Beyond the Boxscore: Notre Dame’s Resounding Victory over Duke

Putting together their most impressive performance in the last month, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish boosted their record to 6-2 on the year with a 38-7 victory over the Duke Blue Devils on Saturday night. Jumping out to a 21-0 advantage and then shutting out their opponents after the break, the Irish had only miscues during the course of the contest. Much of those were of the self-inflicted variety and were primarily confined to the final six minutes of the first half.

Below are some of the keys to the win:

First Quarter Domination

Notre Dame entered this contest as slightly more than a touchdown favorite, with the partisan Duke crowd hoping to see an upset. To avoid that problem, the Irish took control of the line of scrimmage during the first quarter and ended up holding a 14-0 advantage when it ended.

Though the first Notre Dame drive was a quick three-and-out, the Irish shut things down after Duke picked up a quick first down. For the remainder of the quarter, the Blue Devils gained only 16 yards during their consecutive three-and-outs. Both Chris Finke and Chase Claypool each grabbed a touchdown pass, and by the end of the period, the Irish had outgained the Blue Devils, 180-26.

Penalty Parade

While a 31-point victory is a welcome sight after getting routed by Michigan and squeezing out a last-minute win over Virginia Tech, Notre Dame’s win wasn’t error-free. Fans and television viewers got to witness each team get flagged for eight penalties, with combined yardage in that dubious category totaling 139 yards.

None of the penalties caused any major problems for the Irish, but the continuing issue of the false start once again surfaced. Many of the other calls against Notre Dame were simply an annoyance that stalled drives, but cleaning things up in the weeks ahead is likely to be a focus of the Irish coaching staff.

Running by Committee

Notre Dame’s running game struggled in the past two games, primarily due to the absence of Tony Jones, who returned to the field but was mostly ineffective. That resulted in seven different ball carriers picking up yardage on the night, with the Irish racking up an impressive 272 yards on the ground.

Leading the way for Notre Dame was quarterback Ian Book, who gained 139 yards on just 12 carries. Two of those carries went for 45 and 53 yards, respectively and ultimately led to a touchdown and field goal. Yet Jahmir Smith also made his mark with 58 yards, including a 40-yard run that helped spark the second touchdown drive.

Timely Defense

One indication of just how impressive the Notre Dame defense was against Duke can be seen in the fact that allowed only 197 total yards on the night, which was just 16 yards more than the entire Irish passing attack. Besides clamping down in the opening quarter, they managed to get stops when it counted.

One example can be seen by looking at how the Blue Devils only managed to three of 16 third-down attempts, and just one of their three tries on fourth down. Even Duke’s lone score on the night was a blip on the radar for Notre Dame defenders, since it came in the immediate aftermath of an Irish interception in their own territory.

Twin Air Threats

As strong as Book was with his legs, his 181 yards on the night through the air helped him finish with four touchdown passes on the evening. Three of those scores went to the tandem of Chase Claypool and Chris Finke, with Finke’s emergence something that Irish fans were hoping to see at some point this year.

Claypool and Finke each grabbed five passes, with Claypool scoring once while gaining 97 yards. For Finke, four of his five grabs came in the opening quarter and helped get Notre Dame off on the right foot. In addition, Finke’s 46-yard punt return in the final period helped set up the final Irish score.

Next Up

Renewing an annual matchup that takes on special meaning with Veterans Day arriving on Monday, Notre Dame will return home next Saturday to host the Navy Midshipmen. The concept of a rivalry for this meeting, which first took place in 1927, might be something of a stretch in this instance, given that the Irish hold a 78-13-1 advantage in this series.

Still, Navy will enter this game with a 7-1 record and will also continue an odd quirk concerning Notre Dame’s opponents. The Midshipmen will be coming off a bye week, marking the third consecutive foe to have that extra rest coming into a game with the Irish. It’s also the fifth time in Notre Dame’s last six games.

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  1. Because they happen so infrequently with Brian Kelly, celebrate this “resounding victory” moment. The Naval Academy is up next, to remind BK how he felt, after the Michigan and Georgia games earlier this season.

  2. Who cares what ND’s November record over the last three years is?!

    What’s BK’s record over the last decade in January, when titles are won or lost?

    How many NCs, or even big-time bowl wins, does ND have since the mid-1990s?!

    But we’ll continue to settle for trivial pursuit factoids about wins and defeats over just one month of the season and conveniently ignore that a great season goes to January, and ends with a NC or at least NY-6 bowl win.

    Go Irish! Beat Navy!

