5 Things I Liked in Notre Dame’s FANtastic 2019 Senior Day

Notre Dame capped off a 6-0 home record on Saturday afternoon with a 40-7 win over Boston College.  It wasn’t always pretty, but ultimately, the Irish did what they should do to Boston College every time they face them – beat them into submission.  This game was like Boston College’s Super Bowl, and yet Notre Dame was still able to beat them by 33 points and empty their benches to give all of their seniors a proper sendoff.  Week’s like this make it easy to find five things I liked.

1. Ian Book’s sideline laser to Cole Kmet

We’ve seen Ian Book make some throws the last couple of weeks that we hadn’t seen him make before.  Last week it was his 70-yard bomb to Braden Lenzy that had 50+ air yards to it.  This week it was a sideline dart to Cole Kmet in the first quarter for a 26-yard pickup.

What makes this throw so impressive is that Book buys time in the pocket, scrambles right, and then fires an absolute laser to Kmet on the sideline for the 26-yard gain.  Book just snapped it off.  He releases it around the 20, and the ball travels 30+ yards on a rope. It’s the kind of throw we’ve been waiting to see from him that he is starting to make.

On the day Book was 26 of 40 for 239 yards with another three touchdowns and no interceptions.  If he throws one touchdown against Stanford, he’ll reach 30 for the year – 14 of which have come in the last four games.

2. Ade Ogundeji’s 2nd sack of the game

Boston College had a chance to get back in this game in the second half because Notre Dame was letting the hang around.  With the Irish up just 16-7, Boston College faced a 2nd and 10 deep in their own territory.  BC quarterback Dennis Grosel dropped back and had a tight end running down the seam wide open.  He didn’t have time to get the ball off, though, because of the pressure applied by Ogundeji.  Now, that play might not have resulted in a touchdown, but it would have been a huge gain if Grosel has time to get the ball off.

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Instead of setting up a scoring opportunity, though, it set up a 3rd and 12, and the Eagles punted the ball away a play later.  On the day, Ogundeji had two sacks and six tackles overall – three of which resulted in lost yardage.  It gave Notre Dame fans a glimpse of the hopeful future at SDE next year.  While Ogundeji has a 5th year available, he reportedly has not yet decided on coming back on or not just yet.  If he does, he will give Notre Dame potentially very little drop off from Khalid Kareem in 2020.

3. Kyle Hamilton’s team-leading 4th interception of the year

Raise your hand if thought Kyle Hamilton was going to lead the team in interceptions this year (only Greg should be raising his hand right now).  With another interception on Saturday, Hamilton now has four on the season – tied for the most interceptions by any freshman in the country.

This is a perfect example of the ball just finding Hamilton – it catches him almost more than he catches it. He had some tough moments in the running game where 250 lbs running back AJ Dillon reminded us that he is just a freshman after all. Still, by the end of the game, he reminded us all why he most likely will never enjoy a Senior Day of his own in Notre Dame Stadium – he’s too good to play four years of college football.

In the summer, we heard about how Hamilton was intercepting passes every day.  We’ve seen those same ball-hawking skills on display all fall long.

4. Sending a special senior class out winners for the 17th time in a row at Notre Dame Stadium

This year’s senior class were freshmen on that trainwreck 4-8 season in 2016.  As a group, they helped transform the culture of a program that is on the doorstep of recording its third consecutive 10-win season, including last year’s run to the playoffs.  It’s a special group that has experienced the highs and lows of being football players at Notre Dame.

Here are just a few of the more interesting subplots within this year’s senior class (including 5th years).

  • Asmar Bilal – His transformation this fall has been incredible.  He’s got a legit chance for an NFL future after we all wrote him off in August
  • Khalid Kareem – He got banged up a few times again this weekend, but he always fights through it and makes big plays
  • Jalen Elliott – Everyone wrote him off after 2017, but he bounced back in 2018 and served as a captain this year
  • Chris Finke – Had a rough start to his final season this year, but has bounced back the last four weeks.  228 of his 410 yards and 3 of his 4 touchdowns this year have come the last four games.
  • Chase Claypool – It took him longer than most hoped to unlock his potential, but it’s been on full display this season.  HE caught his 10th touchdown of the season on Saturday and had an uncharacteristic drop that would have given him two.
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Unfortunately, Julian Okwara was not able to fully experience Senior Day with his classmates given his injury.  Despite a down year, Okwara embodies the spirit of this year’s senior class to a tee.

In the three seasons since that disaster of 2016, Notre Dame is 18-1 inside Notre Dame  Stadium, with the lone loss being that one-point defeat at the hands of Georgia in week two of 2017.  Since then, it’s been 17 in a row inside the House that Rockne built.  That streak will be put to the test in 2020 with Clemson visiting in November, but for now, let’s all enjoy Notre Dame asserting some dominance on their home field again.

Speaking of seniors, it will be interesting to see who all returns in 2020 for Notre Dame among the players with eligibility.  We know Daelin Hayes will be back, he announced as much already.  Ogundeji is reportedly not decided yet, though.  Then there is Tommy Kraemer, Liam Eichenberg, Alohi Gilman, Javon McKinley, and Ian Book just amongst the seniors.  Cole Kmet will have a decision on his hand in January, as well. With the class of 2020 pretty much wrapped up, Kelly and staff will still have plenty of recruiting on their hands this winter.

