards facing a 3rd and 6.  It was almost certainly four down territory for the Orange who hadn’t shown any signs of life offensively up until that point.  On third down though, Kurt Hinish collapsed the pocket and sacked Tommy DeVito for a nine yard loss setting up 4th and 16 right around midfield.  Syracuse had no choice but to punt and the Orange wouldn’t seriously threaten to score again until the fourth quarter.

Had Syracuse scored on that drive, who knows how the rest plays out.  Maybe it would have given them the confidence they needed following the benching of Eric Dungey.  We’ll never know because Hinish took down DeVito.

Notre Dame’s pass rush was on top of its game yesterday with the Irish racking up 6 sacks on the game including 1.5 from Hinish, 2.0 from Drue Tranquill, 1.0 a piece from Julian Okwara and Daelin Hayes, and 0.5 from Tevon Coney.  Notre Dame now has 29 sacks on the season.

2. More early turnovers again this week

Notre Dame eliminated any chance Florida State had at making last weekend’s game a contest by forcing turnovers on two of the Seminoles first three drives of the game.  The Irish defense was back at it forcing turnovers again this week with three first half interceptions.  Jalen Elliott, who is the most improved player on the Irish roster this year, started things off by picking off Eric Dungey on Syracuse’s second drive of the game to set up a Notre Dame field goal to make it a 10-0 Irish lead.

Then Alohi Gilman got into the action by picking off two passes in the 2nd quarter.  The first came on a heave from DeVito when he did not see the safety help.  Notre Dame couldn’t convert that one into points.  Gilman added his second pick of the game later on in the 2nd though after Gilman forced an incompletion and then hauled in the pick after the ball popped up and into his hands.  This time Gilman turned into a running back and set the Irish up at the Syracuse 9 yard line.  Jafar Armstrong took the next play into the endzone for a 20-0 lead for the Irish.

Considering the safety position produced no interceptions last year, seeing Gilman and Elliott haul in three in one half of football speaks volumes of the improvement the Irish have had at this position this year.

3. Notre Dame’s coverage from start to finish

Gilman and Elliott weren’t the only defensive backs to have good games for Notre Dame though, the Irish had excellent coverage all game long and didn’t give Dungey or DeVito any real windows to get the ball.  Julian Love was a blanket all afternoon and several Syracuse downfield passes that looked like they would turn into nice gains were broken up at the last second by the Irish secondary.

Drue Tranquill was a monster in coverage too.  Syracuse had a couple opportunities where Tranquill was isolated in coverage and the 5th year senior inside linebacker held up.  His old safety skills came in handy this week with Syracuse’s passing attack.

The Notre Dame secondary, combined with the pressure it gets with just four rushers, is why this defense is so good.  The four man rush is good enough to get pressure without blitzing and the secondary is good enough to hold up long enough for them to get home.  That combination was on display yesterday to the fullest.

4. Brandon Wimbush’s late run that almost went for 6

If you are not rooting for Brandon Wimbush any time he gets a chance to play, you do not have a heart.  The kid embodies everything that it means to be a Notre Dame student athlete.  So when he broke free down the left sidelines towards the endzone in the 4th quarter yesterday I don’t think I’ve ever cheered as loud when the Irish were already up almost 30 points.  I really wanted Wimbush to find the endozne on that one.

Unfortunately Wimbush just barely got pushed out of bounds and he had to settled for a 35 yard gain to help pad the Notre Dame rushing stats that up to that point left a lot to be desired.  Dexter Williams capped that drive off a couple plays later to make it 36-0.

We also got a glimpse of Brandon Wimbush being on the field at the same time as Ian Book in the second quarter.  Not gonna lie here, I wasn’t the biggest fan of that alignment at the time just because it looked really disjointed.  Conceptually, I like the idea though.  I hope Notre Dame works on this alignment in preparation for the bowl/playoff season – especially if they reach the playoffs.


The only thing nicer than waking up 11-0 today was the knowledge that we will not have to be subjected to Doug Flutie’s horrific commentary any more this season.  Of all of the commentators that NBC has given us over the years, Flutie is hands down the worst and is it not even close.  Yesterday Mike Tirico went on a nice little glowing rant on the Notre Dame defense at one point.  Flutie didn’t even acknowledge it and instead went right into heaping praise on Syracuse’s offense.

I can’t wait to not have to see him throwing a football at the cross bar during a walk through or hearing his voice at least until next fall.  Hopefully Notre Dame’s run this year helps wake up NBC to the overall lack of production value they are putting into these games.  Yesterday there wasn’t even any sort of pre-game done by NBC on either NBCSN or the NBC Notre Dame app.  Please get it together this off-season NBC and get Flutie out of the booth.

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  1. I am in full agreement about Doug Flunkie and his role. Would love to see Aaron Taylor get hired for that. NBC has had no problem putting USC, Boston College, or past Stanford coach ( Bill Walsh) on the ND NBC commentary team. Aaron would be great. I thought he did well calling the ND/Navy game this year and did a fair presentation during it.

  2. I don’t understand the disenchantment with Doug Flutie.

    As an analyst he’s responsible for providing expert analysis, background information, stats and color commentary and does
    an excellent job of breaking down the previous play in seconds.

    He’s a very good communicator and is not biased against ND in my opinion.

    At the same time his role is not supposed to be a cheerleader for ND, but to provide analysis and insight into what is
    happening on the field. I think his positive if not glowing comments re Ian Book, made several weeks ago, regarding his
    precision passing, vision of the field and overlooked running ability bear this out.


