It’s awards season, folks!
Forget the Heisman Trophy and the college football awards show and all that other fluff, the UHND awards are where it’s at for the Notre Dame football team. Even the team banquet; sure, it’s nice to be the team MVP and things like that, but to be a part of the official UHND plays of the year? Prestigious doesn’t even begin to describe it.
I’m going to break this down by group, so plays of the year on offense, defense, and special teams, plus a couple of fun ones, like “whoa play of the year” and “TV call of the year” and “most consequential play”. I don’t want to waste words in the lead up, so let’s just get to it.
Ian Book Game-Winning Touchdown Against Virginia Tech
Pretty big moment! If Book doesn’t get in, the team is out of timeouts, it’s fourth down, and they are scrambling to get a play off, let alone design a winning play. It was a gutsy call by Chip Long, he’d be in some deep doo-doo if it didn’t work out, but the play was executed to perfection, with the run and cut by Book and the blocking of Javon McKinley. Probably the single most exciting moment of the year and the single biggest feeling of relief.
Johnathan Doerer Kicking Four Field Goals Against USC
This isn’t a single play so it doesn’t really qualify for an award, but I felt it should be mentioned. We throw around phrases like “it won Notre Dame the game,” and sometimes it’s exaggerated, but in this case, it’s probably true. They won by three, and he kicked a 52 yarder to make it two scores at 23-13 when USC was really cooking on offense, so things never truly got tense. Huge performance in Notre Dame’s best win.
Most Consequential Play
Ian Book 4th and 10 Completion To Chase Claypool Against Virginia Tech
So much was riding on the success of this play late in the fourth quarter. Notre Dame is out of timeouts, and there is under a minute left. If it goes incomplete, the game is over. If Notre Dame drops the game, it’s two straight losses, the career of Book is up in the air, there is no chance for a double-digit win regular season, and the season could have turned very ugly for the rest of November.
Book stands strong in the pocket and fires a bullet to Claypool, perfectly in stride for a 23 yard gain, and Notre Dame went on to score the winning touchdown. The rest is history. Ian Book did build off of that drive and that throw, Notre Dame went undefeated in November, and things feel close to right again. The biggest single fork in the road moment of the season and the players involved.
Best TV Call
Javon McKinley 69 Yard Catch And Run Against New Mexico
The nice thing about Mike Tirico calling the games is there are a lot of candidates for this one. There were numerous on the final drive against Virginia Tech, and the Lenzy run against USC come to mind. This one sticks out, though, because it was so unexpected, and there was no preparation for the moment or tension in the stadium. McKinley is rumbling down the field, and Tirico is letting the verbs and adjectives fly out of nowhere. Snakes his way to the 20? It’s a real fun listen.
“Whoa, Whooa, WHOOOA” Play Of The Year
Braden Lenzy 51 Yard Touchdown Run Against USC
This is the title of the award because this is the sound I made as he made his way down the field. Even Mike Tirico let out a “Whoa! He’s fast!” after the play. Notre Dame had been such a blah team up to that point; methodical drives, but they always lacked that big, exciting play. When the ball is pitched to Lenzy, the first thought is “get around that corner” and he gets around the corner, and you think oh good, this is working out. Then it hits that “wait, there is no one there. Wait, he’s flying. He’s going to score!” It was such shock how fast he was, and again, it was so unexpected. Big plays like that just hadn’t happened. The good news is this was just a preview of things to come for Lenzy the remainder of the season.
Obligatory Kyle Hamilton Post
4th and 2 Tackle For Loss Against Navy
Choosing my favorite play of his is like choosing your favorite child. I love them all the same. But, I think this one resonates with the fans the most. It was a big play, just him and the quarterback who no one could stop, and it was total dominance. It was just no dude, you don’t actually have a chance, this is a different level here. Like a lion chasing the gazelle.
*David Attenborough voice* The lion stalks his prey. The gazelle, small and agile, has many times evaded capture. But, this lion is not a standard foe. The destruction is swift and brutal. The lion, following his kill, lets out a roar. He is the new king of beasts. pic.twitter.com/cuhkK1Esfr
— Greg Flammang (@greg2126) November 18, 2019
Special Teams Play Of The Year
The Hold And Kick Against Virginia Tech
The hold by Bramblett is fantastic, the calmness of Doerer to wait and beat then boom it through. Just sublime. Both of their minds had to have been racing. How long does Bramblett have to get this ball down? One second? A second and a half? And Doerer sees all this happening on his approach. He has to go through his entire motion not totally knowing if the ball will be there when his foot does. Such a clutch play by two players on one of the most routine plays in the sport.
This is some straight sorcery though. pic.twitter.com/KA6XeJExwl
— Greg Flammang (@greg2126) November 2, 2019
Defensive Play Of The Year
Jamir Jones Strip Sack Leading To MTA Rumbling And Bumbling Down The Field
First of all, big man running with the football, always a good time. Second of all, this play swung the game into Notre Dame’s favor. They were down at the time 17-14, and Virginia had the ball in Irish territory, mid third quarter. Jones, who had been planning to redshirt this entire time, comes up with a huge sack and strip just on its own, and MTA plucks it out of the air and takes off towards the end zone. He doesn’t quite make it, but Notre Dame later scores to take a lead they’ve never relinquished, against the eventual 9-3 and ACC Coastal Division champions.
Offensive Play Of The Year
Chase Claypool Toe Drag Against Virginia Tech
The catch was difficult, the toe drag was sublime, and the reactions afterward brought it all together. It was a huge play in the game, it came on 2nd and eight on the game-winning drive, and with just one minute and 10 seconds left, time was of the essence. They needed to get moving. Book leads Claypool way too far, he’s wide open, and in bringing the ball in, Claypool has the wherewithal to drag the right foot even though the natural move is to land first with the left foot, which would have made the pass incomplete.
He hauls it in, Shaun Crawford goes wild, and Jamir Jones shows everyone how Chase just dragged that foot. Best play of the year on offense.