After an early-season bye week, Notre Dame returned to action on Saturday and made short order of the New Mexico Lobos on their way to a 66-14 tune-up for Georgia. Any time you win by 52 points and empty the benches in week two, there’s a whole lot to like. So let’s jump right into this one.
1. Notre Dame scoring 66 points even if they couldn’t sustain drives
It’s impossible not to like 66 points however they are attained. Indeed, Notre Dame did not sustain drives for much of the game, but the big play was in full effect with all of the following:
- 59-yard touchdown pass to Avery Davis (really a run)
- 65-yard touchdown pass to Javon McKinley
- 54-yard touchdown pass to Chris Finke (really a run)
- 37-yard touchdown pass to Chase Claypool
- 52-yard pass to Braden Lenzy (from Phil Jurkovec)
- 22-yard touchdown pass to Braden Lenzy (from Brendon Clark)
That’s a lot of big plays from the Irish offense. Now not all of those would have happened against a defense like Georgia, but by just happening, they could give the Irish offense a lot of confidence they might not have otherwise had heading into Athens.
2. Jay Bramblett’s first punt of the game
For a little while, the best play of the game for Notre Dame on offense was a punt. It wasn’t ideal. But it was a damn good punt. After Lawrence Keys set up Notre Dame with a 45-yard kick return that gave the offense the ball in Lobo territory, the Irish offense stalled. Then they punted from the New Mexico 38 on 4th and 9. Bramblett came onto the field and pinned New Mexico down at the two-yard line.
Bramblett wasn’t needed much the rest of the game but did end with four punts for an average of 40.8 yards. New Mexico only had two punt returns that netted two total yards as well. The freshman has been pretty impressive so far in just two games. Punting in a hostile environment next weekend will be a whole other beast; but so far, so good for the frosh.
One thing we’ve learned about Bramblett so far too is that he doesn’t have one of those cannon legs that can boom 60-yarders to reverse field position completely – at least not yet. We have seen that Bramblett has some good accuracy, though.
3. Ian Book’s touch pass to Tommy Tremble
Of Ian Book‘s 360 yards passing, 109 of them came on little toss passes to Avery Davis and Chris Finke on plays that were really run plays. Take away those and Book was 13 of 22 for 251 yards with 3 touchdowns. Not bad numbers, but not great either.
Book did have some nice throws, though. None were more impressive than his touch pass to Tommy Tremble as he was taking a hit. It was the kind of pass we got used to last year. It was also the kind of throw we haven’t seen a lot of through two games this year. Next weekend, we are going to need to see like 7 or 8 of those because Georgia is going to get a lot more pressure on Book than either Louisville or New Mexico has.
Book’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Javon McKinley in the 3rd quarter might have been his 2nd best pass of the day too. What made it great was Book had great ball placement and just threw the ball up and let McKinley come down with it. That’s another pass we haven’t seen him throw much this year but will need to see more of next weekend.
4. So many players scoring their first touchdowns giving everyone all the feels
There were so many awesome storylines yesterday that even the most curmudgeon of Notre Dame fan had to be crack a smile a few times.
- Javon McKinley scoring two touchdowns as a senior after having one career catch prior
- Avery Davis racing 59 yards untouched for a touchdown after moving from quarterback to running back/receiver to cornerback to running back the last two years.
- Braden Lenzy scoring his first touchdown on Clark’s first career touchdown pass
- C’Bo Flemister running for his first career touchdown
- Kyle Hamilton intercepting his first pass and scoring his first career touchdown
- Shaun Crawford recording his first interception of the season after all of his injuries
If you can’t feel good about all of that, what can you feel good about as a college football fan?
5. Escaping without any more significant injuries
After all of the injuries Notre Dame sustained in camp and the season opener, perhaps the most significant aspect of yesterday’s game was Notre Dame coming out virtually unscathed. Brian Kelly even stated on Sunday that the Irish should have Cole Kmet and Jahmir Smith back next weekend for their trip to Athens.
Any time you can blow some out the week before a huge game and come out of it without any new injuries, it’s a pretty good week.
BONUS: The play of Asmar Bilal
We’ve been a bit tough on the play of Asmar Bilal over the last two seasons, but the 5th year senior had perhaps the best game of his career on Saturday. Bilal led Notre Dame with 8.0 tackles including a team-high 2.0 tackles for loss. Even more impressive, seven of those eight tackles were solo tackles.
Bilal has had issues finding the football over his career, but he was very assignment correct on Saturday, and it showed up in the stat sheet and on the field. Sometimes a player can have an empty tackle total because they are making a lot of tackles downfield, but that wasn’t the case for Bilal who was a disruptive force all game long.