5 Things I Liked (The Most) in Notre Dame’s Rout of Navy

Notre Dame beat Navy the way that Notre Dame should beat Navy every year this past weekend.  The Irish were too much for the Midshipmen to keep up with on offense and the Notre Dame defense harassed Navy into multiple turnovers enroute to a 52-20 victory that at one point was a 52-10 lead before the backups came in.  In a game like this, there is a lot to like so let’s jump right in to what I liked the most about this one.

1. Notre Dame’s 4th and 1 Conversion on their first drive

Lost in the offensive explosion on Saturday was the fact that Notre Dame’s first drive almost ended without points.  On their ninth play of the game, Notre Dame faced a 4th and 1 at the Navy 23 yard line after an Ian Book scramble on 3rd and 16 put the Irish in a position to go for it.  Go for it they did, and Tony Jones Jr converted for a first down with a two-yard run.  In the grand scheme of things, it might seem small since Notre Dame won 52-20, but it had a huge impact early on.

Against Navy, Notre Dame had to score early and not waste any possessions.  Navy thrives on putting pressure on its opponents when they fail to capitalize on opportunities, and then they milk eight minutes of clock on the ensuing drive.  The reverse happened Saturday, and it led to a blowout.  Notre Dame converted the 4th down and scored a few plays later, then forced a Navy turnover.

Had Notre Dame not converted that fourth down or attempted a 40-yard field goal there, who knows what Navy ends up doing.  Again, considering the Irish won by 32, this might seem small, but when you look back at how this game unfolded, that fourth-down conversion helped set the table for everything else that happened.

2. Kyle Hamilton’s stop of Malcolm Perry on 4th down

Speaking of fourth downs, how could anyone not love Kyle Hamilton‘s huge fourth-down stop of Navy quarterback Malcolm Perry in the second quarter?  At this time, Notre Dame was already winning 28-0 nothing, so it didn’t have the impact of Notre Dame’s fourth-down conversion, but it’s a play that not many safeties make.  Malcolm Perry is a pretty gifted runner, and initially, it looks like he is going to get the corner and convert the fourth down.  Hamilton, however, closes with incredible speed and makes a brilliant open-field tackle for loss and gets the offense the ball back.

This is a play that only an elite safety makes.  In fact, Hamilton is probably the only safety on the Notre Dame roster who can make this play because it requires not just elite athleticism, but it requires taking a textbook path to the runner and tackling skills.  All of that is on display here by young Kyle Hamilton.  We all know that this kid is going to be special, and this play really highlights just how talented he already is.

3. Paul Moala’s “Pitch-6” touchdown

Speaking of crazy athletic plays, how about Paul Moala’s “pitch-6”.  All poor Navy backup quarterback Perry Spencer was trying to do here was get off a simple option pitch, but Notre Dame backup Rover Paul Moala plays it perfectly and does what I have been waiting for years to see the Irish do to Navy – take an option pitch and return it for a touchdown.

Moala is going to be a fun player to watch develop the next few years.  He isn’t an elite athlete like Hamilton, but he has a chance to become a very good player in this defense – especially if he can bulk up some more without losing any athleticism.  Many thought he was a “throw-in” recruit last year, but he is proving that he was anything but.  Kelly even mentioned on Monday that either he or Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah could get a look at BUCK in the spring.

I am going to cheat a little bit here and mix in an ancillary thing that I liked, too, and mention all of the turnovers that Notre Dame forced in the game overall.  Khalid Kareem forcing fumbles on Navy’s first two drives was beyond huge for Notre Dame.  By turning the ball over and having the Irish offense capitalize, Notre Dame dug a hole that even a great Navy team like the one they faced on Saturday is just not capable of digging out of.  On the day, Notre Dame forced four turnovers in another defensive masterpiece from Clark Lea.

Yeah, there was some grumbling for Notre Dame allowing some yards at the end, but I already discussed how that doesn’t bother me since the backups coming in and seeing the option first hand is a good thing – even if they gave up points.  Overall, Notre Dame’s defense was stifling when it mattered.