    St. FX 61′

  3. Alohi Gilman is the best safety Notre Dame has fielded since Harrison Smith.

    There is no point to having Wimbush share the backfield with Book unless a way is found to play with two footballs. We confuse ourselves more than the defense. Even so, the Notre Dame 9-yard line is not the spot to try this out.

    Tranquil and Coney have been the most consistent, reliable unit on the field this season. No “off” weeks, solid play for four quarters every game. Total dedication and commitment.

    D line has progressed noticeably with greater reliance on stunts and twists as opposed to straight bull rushes that started the season.

    What is the sound of the dog not barking? No camera pans to Coach Kelly hyperventilating and purple-faced. A pleasure not to see.

    When Mike Elko headed to Texas A & M, we had to be concerned about a drop-off in the defense. Clark Lea has done a terrific job, however, and the D has actually improved.

    Notre Dame will crush Southern Cal and enter the playoffs as the No. 2 seed after either Clemson or Alabama falters in their conference title games.

  4. Number five is the biggest! No more Flutie this year at least! Mike Tirico is terrific, but Flutie is the absolute worst ever! Now if they can just get rid of everyone on ESPN that comments on the Irish, life will be perfect…

  5. Book’s accurate arm, Williams’ legs, and Wimbush’s legs and strong arm are ND’s three most potent weapons. Kelly has to find a way to get all three on the field at the same time to beat a team like Alabama. A triple option package with some RPOs might be the way to do it.

  6. Five “things I also liked” -most already alluded to by Frank:
    1. NDs ball-hawking DBs challenging each pass. When is the last time we saw DBs converting PBUs so regularly? Opponents accurate passes are still often resulting in INCs. Kudos to Coaches Lyght and Joseph.
    2. ND receivers making consistently sensational receptions, even while closely covered.
    3. The LB play. Tranquill and Coney’s consistent excellence is not duly noted often enough.
    4. Doug Flukey unheard from. He just can’t quite get
    over ND ruining his Liberty Bowl finale when he starred at BC.
    5. The weekly game enhancing big gains of Dexter Williams.

  7. Didn’t think I would like the uniforms but I really did. Those who uniforms looked great

    The defense looked great and I wouldn’t complain about the non shutout. The press even admitted that the scrubs were in. So keeping guys a little fresher for next week is good.

    Offense was really good although I’d like to see a more effective use of Wimbush when he’s a running back. More consistency throughout the game too.

    I surely hope they dial in this week. Make the usc game their conference championship. This one doesn’t feel like a choke week.

    Happy thanksgiving everyone

  8. People are starting to say that “Clemson is right up there with BAMA”…and they could be…if they win a second national title. But as of today, Clemson has one NC in the last decade…the same as Auburn, Florida State, and Ohio State – one. During that same decade, BAMA has FIVE!!! So for me, until Clemson or somebody else gets a second NC, I’ll continue to say that nobody is “right up there with Alabama.”

    BGC ’77 ’82

  9. Damien yes you are right about USC playing their hearts out next Saturday. It has happened many times before in the past when the Irish were on top and SC knocked them out and visa versa also. I do believe that this year is different, ND is a team of shear will power and determination unlike in the years past including 2012. I can see USC putting up a struggle for the first quarter maybe even the first half but after that it will be all Irish. USC is hurting badly right now, tons of pressure on Coach Helton which re-directs itself right back down onto the players. USC’s defensive unit was shredded by UCLA which we are talking a 2-8 team. UCLA didn’t even have to pass because Josh Kelley was cleaning house with the run. I’m sure Dexter and Jafar are licking their chops to get some of this action. At the end of the day I cannot see ND having any particular problems that can’t be overcome but I can sure see USC having some. The Irish by 3 TD’s.

    1. Yeah, I agree. I don’t think USC has much of a chance….as long as the players stay focused on what’s in front of them. Don’t get trapped into thinking about the playoffs just yet. I think they’ve done a good job maintaining focus on the current team. Just keep that laser focus on USC this week and everything will fall into place.

  10. Frank you covered a lot , as did other authors on here and post game comments by UHND posters. What a season it’s been for all of us–cautious , nerve-wracking , biting our nails as the Irish kept winning–and into November by God. Got give high praise to the players/coaching staff for changes , adjustments , improvements made along the way in this 2018 march to playoffs. It hasn’t been perfect — need for getting better still on plate with one game to go. But so is the same for many other top teams in line for playoffs. Alabama/Clemson considered top dogs most of season — nobody can close to them. I beg to to differ–there’s a new family that as moved in the neighborhood—there called The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.

  11. One thing I like about this year is unlike last year they seem to actually be getting better later in the season. No November collapse thus far.

    And see, I said their was nothing to worry about Syracuse. I knew ND would have no trouble with them ;).

    In all seriousness though, they have one more game to get through. USC has a down year this year, but I still expect them to play ND tough. First for revenge of the beatdown ND put on them last year. Second, being one of our biggest rivals they would love nothing more than to knock ND out of the playoffs. It would cap off an otherwise disappointing year for them.

    If ND takes care of business and doesn’t get sloppy they should win that game. But take nothing for granted. Go in assuming this will be the toughest game of the year and they should be ok.

  12. It’s been shocking to me that in the past two NBC broadcasts, paid programming has held the timeslot before the Notre Dame game. How is there no pre-game show, studio show, etc.? Seems really strange.

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