Notre Dame was back in action last night and played how you would expect a team to play after three weeks off – sloppy. The Irish lacked the execution we saw in week two’s blowout of South Florida and instead made uncharacteristic mistakes that made the game much closer than it needed to be. The Irish prevailed 42-26, but it’s clear the Notre Dame coaching staff has a lot of work on its hands over the next few weeks. Here are this week’s overreactions.
I expected a sloppy game, but…
In my prediction post, I said the game would be frustrating, and Notre Dame would probably be sloppy after the three-week break, but that didn’t make it any less frustrating to watch. It’s tough when you know that Notre Dame is so much better than its opponent only to let them be in the game from their own mistakes.
The fumble by Kyren Williams, the muffed punt, the penalties, the dropped passes, the missed throws. All week one type of problems I predicted. All issues that occurred that was still frustrating to see.
Luckily Florida State is so bad that it didn’t matter, but Notre Dame has to play a lot better a month from now to have any chance against Clemson. Luckily they have three more games before then and hopefully won’t have anymore unplanned breaks in action before then.
Notre Dame’s passing game still is a work in progress
I hoped we would see the Notre Dame passing game look better last night with Kevin Austin back in action and the rest of the Irish wide receiving corps back to full strength. Well, we are still waiting for that. Ian Book did look better than we’ve seen him in a while at times but he finished the night just 16 of 25 for 201 yards and two touchdowns. He didn’t need to do much more because the rushing attack was so good, but it still would have been nice to see him connect on one of the deep shots he took.
Javon McKinley ended up leading the Irish with five receptions for 107 yards including a nice 38 yard gain on a beautiful throw by Book. The rest of the Irish receivers caught just four passes for 42 yards. Tommy Tremble wasn’t featured much this week either with just a single catch for six yards.
Book’s stats would have looked better had he connected on a third quarter screen to Kyren Williams that was setup perfectly. Similarly to the missed screen against Duke though, the ball was too high and fell to the ground. Williams might have scored on the play it was that well set up.
There’s still time to fix the Irish passing game, but through three games, Book has just 608 yards and three touchdowns.
Brian Polian needs to fix the punt return unit… NOW
The punt return unit was a but of a trainwreck last night. Lawrence Keys muffed one punt that let Florida State back in the game after the Irish had built a 14-3 lead and looked like they would run away with it early. Then later in the game, freshman Ramon Henderson ran into Keys nearly causing another turnover and shortfield for Florida State. Against the Seminoles it was okay, but again, those kind of plays won’t fly next month when Clemson comes to town.
Notre Dame ended up turning to walkon Matt Salerno later in the game. It would be nice if the punt unit could be a weapon and not a liability, but we may be headed towards the territory of the punt return unit being a fair catch factory like it had been in the past.
Notre Dame hasn’t had a back like Kyren Williams in a long time
I don’t think enough could be said of just how good Kyren Williams has been for Notre Dame. Sure, the yards and big plays speak for themselves, but it’s the four and five yard runs that he is getting that are the most impressive to me. Notre Dame simply hasn’t had a back that can make people miss and bounce off tackles like Williams in a long time.
There were numerous plays last night where he should have been stopped for no gain or a loss that he tuend into four or five yard gains or better. Those plays are not only critical for creating better down and distances obviously, but they are are demoralizing to a defense.
Williams doesn’t have the speed of Josh Adams or Dexter Williams where a small hole could be exploited for a home run, but he is just so damn effective at every other run that he could turn out to be much more impactful than either of them.
Williams finished the night with 185 yards on 19 attempts and two touchdowns. He did have a costly fumble on the second play of the game, but he atoned for it and then some. Oh, and Chris Tyree ain’t too shabby either.
The Irish offensive line is legit
Part of the reason both Williams and Tyree have been so effective is because the offensive line is opening massive holes for them. On Chris Tyree’s 45 yard touchdown run, he wasn’t touched. Williams wasn’t touched on his 47 yard touchdown run either. While Williams has made the line look even better by those aforementioned “nothing into something” runs, they have also benefited from some great blocking.
Notre Dame ran the ball for 353 yards last night – Book added 58 yards of his own via sme designed runs and a few scrambles.
Even when Liam Eichenberg had to leave the game with an eye injury, the line didn’t miss a beat with Aaron Banks sliding over to left tackle in his place. It’s take this line a little while to get to this point, but it is playing some dominant football right now. If they keep playing like they have, the Clemson defensive line will have their hands full with them.
Clark Lea might be human after all
Again, I expected some sloppiness last night but more so from the offense, not the Irish defense. Clark Lea’s unit though was uncharacteristically sloppy last night. They were set up poorly a few times because of turnovers, but they still gave up 405 yards to an offense that was starting their third different quarter in four games.
One alarming stat from last night was the Seminoles fourth down conversions – they were three for three. They were just 2 of 14 on third downs, but perfect on fourth downs on the night.
We can chalk some of this up to lost practice time, limited availabilities of players over the last few weeks, but it didn’t make it any less surprising to see the Irish defense on its heels at times.
Jeremiah Owusu Koramoah and Kyle Hamilton provided some big hits at times, but the Irish defense line which had been dominant the first two weeks, didn’t have quite the same push last night. Ade Ogundeji did, however, pick up another two sacks last night.
Given the layoff and all of the practice time missed while players were in isolation and quarantine, last night’s performance isn’t worth freaking out about just yet, but if we see Louisville do the same, it will be.