Apologies for the late posting of the “immediate” overreactions this week. A quick work trip to Spain this week left me reeling with some jet lag, and well, posting something last night after the game proved difficult. Luckily for us all, yesterday’s win was more about player development than suspense as Notre Dame cruised to a 52-0 victory over a team that had no chance to put up any resistance to a team such as the 9th ranked Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame did what great teams do.
Great teams dominate teams like Bowling Green without making it even remotely interesting. Notre Dame did that on Saturday. There were a few areas they could have been even more dominant that they can still clean up, but overall, the Irish asserted their will on the Falcons on their way to another 50+ point win this season.
Bowling Green probably helped the Irish a bit with a terribly vanilla gameplan offensively and could have scored some points if they weren’t so conservative, but anytime you shut someone out, you have to be happy. The Irish defense is now allowing less than 15 points a game at 14.8 thanks to the shutout.
The throttling of Bowling Green also let Notre Dame empty the benches and get their second and third-string units live reps. Those are reps that you can’t simulate in practice. People can complain all they want about a game like yesterday being boring and whine about Notre Dame scheduling these games, but they provide a lot of value.
Phil Jurkovec is looking good in backup duty.
Speaking of the backups, yesterday’s blowout was most crucial for Phil Jurkovec, who continues to look more and more like the quarterback we all thought Notre Dame was getting two years ago with each rep. Jurkovec looked rough in the Blue-Gold game, but in limited snaps in two blowouts now, Jurkovec looks like a quarterback who is improving with each week.
He wasn’t perfect, but he connected on the first touchdown pass of his career and looked dangerous in the running game. He ran four times for 42 yards, including an impressive 19 yarder that looked like it was initially going to be stuffed in the backfield. Passing, he was 5 of 7 for 79 yards and a nice little touchdown to Avery Davis.
Everyone would love it if Jurkovec were further along in his development, but it’s also easy to forget he is just a sophomore with a lot of eligibility left. He may only get three – maybe four if Notre Dame is lucky – opportunities for mop-up duty this year, so he needed to get snaps yesterday. It was even better that he looked good in those snaps.
Special teams bounced back in limited work.
Notre Dame’s special teams units probably did not have fun in film review last week after their performance against Virginia. This week, they bounced back well, albeit in limited action. Because Bowling Green’s Brian Vangorder led defense put up almost no resistance (surprise, surprise), the placekicking, punting, and punt coverage teams didn’t have much work to do on Saturday. Jonathan Doerer did connect on a chip shot field though after missing his first kick of the season last weekend.
Notre Dame did block a Bowling Green field when Julian Okwara bull-rushed a poor Falcons lineman to keep the Irish shutout intact in the third quarter and kick coverage kept Bowling Green in minus field position most of the day. Next week will be a different task, and special teams will be called upon in more critical situations, so it eas encouraging to see special teams play efficient and competent football this week.
More of the multiple tight end sets, please.
Notre Dame has a gut of talent at tight end this year with Cole Kmet back and fully healthy. We are seeing them unleash it for the last few weeks. Notre Dame’s tight ends contributed six receptions for 109 yards and two touchdowns yesterday. Brock Wright even got into the action with a 40-yard reception – Notre Dame’s longest of the game.
Tommy Tremble continued his ascent with four catches – a career-high – and his second touchdown of the season. Where Tremble is improving, however, is in his blocking. And that is the key to Notre Dame’s two tight end sets being effective. With Kmet and Tremble, the passing advantages are apparent. With Tremble improving his blocking and the running game being more of a threat out of this personnel grouping, the group becomes exponentially more dangerous.
Look for Notre to continue to utilize two and three tight end sets as the season progresses.
More Javon McKinley, too, please.
Senior wide receiver Javon McKinley led Notre Dame with 104 yards on five receptions, including his third touchdown of the season. His damage didn’t just come on garbage time scores either – he was playing a lot of reps with the first team during the first half of the game. After his outburst against New Mexico, McKinley had gone back to back games without a catch. He did have a few targets along the way, but he posted zeros in back to back weeks.
On Saturday, Ian Book was looking for McKinley early, and the senior responded. His day could have been even better had he hauled in a crossing route at the goal line that was thrown a bit behind him. It would have been a difficult catch since he was running one way and had to reach behind himself to get it, but it would have been another touchdown. Aside from that, we saw McKinley play the role of a big-bodied, reliable receiver again this week.
Not going to lie, I was hoping for 60+ points on Vangorder’s defense.
Okay, call me greedy, but I was hoping for Notre Dame to top 60 points for the second time this year against an undermanned defense led by a hapless defensive coordinator. Those points were there to be had, too, but there’s no need to get too worked up over it. For all of the frustration and angst that Vangorder caused during his nightmarish tenure as DC at Notre Dame, though, it would have been just a bit sweeter to see Notre Dame really run up the score on him like Paul Johnson put up 66 points in his revenge on Vangorder last year.
The 52 points did push Notre Dame to over 40 points a game this year though and helps position Notre Dame to end the season with the most prolific offense of the Brian Kelly era.