4. Ian Book’s laser beam to Braden Lenzy for a 70-yard touchdown

I am going actually to talk about two Ian Book throws here and not just the 70-yard bomb to Lenzy because he had two separate throws Saturday that were incredibly encouraging.  The obvious one was his 70-yarder to speedy sophomore Braden Lenzy, though.  This is a throw we haven’t seen Book make in the past.  He just stood in the pocket and uncorked a bomb to Lenzy that traveled more than 50 yards in the air and hit the track star in stride for a touchdown.

This one was huge because we haven’t seen Book attempt this pass in the past.  We’ve been talking for a year now about Book needing to show that he can throw the deep ball to get defenses to respect it.  Well, now there is tape of Book unleashing this one on a line to Lenzy for the score.  If Book can consistently make throws like this one, it changes the offense immensely.  Now, why it took until game ten of this season for us to see this is a whole other question, but now that we have, and we know it’s possible, so do opposing defensive coordinators who now have to respect it.  Not only can this help open up the underneath passing attack, but perhaps it will help open up a rushing attack that has struggled since the USC game.

Now the other throw that I’m going to talk about wasn’t as long and didn’t result in a touchdown, but it might have even been more significant.  It was Book’s 29-yard completion for Lawrence Keys in the third quarter.

This is an incredibly hard throw to make, and I’ll be honest, I did not know Book had something like this in him.  He throws across his body after scrambling and delivers a strike to Keys on a ball that traveled 40 yards in the air.  We haven’t seen Book make a throw like this before, and it’s beyond encouraging to see it.  That’s an NFL throw, folks.  I haven’t used those words to describe a lot of Book’s throws to date, but that is a bonafide NFL throw right there.

Maybe that game-winning drive against Virginia Tech flipped a switch for Book because we have seen a different quarterback since then.  These two throws right here are two throws we’ve been waiting to see Book make in a game.  Now that we have and we know they are there, the possibilities for this offense over the final two regular-season games and the bowl game are very exciting.

5. Chip Long finding ways to get Chase Claypool lined up against safeties

At times this year, I’ve been critical of Chip Long for some of his play calls (and I still can’t figure out why he keeps calling stretch runs for Tony Jones Jr), but on Saturday, he did some really creative things with Chase Claypool.  Take Claypool’s second touchdown of the game here.

Long moves Claypool around and gets him lined up in the slot where he should have a huge mismatch against a safety.  Navy doesn’t react to this and lets a poor safety try to cover Claypool down the seam.  Few safeties in college football can cover Claypool there, let alone a safety from Navy.  It was a creative play design though that got Notre Dame’s biggest playmaker in a position to create a big play, and then Book delivered a strike to take advantage.

On Claypool’s first touchdown, Long’s play design also resulted in Claypool being covered by a safety coming across the field.  That is another matchup that Claypool will win 10 out of 10 times against Navy.  Both were really well-designed plays that got Claypool in matchups that resulted in easy touchdowns for the Irish.

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  1. Frank , it was a fun/exciting game to watch. A complete dominating performance by the O & D against a Navy triple option considered one of their best in last few years. I liked the enthusiasim/confidence of this 2019 team coming on since the VT win. Players are having fun and playing loose. I expext this adrenalin rush to continue against BC (senior day) and into Palo Alto. Then a Bowl win to finish season 11-2.

  2. Book’s throw to Keys is probably the most impressive throw he’s made maybe in his career. I looked over at Dad and said “that was actually a good throw” because it’s hard for me to compliment Book anymore. But that was truly a difficult throw and he dropped a dime downfield on the sideline on a full run throwing across his body. Great throw!

    I still think Jurkovec’s throw to Lenzy on that deep hitch from the right hash to the wide side of the field while standing in the pocket and taking a hit right in his chest was pretty incredible and shows what Jurkovec’s upside is. Book cannot make this throw, guaranteed.

