5 Things I Liked In Notre Dame’s Latest Conquest of Troy

Notre Dame improved to 5-1 on the season yesterday with a 30-27 win over archrival USC. The Trojans limped into town with two losses already, but that didn’t stop them from running their mouths during the week.  The Irish ultimately had the last laugh in another uneven performance for the Irish offense.  There’s a lot to unpack from this one so let’s dive into this week’s “5 things I liked” post.

1. Beating USC for the 3rd Year in a Row

I labeled this win as frustrating in the Overreactions column this week because even though I thought this game would ultimately be close, it was still frustrating watching Notre Dame struggle with a bad USC team.  That being said, it’s impossible not to like beating USC for a third straight year, four times in the last five years, and seven out of ten tries under Brian Kelly.

Charlie Weis and Tyrone Willingham could not beat USC.  Brian Kelly is 7-3 against the Trojans during his ten years on the sidelines at Notre Dame.  That’s pretty great and shows just how much Kelly has improved the program.  Previous coaches couldn’t beat USC.  Kelly can lead the Irish to a three-point win, and the reaction at this point is “meh” because we’ve gotten used to beating USC again.

For the record, it is also possible to realize how awesome it is that we’ve gotten to a point where beating USC is normal again while also realizing that the Irish also didn’t play their best game.  But there will be much more on that in tomorrow’s “5 things I didn’t like” post on this game.  For now, let’s all enjoy the fact that Notre Dame’s junior class will have a chance to finish their careers next year without ever losing to USC.

2. Tony Jones Jr’s continued hard running

People tend to focus on what Tony Jones Jr is not.  He is not a burner.  He is not a back that’s going to see a hole and explode through it ala Dexter Williams.  But you know what?  It’s time to start focusing on what he is, and that is a hell of a running back.

Tony Jones Jr racked up a career-high 176 yards on 25 carries for his third straight 100-yard contest. He had 131 yards against UVA two weeks ago and 102 last week on just seven carries.  Yesterday’s outburst gave him 557 yards on the season – his previous career high was 392 yards last year.

It will be interesting to see how Brian Kelly and Chip Long mix in Jafar Armstrong against Michigan since Notre Dame’s RB1 to start the season barely saw the field in his return to action against USC, given the success that Jones has had the last month.

3. Jonathan Doerer nailing three field goals all over 40 yards

Jonathan Doerer had a rough start to his career at Notre Dame and has had a lot of criticism thrown his way.  On Saturday though, Doerer showed everyone who wrote him off how wrong they were.  Doerer was a perfect three for three on field goal attempts from 43, 45, and 52 yards.  All of them had plenty of distance on them and were right down the middle each time.  It was really impressive considering the struggles Doerer had earlier in his career.

If Doerer can be counted on from those distances all year, that is a massive development for Notre Dame down the stretch since no one thought the Irish would have a kicker like that this year.  The Jonathan Doerer we saw yesterday was Justin Yoon-esque.

Brian Kelly gave Doerer the game ball, and he earned it.  Notre Dame needed every one of those points as the offense continued to struggle stringing drives together again this week.

4.  Watching Braden Lenzy ran faster than every single USC defender on the field

For too many years, we heard that Notre Dame doesn’t have elite speed.  That’s what made seeing Braden Lenzy take off and run faster than everyone else on the field on his 52-yard touchdown so exciting.  Lenzy outran the entire USC defense on his way to the endzone, making it there despite a couple of Trojans having an angle on him.

Notre Dame needs to keep adding players who add that speed element to the offense, and they are doing a good job of it.  In the interim, Notre Dame is going to have to find more ways to get Lenzy involved in the offense.

5. Notre Dame’s 7-Minute drive at the end of the 4th

The Notre Dame offense struggled with consistency again this weekend, but when the Irish needed a drive, the offense delivered.  After USC pulled within three points with 10:27 remaining, Ian Book engineered a 14-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that ate up just under seven minutes of clock.  It put Notre Dame back up 10 points with just 3:33 remaining.

Book converted two third downs on the drive: a 3rd and 7 on a pass to Kmet and a 3rd and 10 with a 17-yard scramble.  He capped off the drive with an eight-yard touchdown run.  Like Jones, we all tend to focus on what Book isn’t too often.  On Saturday night, he was clutch when Notre Dame needed him most.

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  1. Jones is a reliable back but Jafar scores on at least two of Jones’s carries that could have resulted in 70+ yard TD runs. I like Jones but gamebreaking backs can change a game and Jones clearly isn’t it. He had a 10 yard head start on one of his runs and only picked up about 20 more yards on the gain. What does that tell you about the speed. I’d say if I had to estimate, it is probably somewhere near a 4.8 to 5.0 40. But again, he has been extremely reliable and having the best year of his career which is great for him and awesome for the team so far.

