Notre Dame was back in action today down several key players that they weren’t expecting to be without. The losses didn’t seem to impact the Irish, however, as the notched a shut out of South Florida in a dominating 52-0 victory to improve to 2-0 on the season with just conference games left on the schedule. Obviously there was a lot of good in this one, so let’s jump into this week’s overreactions.
Notre Dame’s running back room is much deeper than anyone thought
Last it was the linebackers that everyone was concerned with. Then Asmar Bilal lived up to his potential in his last year. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah became a budding star. And Drew White came out of nowhere and placed a stranglehold on the MIKE position. We are seeing the same situation unfold this year at the running back position.
Last week Kyren Williams had over 200 yards from scrimmage. This week, Notre Dame used all four of its available running backs to run South Florida into the ground. Williams started and looked great, but wasn’t even needed much ending the game with 62 yards on 10 carries. Chris Tyree carried just eight times but picked up 65 yards and scored a touchdown. C’bo Flemister, who didn’t carry the ball at all last week, ran 13 times for 127 yards and a touchdown.
Amazingly enough, Jafar Armstrong, the guy who looked like he would be THE guy two years ago, looked like just the fourth-best back on the Notre Dame available today. That’s pretty wild considering the concern around this position heading into the season.
The Irish will probably pare down their rotation at some point, but this backfield looked loaded today. And it wasn’t just because South Florida’s defense was terrible. These backs made plays all game long while Notre Dame tallied 281 yards on the ground.
And the linebacker room isn’t that far behind
Linebacker wasn’t expected to be a weakness in 2020, but we also weren’t expecting to be without both of the top two BUCK linebackers today. This is the world of playing football amid a pandemic, though. With Shayne Simon and Marist Liufau unavailable today, Jack Kiser was thrust into the starting lineup at BUCK. He responded by leading Notre Dame in tackles with 8, including two TFL. He also had a critical open-field tackle on third down early in the game before the route was on.
It takes some impressive depth to take a guy who was practicing with the scout team earlier in the week and force him into the lineup only to see him lead the team in tackles.
Under Clark Lea’s guidance, we’ve seen the linebacker corps produce top-line players. Today we saw the benefits of Lea’s coaching from a depth perspective.
The Notre Dame OL asserted their will – especially on 3rd down
Speaking of running the ball, remember when the Notre Dame offense struggled on third and short? For all of his strengths, Chip Long’s offenses just didn’t’ convert on third and short and fourth and short. That wasn’t the case today. Notre Dame ran the ball on their first two third downs – both third and threes – and they got them. Folks, this offense used to struggle on third and one, let alone third and three—those used to pass down these parts.
Notre Dame’s offensive line didn’t dominate Duke last week in the first quarter, and it had people up in arms. Well, as this line is getting more used to the new blocking schemes, they are starting to dominate. South Florida is still South Florida, and next week is just Wake Forest, but the more this line begins to dominate, the more likely it is they’ll be ready to run the ball on Clemson in November.
We got a glimpse of why Clarence Lewis is in the two-deep
One of the first official depth charts’ surprises was Clarence Lewis being listed as an OR at first-team CB with TaRiq Bracy. But then Lewis didn’t play last weekend. Well, with Bracy among those missing in action today, Lewis played quite a bit. The true freshman more than held his own. More importantly, he played with a calm demeanor at corner and showed us why the coaching staff listed him right behind Bracy.
Corner was a position that we all thought was paper-thin depth-wise, but Notre Dame just played a game with Shaun Crawford at safety and without Bracy at corner and didn’t miss a beat. Oh, sophomore KJ Wallace, who was recruited as a corner, is playing safety too. That’s some unexpected depth at corner.
Tommy Tremble is a helluva blocker
Tommy Tremble was a dangerous receiver last year, but with his slender frame (for a tight end) people doubted his blocking skills. Well, doubt no more. Tremble put on a clinic out there today in how a tight end should block. Play after play, Tremble was shown springing Notre Dame running backs for significant gains.
Oh, Tremble also led Notre Dame in receiving with three catches for 60 yards on three targets.
Enjoy Tremble while you can, Notre Dame fans. With the tape he is putting together blocking and his elite athleticism, he’s easily a candidate for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Notre Dame’s passing game wasn’t really challenged
For all of the good that comes with a blowout like we saw today, my one initial concern is that the passing game didn’t really get enough work. It was terrific to see Notre Dame run the ball with ease and beat up on South Florida 52-0, don’t get me wrong. However, my biggest concern out of the Duke game was that Ian Book and the Notre Dame passing game was shaky.
Book was on early – especially on the first two drives. He completed 10 of his first 13 attempts and set up the first two touchdown drives with big plays. We still haven’t seen this offense stretch the field vertically, though, which was the number one question about this offense coming into the season.
Notre Dame didn’t need its passing game today, but it will at some point this season. We still don’t know if that part of the offense has evolved. Don’t get me wrong, I am loving this win and thoroughly enjoying an anxiety-free Saturday. The passing game is just something I’ll be watching for the next couple of weeks.
Has South Florida ever practiced long snapping?
Seriously. I get that South Florida has a new staff and all, but did they not practice special teams over the summer? The Bulls had two terrible snaps on punts – one of which resulted in Jordan Bothelo’s first career touchdown.
Everyone, enjoy a carefree Saturday
Yeah, I added in one not so sunny point in my immediate overreactions from the game, but 1) that’s the point, and 2) it was still only one not-perfect takeaway. We don’t get many Saturdays like this one where we have to look for things that went wrong, so let’s enjoy it while we can. Notre Dame recorded the shut out and put up 50+ points on the scoreboard. That’s a pretty damn good Saturday afternoon in my books.