Grading Notre Dame’s Offensive Performance Against New Mexico

So to be clear, 59 offensive points is excellent. I’m not just going to ignore the offense scoring eight touchdowns in a football game, against whoever. It doesn’t happen very often, and it’s a good thing. Some of the grades may not reflect that I’m aware of the score, so I’m getting it out into the open now. Fifty-nine points is a good thing, and everyone should be happy about that.

A lot of the analysis about what this looked like and what it means is colored by the elephant in the room that is the Georgia game coming up next Saturday. We’re all looking for evidence they can handle themselves offensively against the #3 ranked team in Athens next weekend, and unfortunately, I’m not sure that we saw that. The good news is Georgia is the only monolith on the schedule, and this performance does portend good things for the remainder of the season. But next weekend? It’s going to take a lot more.


Grade: B- 

I’m giving a low B to a guy with five touchdown passes, 360 yards passing, and 15 yards per attempt. Three of those touchdowns and 178 of those yards came on three completions, two of which were flip passes on jet sweep actions and another a five-yard crosser that Javon McKinley turned into a 65-yard touchdown. Which isn’t to dismiss them of course, but it wasn’t Ian Book doing a ton of work. There is an opportunity cost at play; who is to say Book wouldn’t have completed other passes during those scoring drives later?

He again started slow, missing Tommy Tremble on a skinny post during the games opening drive, instead opting to run for the first on third and long, coming up short and forcing the offense to punt.

This is one of the situations where we wanted to see some growth from the captain at quarterback. Maybe he thinks it’s a tough fit with the backside safety coming over. But, even so, it’s third and 17 from the plus 46-yard line. If he lofts that ball over the backer and the safety somehow comes over to pick it off, it’s essentially a punt, which you’d have to do anyway. The down and distance dictates letting this ball go. And how many times did we hear Book was taking more chances in fall camp? Testing the limits? Well, this was a perfect opportunity, against New Mexico no less, and he didn’t pull the trigger. These opportunities have to be taken advantage of against their better opponents, especially next week.

Running Back

Grade: D

This was…not good. This was poor to the point I think it may have been on purpose. Notre Dame’s backs combined for 17 carries and 41 yards (2.4 a carry), with Tony Jones and Kyren Williams contributing two catches for 9 yards. Jones barely touched the ball, which makes sense given how important he now is with Jafar Armstrong out and Jahmir Smith nursing a toe sprain. Nothing could happen to him in this game.

It was supposed to be a showcase of freshman Kyren Williams and redshirt freshman C’Bo Flemister. It was not that, neither looked particularly good, although Flemister showed some solid pass blocking.

Credit should be given to Avery Davis for scoring on a 59-yard reception on his first touch of the season, although he was more of a wideout on that play and he was untouched.

The backs were never going to earn accolades given the way this game went, but it’d have been nice to see a little better showing from all of them.

Receivers/Tight Ends

Grade: A 

A pretty fantastic game from this group as they made tons of plays and blocked very well downfield, springing their teammates for long touchdown plays. Claypool continued to look dominant both catching the ball and working after the reception. There is some untapped potential there that needs to be tapped for this team to be close to what it can be on offense. He’s playing at 1,000-yard receiver level, just needs more chances. The surprise was Javon McKinley catching the first two touchdown passes of his career, one a 65-yard scamper through the secondary, the other a back-shoulder fade that he outfought the defensive back for. The senior who some suspected might be kicked off the team could find himself starting in the biggest game of the season next weekend.

Lawrence Keys continues to be sure-handed, and Finke did Finke things on his jet sweep touchdown. Braden Lenzy opened up his Notre Dame career with a 52-yard reception on a fantastic throw and catch from back up QB Phil Jurkovec and then cashed in a quick screen from quarterback Brendan Clark for a touchdown.

Tommy Tremble again looked like a force in the passing game with a beautiful over the shoulder reception and the missed opportunity early that was previously documented. Notre Dame has four tight ends on the roster, and the lowest-rated one is the guy out there looking like what we thought Alize Mack would be. Exciting times.

Offensive Line

Grade: C

The short-yardage stuff, it just doesn’t look good, whether Ian Book should be checking plays or not. 2.4 yards a carry for the backs also doesn’t look good, especially against a team like New Mexico. They should be hanging around six yards a pop against this caliber of opponent no matter what scholarship running back is in the backfield. I feel like scheme has a lot to do with this, there is too much talent on the line for them to be bad, and also the game plan. I don’t think Chip Long cared about running in this game.

Pass blocking was okay, nothing spectacular, but they weren’t going against the greatest competition either. It was a ho-hum performance, the big test is next week, and everyone knows that, and then we’ll see what these guys are made of.

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  1. Even though Flemister got little yardage, I thought he stuck his nose in there in an effort to finish the runs that were poorly blocked or where the defense was stacked. I think he may be a hidden gem that might shine soon.

  2. I will say, regarding the lack of significant rushing yardage, that may very well have been on purpose. It seemed they wanted to use this opportunity to work on the passing game more. I would have liked some more rushing regardless though, esp. on short yardage situations. It’s concerning they still had trouble converting in some of those situations.

    Against Georgia? They’ll have to be almost perfect. To be honest though, while Georgia has greatly outmatched their 3 opponents thus far, their 3 opponents have hardly offered them a challenge. Vanderbilt, Murray State and Arkansas State can hardly be considered the cream of the crop of CFB. Now they apparently have performed more impressively in their 3 wins and they obviously have the advantage next week, if for no other reason it’s a home game for them. However, they haven’t been tested to any great degree.

    This will be a test for both teams. Both teams have everything to gain by winning. But ND has a lot more to lose. If Georgia loses, they still likely have a game to lose and still get into the CFB playoff. Like Alabama, I think Georgia will be given a gimmee loss this year if they otherwise win out. ND on the other hand, one loss and they are out. I have serious doubts, after last years drubbing by Clemson, that the Irish will be given the benefit of the doubt this go around. So in a very real sense ND has a lot more to play for this week.

    1. If we lose, we are out of the playoffs…at the least, our fate is out of our hands. If Georgia loses, they have to run the SEC table to make the playoffs…they won’t make it with two losses. Texas A&M is the only school that could end up with a successful “two-loss” bid. (South Carolina, too – but they have even less hope than A&M). Both of those schools play #1, #2, and #3 during the regular season. So with two losses, they still have (at least) one win over a top three ranked team…and maybe the conference championship too. Just sayin.

      BGC ’77 ’82

  3. Greg , running game problems again. O-line can’t open a hole or even a crease on short yardage. Is it the scheme–as poster Calco also brought up ? If the Irish continued plodding along–probably good thing they went to the air to put points on the board. I agree that the RB’s not the problem. Shot gun formation slow in hand off exchange ? Yet , Book was taking snaps under center on some failed short yardage. Are the coaches holding back–ready to spring a surprise on the Bulldogs ? Geez , I hope that’s it.

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