    We better enjoy going 7-3 against USC because after Helton gets fired this year and Urban Liar takes over for USC next year, it’ll be tough going again as Liar will turn USC back into a powerhouse. I hate the guy but he’s one of the best.

    Doerer was huge in the game and has far exceeded expectations for sure!

    And lastly…has anyone else ever thought that Book doesn’t throw the ball away and takes 5 yard losses while scrambling out of bounds simply to preserve the completion percentage records he is trying to go for?? I can’t for any reason understand how a veteran QB takes so many losses on unnecessary long scrambles out of bounds when you can just throw the ball away and start the next down from the original LOS. It would make sense to me that Book is being selfish because completion percentage is what he is known for and “oh no I better not mess that up so I’ll just run out of bounds and take the 5 yard loss.” Drives me crazy!!

  2. Frank, Southside, Jeff
    My thoughts exactly.
    Pedro: exactly right on the O-line.
    Pete: patience, Pete…we’re getting there.

    David: In Physics, the third derivative of position vs. time (for a polynomial position function with no power higher than a cube) is called “the constant jerk”…that’s what I think you are David…a constant jerk.

    One thing though gentlemen…we definitely get into a NY Six Bowl at 10-2…any ranking in the top 12 automatically puts us in, rules are rules after all, and some allowances are made even for rankings a bit lower than 12…though I personally think we’ll go 11-1…making it a moot point. Do not interpret that statement to mean I’m not concerned about the road trips to Big House and the Farm though. We haven’t won at either place in eons. We’ll have to play our best ball there and at Duke as well. Unleash the Road Warriors, and we finish 11-1.

    BGC ’77 ’82

  3. Good on all 5 points. Irish don’t win this game without the rushing of Jones and the O-line blocks. Doerer field goals were crucial. Lenzy brought the much needed speed — a sign of the future for 2nd half of season–and into 2020. Book’s running was clutch — his scramble and the QB draw for TD. To the #1 point — Irish found a way to win in this rivalry. An all hands on deck was needed for a good enough win to be 5-1 going into Ann Arbor. I’ll take a good enough win here. Irish probably need to to run table 11-1 to get in NY6 bowl game. I’m not sure , but aren’t their only two NY6 they can play in ? Others being locked in with Conference Champs or runner ups ?

  4. “Brian Kelly and Chip Kelly” – I think that UCLA chant
    has gotten into your head. Last I checked our OC is
    Chip Long.

  5. 1. Justin Doerer 2. Tony Jones Jr. 3. O line play 4. Halftime Brawl. 5. Brian Kelly exorcising his Plan B rights and entering the field of play during inside kick try.

    1. Kelly usually stands still most of game. Ara and Lou would be pacing up and down the sidelines. Kelly actually got down in a crouching position — I never saw that before. I’m just observing sideline movements — nothing else.

      1. ….or just panicking in that moment of extreme clarity how awful a job he’s done with special teams for the last decade.

        But bullet dodged….see you next week.

  6. We might finally be seeing the offensive line peak and become an improved version of last year’s line. I’m not concerned with the defensive struggles vs USC because it was a specific “get us the win and only the win” type of low-risk game plan. It worked but gave little opportunity for take-aways, and consequently, no blowout.

    I will continue to harp about Book despite the stalwart supporters getting up in my kitchen about it. I like the kid. But more sizzle is needed. Maybe it’s the coaches holding him back. He had all day to throw for most of the night, yet ball placement/accuracy was an issue. We have untapped weapons on offense. Need a gunslinger to unleash them. Turn him loose!

  7. Question: After a quick perusal of today’s boards, gotta ask:

    How is it there’s a constant, complete unanimity over the vile inadequacy of the NBC TV duo…..as if that’s somehow very, very important…..but y’all jump down someone’s throat for pointing out that the Head Coach (!!) Brian Kelly is a completely technically underperforming, verbally exhausting, emotionally disconnected failure ?

    Do y’all need your knobs constantly swabbed by the TV folks to feel better about bad football ?

      1. DEAR PLAN B DIARY, Y’ALL KNOW davey has nothing intelligent to offer ever!! dopey crying about the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is called insanity, go get sized up for your straight jacket!!

    1. I agree this constant narrative that Tirico and Flutie are anti Notre Dame is ridiculous. They call the game exactly how they see it I really don’t have a problem with them at all.

      1. ND bias is all the rage.
        A booth consisting of Holtz, Quinn, Golic and Theismann will work with Aaron Taylor on the sideline.

      2. Correct Ron, as long as SI Director John Heisler has a five-minute delay switch so he can edit out any comment at that might be in any way construed to be critical of any aspect of the University or anyone or any program associated with it…and replace it with glowing comments about the wonder and perfection of ND Sports, Athletes, and Coaches.

        BGC ’77 ’82

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