The Notre Dame Fighting Irish had some early sluggishness against an undermanned opponent but managed to avoid any hint of an upset with a 66-14 victory over the New Mexico Lobos. The game marked the first-ever meeting between the two schools, though the health-related absence of Lobos head coach Bob Davie, who was making his return to Notre Dame, contributed a downbeat note to the matchup.
The Irish were installed as 35-point favorites at the start of the week but didn’t get into gear right away. The luxury of playing an opponent at home that possesses decidedly less talent allowed Notre Dame to get back on track and avoid the specter of looking past their foe with a massive battle on the horizon.
Starting in Slow Motion
Despite the blowout that ultimately took place, the first 15 minutes offered a slight air of unease for Notre Dame offense. That was connected to the offensive struggles that plagued the Irish during the opening quarter, when they were outgained in the yardage department, 56-45 and struggled with a depleted running game in place.
The Notre Dame defense tallied the first score of the game when Daelin Hayes‘ tip was grabbed by freshman Kyle Hamilton, who raced 34 yards to make it 7-0 in favor of the Irish. Yet they also appeared to have some early lapses that thankfully evaporated.
Getting There on Defense
The Notre Dame defense only allowed 14 points on the afternoon, though they’ve yet to get going in the early portion of either of their games. The 363 yards they allowed against New Mexico are slightly discounted by a large amount of garbage time in this rout. However, they again seemed to have issues with the opposing running game, allowing 212 yards and giving the Lobos their first score on a 46-yard scamper.
It’s difficult to determine precisely how effective the Irish pass defense was, since New Mexico’s first-half quarterback, Sheriron Jones, connected on just four of 15 passes for 19 yards and also threw three interceptions. Many of Jones’ misses were either overthrows or otherwise poorly-thrown tosses.
Second Quarter Explosion
Any belief that an upset might be brewing was shot down during the second quarter when Notre Dame scored 31 points to blow the game open. The crucial stretch came in a span of less than five minutes when the Irish needed a total of just five plays to put together scoring drives of 59, 80 and 54 yards.
The first two scores were capped by a pair of new faces, with Avery Davis scoring on a 59-yard gadget play off a pitch from Book. Javon McKinley’s 65-yard touchdown grab followed that. Even though the final touchdown came with 1:56, a quick subsequent drive allowed Jonathan Doerer to kick a 36-yard field goal.
Continuing Sources of Aggravation
Games such as these are supposed to help smooth out the flaws in Notre Dame’s lineup, yet the Irish were flagged seven times during the game for 53 yards. During the first half, all three calls against them were for pass interference, though none of them led to any New Mexico points.
The four second-half penalties all came with the game effectively decided and with reserves competing. However, the aggravating bugaboo of false starts again reared its ugly head, with the Irish being called three times during a single drive. Ironically, the drive ended with a Notre Dame touchdown, but the Irish can’t expect the same luck in the weeks ahead.
Everyone Into the Claypool
Entering this season, Chase Claypool was in a position to finally make his mark in the Notre Dame receiving corps. In the opener, he snagged five passes for 94 yards before then following it up with four catches for 96 yards, while also scoring his first touchdown of the season.
Developing Claypool into a deep threat is the goal of offensive coordinator Chip Long, and that was seen on his 37-yard scoring grab in the second quarter. However, he also showed some good running after the catch on a grab that set up the first Notre Dame offensive touchdown, while a 17-yard catch preceded his score.
The Fighting Irish make their first trip ever between the hedges in Athens, Georgia, where they’ll face the Georgia Bulldogs in a game with significant implications for both teams. The Bulldogs have won all three of their 2019 games and appear ready to challenge for a national title, outscoring their foes by a score of 148-23. The most recent of these slaughters came on Saturday, when they easily dispatched the Arkansas State Red Wolves by a score of 55-0, with Georgia quarterbacks having the luxury of completing passes to 13 different players.