4. Both the NBC Fan Feed and the subtle alternate uniforms

I mentioned this once already, and Greg devoted an entire column to it, but PLEASE MAKE THE NOTRE DAME FAN FEED A PERMANENT THING.  There hasn’t been a whole lot that NBC has done really well with their coverage of Notre Dame, but the Fan Feed on NBCSN was almost flawless for a first run.  Every home game without Doug Flutie is a win for all Notre Dame fans.

I was also a big fan of the subtle alternate uniforms Notre Dame wore on Saturday.  The big reason why is because the pants matched the helmets much closer than their normal gameday pants.  They still aren’t a 100% matched and Daelin Hayes even revealed during the NBCSN broadcast that the team considered wearing their practice helmets, because that’s how the helmets looked in 1988, but it was better.

The mesh look on the numerals?   That I could do without.  Finally having the uniform pants match the helmet would be a welcomed improvement from Under Armour.

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  1. Hope Ogundeji comes back for 5th year. I think he has some unfinished business yet ahead–to become even better and join the ranks of top ND DE’s. Bo Bauer #52 go’s unoticed out there–because of special teams and a back up LB — but I look forward to next season and think he’ll be replacing Bilal. LOK , White , Bauer would look good together.

  2. Really liked the uniforms from 88. Those gold pants really look SOO much better than those damn mustard yellow things they wear
    now. Wish they would make the change permanent. Agree with you that they just match the helmets so much better.

    1. Totally agree with that observation, especially the pants ( and black cleats). I too would like to see the switch to the gold pants versus the mustard colored as permanent.

      Go Irish

  3. You are absolutely correct about the uniforms….. those gold pants are sharp… way better than those damn mustard yellow looking things. Wish they would switch back to those and wear the gold all the time. They just look SOOO much better.

  4. I liked when Kelly put in 5th year senior and #8 on the depth chart for QBs Nolan Henry . Probably the only time in his ND career that he got in a live game. Props to Kelly for allowing that to happen. Didn’t like the limited playbook for PJ but i’ll save that rant for another time.

  5. One thing I liked about this game and prior was the emergence of this senior class.
    Kudos to the ND D’ that has maintained excellence in most every game these past few seasons. With injuries this season to Hayes, Ademilola, Okwara, and now Myron, their DL hasn’t missed a beat. That’s depth ND hasn’t had for awhile.
    Despite Lacey, Hamilton, White, JOK and others hopefully returning and producing, it’s been this senior class that has led and provided leadership achieving 10 win seasons. Many of the points ND scored vs. BC (and others) were set up by the D’. Kareem has become a TO forcing machine as his career closes out, stepping up when so many of his fellow DL were injured. #53 might get dinged, but he’s back before you knew he was out.
    LB Bilal, and the DBs have also been seniors leading the way. Timely minutes for DB Vaughn and DE Jones complement the steady excellence of DBs Gilman, Eliot, Crawford, and Pride. Add Finke, and lest we forget if he doesn’t return, T.Jones Jr., who continues to break tackles and block like he’s possessed. And, of course, Claypool, who has many years ahead of him playing on Sundays with his special teams’ play and reliable receiving and blocking, setting a high standard for future WRs to follow. Thanks to all the seniors who have made 10 win seasons expected, after starting their careers with a four win season. Sorry for this lengthy post, but while NBC chose to focus on Flukey on Senior Day, I felt the need to refocus on those who add satisfaction, not agitu, (Italian slang for heartburn) to my Saturday football viewing. I appreciate them. I have no Plan B.

    1. I would love for Ode Ogunjei probably not spelling his name correctly to come back next year. He blew in there so fast and sacked the BC quarterback that was impressive. That’s what you SEC lineman doing.He has some serious speed coming off the edge.

  6. I like Book honestly and he has shown a few good things in the passing game lately. Although I think PJ should have started the 4th quarter when it was 33-7. He didn’t get to throw a pass I don’t believe and had almost as many yards rushing as Book in garbage time. Kelly already said he was going to recruit Book to come back next season so now I have the feeling PJ enters the portal in December. Hopefully I’m wrong since he would only be riding the pine next season and starting for 2 after.
    Hopefully something changes in the run game next season with Tyree coming in and Johnson is just to good to keep on the sidelines for the receiving corp. Secondary is worrisome but it is what it is.
    On a personal note and probably for all of the ND loving nation, SCREW FLUTIE AND HIS HALFTIME ANNIVERSARY.

    1. harf and harf on the secondary.
      We may have an outstanding quartet/quintet of Safeties: Hamilton, Pryor, Griffith, Brown, Ajavon.

      Cornerback is more daunting; Bracy, Davis (I guess he goes back) Wallace, Rutherford, Hart, and the frosh.

      And the cornerbacks would not be tested until Clemson comes to town.

      But all Spring and Fall there was weeping and gnashing of teeth about the linebackers. How did that work out?

      Under this staff, on both sides of the ball, players improve..

      The Flutie pass, as most things in life, cuts both ways. Look, look closely and just remember what coach was on the sideline
      of the other team. The enemy of my enemy is………………..

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