  3. When ND beat LSU in the Citrus Bowl two years ago, ND ended up ranked 11. LSU was 18.

    [Fun aside: 6 of the Top 10 teams in the final 2017-18 poll are Top 10 teams right now.]

    Today, ND is ranked 16.
    And LSU is ranked #1.

    Les Miles is an objectively better coach than Kelly.
    And LSU has managed to improve greatly without him. In just 2 years. With their third, quite uninspired choice for a head coach.

      1. Yes Chris, my thoughts exactly. And all along the way LSU has beaten almost every top ten team they have played (which is quite a few) except Alabama. This “dramatic turnaround” did not suddenly appear this season…, it was, for example, LSU who kept Georgia out of the playoffs last year and LSU who ended Central Florida’s winning streak in a NY Six Bowl the year before that! But the high scoring offense is a creature of this season…no question there.

        BGC ’77 ’82

    1. Yes David…objectively speaking, what exactly is Coach Les Miles record head to head against BK? And objectively speaking, what, for that matter, is LSU’s current head coach’s record against BK head to head? Please remind those few of us left in this world who actually believe head to head MEANS something. Thanks so much, David.

      BGC ’77 ’82

  4. Bad News!

    Inconvenient TRuth!

    For the Notre Dame Bedwetters that is.

    The I*rish, under Kelly, are now a tidy 8-2 in November in the last three autumns.

    This is remarkably close to Kelly’s overall record. One simple interrogative question for the November Swooners:

    Do you wet your Irish bed before or after you start swooning in November??????

    Inquiring minds want to know.

    Further, conceding that all hypotheticals are invidious. WHATCHA GONNA Do if the Irish run November’s ta ble and are 11-2 in the last three Novembers? Change the subject? Quit the Irish?

    And just a word on depth. The IRI(SH are NEARING quality depth levels.

    For example, with Okwara out, they can now play Oghoufo and Ademiloa in the fourth end spot.

    And that ain’t bad.

    This is a tough time for Notre Dame self-loathers. A certain dwarfish mod of one board used to claim that 8-5 was the mean
    to which Kelly regressed. I wonder how that tempermental, emotional mental midget is dealing with the new mean?

    Notre Dame;’s football program is strong. Notre Dame’s weakest position is fan0

    1. Agree 100% Duranko! David accuses me of “spin” (which he also calls turd polishing! My predictions the past three years: 1917
      9-3, 1918 11-1, 1919 10-2 or 11-1. The critics predictions for the same era: 1917 A shipwreck like unto the Titanic going down AKA &-5 “at the best”, 1918 8-4, 1919 8-4 and “unranked at season’s end” So to then accuse me of “spinning” is in itself worthy of the greatest of all spin doctors…Gerbals (Sic) , Laugher (Sic), McVeigh (Sic) and Trump.

      BGC ’77 ’82

      1. Sorry, make those 2017, 2018, and 2019! Wrong century, wrong millennium, right predictions! Sadly, the dialysis can’t clear enough calcium to save me from cognitive impairment, or enough phosphates to save me from itching. So it goes.

        BGC ’77 ’82

      2. Well , the years 1917 , 1918 , 1919 were historic. 1917 — U.S enters Great War–Rockne was an assitant coach. 1918 Great War ends –Rockne was head coach/Gipper was best player. The bad — season cut short to six games due to world wide influenza epidemic. Irish finished 3-1-2. 1919 , Rockne /Gipper went 9-0 and an NC. The bad — The Black Sox scandal. 8 players threw the World Series. Side note–Shoeless Joe Jackson didn’t participate–refused the money — yet banned for life–cause he knew about it . Okay , I’m gonna wrap this up–from down on the corner under the lamp post.

    2. Easy does it Duranko. 3 games to go with teams known for being nemisis/spoilers on Irish schedule in the past. Avoiding the “November swoon ” undefeated –came about in 2018 , due to Clark Lea rotating the D-line–keeping them fresh. Hence , Irish sustained a 12-0 regular season finish. In 2019 , Irish D might very well do their part to prevent a November swoon — lot depends on the O doing their part.

  5. ND did what they were supposed to do. With the schedule they play, they will go to a major bowl and get beaten again. BK can’t get them ready for quality opponents so the ACC is ideal for them.

  6. What do you mean none of the penalties caused a major problem for the Irish?! That holding penalty was effectively a 90-yard penalty!

    It swung momentum to Duke. Had Duke not missed a FG before HT and thrown a bad INT when driving in the third quarter, this might have been a much different game thanks to that holding call!

    1. True SFR, except that penalty was just an “ACC” penalty, not a real penalty…much like the “hands to the face” last week. ACC officials are the WORST!

      BGC ’77 ’82

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