    Top thing I liked again and probably will be going forward each week is Chase Claypool dominating. First round material for sure!

  3. Watching Hamilton this season has been great. I know we have seen freshmen getting thrown into the mix due to injuries and a thin depth chart but to see one come in and earn his role and force the coaches to play him, well that’s just damn awesome and we need more of it in the coming seasons. Makes me sad we may only have 2 more seasons of Hamilton tho. He needs to start recruiting and nudging other elite secondary players that can make immediate impacts to join him.
    As for Book he had all day to throw to Lenzy. That didn’t happen against GA or scUM due to the pressure and let’s face reality, Duke or Navy doesn’t have players that make up those d-lines either. Next season we have Wis, Clem, Stanford which will be better, Wake, Louisville and usc on the schedule. Far better players defensively overall so these routes may not be there. I hate to make a prediction this early for next year until we know exactly what we have to work with but with Book starting in 2020 it may be a 9-3 season.

      1. Can’t help myself. Kinda like drinking 1 more beer after you have reached the point of no return. I hate to do it but there is no point in wasting it once it’s been opened.

  4. Add: Khalid Kareem’s two forced fumbles, and his deflecting a pass at the end of the 2nd quarter, leading to two TDs and changing a potential TD pass to a FG- that’s one player involved in potentially 18 points( even though the deflected pass might have lead to an INT!)

  5. I agree that last TD series against VT seemed to have been a switch for Book and the ND offense in general.

    That game was a turning point. We were on the verge of having a lost season. Was ND going to end up being a 3+ loss team (and had they lost I think all the air would have been sucked out of the room for ND and we really might be talking about 3, 4, maybe even 5 losses). It was like the offense finally woke up and realized they didn’t want it to end that way. And they’ve played well since.

    I noted before I’m still skeptical though. How good is Navy? Was ND just mauling overmatched opponents like earlier this season against BG and NM. I want to see the offensive dominance continue. Frank is right though, those two deep throws were throws Book hasn’t made all year until now. I hope that’s a sign of things to come for Book.

    And that first drive really did tell the tale of the game. ND also did something else I thought was important that wasn’t mentioned. They ate up 5 minutes of clock on their own. ND had some quick strikes later in the game for TD’s that was important. But eating up that 5 minutes, converting a crucial 4th down and ending it with a TD put Navy on their heels from the get go (then getting a turnover soon after put the icing on the cake). ND was methodical on that first drive. They didn’t waste time like Navy does, but they were patient and didn’t rush things during that drive.

    And I was glad they took Greg’s advice and didn’t settle for a FG. Against many teams you’d probably go for a FG. But against Navy you can’t play like you would normally play. For once the offensive play calling was generally sound. They exploited Navy’s weaknesses pretty well.

    1. I 1000% agree on we have a hard nose dive if we lose the VT game. It looks like one of the commonwealths’ teams or Pitt will win that side of the ACC so that VT turning point may end up our best win of the regular season. Finishing November and then winning a bowl against a quality opponent would say a lot about Book and next years outlook. Our running game has been an inconsistent and at times non-existent mess. I am not as critical of Kelly as many but his general attitude about running worried me when he was hired and still rubs me the wrong way 10yr later. I just wish he would have more faith in running every game against every opponent. Our RBs have been mostly underwhelming under Kelly with an occasional guy popping up and having one good season or even just part of a season. Its my belief we will never win an NC again until we can run with authority and effeteness in short yardage and to date that is just not something BK seems to care about.

  6. I dont understand how Long can call a great game at times and other times his game plans and play calling are poor.Of course you probably have to factor in the injuries suspensions poor exucation at times and Books poor play.All this imo has to be factored in.Also lacking a great back with electric speed would help too.Hopefully Chris Tyree is the real deal.

  7. On Moala’s touchdown return, was that Flutie frustratingly saying “Oh My God”? when Moala nabbed the pitch?

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