Any time you win a football game 52-0, there is going to be a lot to like. I don’t care who the opponent is. On Saturday the Irish blanked the South Florida Bulls and prevented even a hint of a flashback of the 2011 USF disaster to even creep into anyone’s memories. The win improved the Irish to 2-0 on the season and provided an opportunity to build on week one’s win over Duke. Here’s this week’s 5 things I liked.
Notre Dame having a stable of running backs
Last year we all worried about the linebacker position all summer long, then Clark Lea and the Irish backers delivered. This summer, we all worried about the running back position, and Lance Taylor has produced a stable of running backs all capable of making plays in this offense.
C’bo Flemister had the first 100-yard game of his career as Notre Dame had a different 100-yard rusher in back to back weeks. Flemister ripped off 127 yards on just 13 carries and a touchdown. Flemister ran violently and made the most of every carry.
Flemister might have been the only back to go over 100 yards, but Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree were also impressive. Williams “only” had 62 yards on 10 carries this week while Tyree added 65 yards on 8 carries, including his first career touchdown.
Jafar Armstrong got into the action with a five-yard touchdown run though he did struggle between the tackles. Armstrong is still dangerous in the open field, and with Notre Dame’s need for playmakers in the passing game, maybe the Irish get him more involved in the passing game moving forward.
What is very clear after two games is that Notre Dame has a much deeper running back room than anyone could have hoped for.
Jack Kiser’s open-field tackle on Jordan McCloud
It was just one play early in the game that turned out to be not very meaningful since the Irish shut out South Florida, but Jack Kiser’s third-down stop on the Bulls’ second drive of the game was a lot of fun to watch. Kiser was thrust into the starting lineup after starting the week on the Scout team due to the slew of players unavailable for the Irish. He responded with a huge game.
Kiser was thought of as more of the “throw in” recruit in 2020 compared to his fellow backer signees last year, but he’s shown very early that he was anything but.
Notre Dame has an overabundance of depth at linebacker right now, and Kiser is a prime example.
Isaiah Foskey not being fooled
South Florida tried to run a fake punt early in the game, and it ended terribly for the Bulls mainly because Isaiah Foskey wasn’t even remotely fooled. The sophomore defensive end stayed home and blew up the play to pick up his second sack of 2020.
In retrospect, it looked like a terrible play for South Florida, but in concept, it wasn’t a terrible idea to try to bait a young edge rusher into over pursuing. Foskey didn’t, and the drive ended.
It’s only been two games against two pretty weak teams, but it’s hard not to be excited about the potential of Isaiah Foskey right now. South Florida tried to block Foskey, unlike Duke, and he was still a factor. The arrow is pointing very much up with Foskey.
Tommy Tremble’s dominating blocking
We all knew that Tommy Tremble could be an elite receiving tight end this year, but not much was mentioned about his blocking. Well, that is no longer the case after the clinic he put on against South Florida. Replay after replay showed Tremble helping spring Notre Dame running backs for big runs. Chris Tyree walked into the endzone for his touchdown because Tremble blew up the poor defender who got in his way.
In the passing game, Tremble also added 60 yards on three receptions. Between Tremble, Michael “Baby Gronk” Mayer, and Brock Wright, Notre Dame is absolutely loaded at tight end right now. Look for Notre Dame to find new ways to get Tremble and Mayer on the field at the same time to create a lot of mismatches.
Notre Dame’s resiliency
Notre Dame found out Saturday morning that they would be without eight different players, only one of which, Kyle Hamilton, who was expected throughout the week. Notre Dame did say that they knew early in the week that it might be possible they’d be without some players. Still, by kickoff, they missed three defensive starters – Hamilton, TaRiq Bracy, and Shayne Simon and Marist Liufau and Ovie Oghofou from the two-deep on defense alone.
Even with all of the losses, there would have been no excuse for this game being close, but for the Irish to pitch a shutout without all of those players was impressive. Brian Kelly pleaded with his team to wear their masks and be smart this week in his post-game comments so that the Irish don’t find themselves in this situation again, but they are playing football during a pandemic.
Notre Dame’s depth was on full display this weekend with a third-string BUCK getting the game ball and a third-string running back leading the Irish offense. It was on display with Houston Griffith stepping into the starting lineup and shining as well. This is the deepest Notre Dame team of the Brian Kelly era, and that depth has been front and center the last two weeks.
Its talent youth has gotten an early chance to shine as well. Freshman DE Jordan Botelho scored a touchdown on a blocked punt (off a bad snap). German native Alexander Ehrensberger not only played but recorded a sack in his first career action.
This is a resilient and deep Notre Dame team. It’s got a very high ceiling.