Welp, the Kevin Austin break out game is going to have to wait at least another week. Saturday afternoon, just 90 minutes before the start of the Notre Dame – Pitt game, the Irish announced their weekly list of players who are unavailable and Austin was on it along with two others including starting cornerback TaRiq Bracy.
This is just the latest blow for Austin and the Notre Dame passing game. After missing all of 2019 with a suspension, Austin started the year on the injured list following foot surgery over the summer. He returned two weeks ago but has been eased back into the offense. Today he is unavailable which casts doubt on his availability for next week as well.
UPDATE: Reports have surfaced that Austin reinjured his foot in practice this week and will miss the remainder of the regular season.
With Austin out, look for more of the same from the Notre Dame wide receiver rotations. The Irish do get Lawrence Keys back after the junior cleared concussion protocol this week, but losing Austin again is a big blow for an Irish passing game stuck in neutral this year.
Defensively, losing Bracy is just as big of a loss for the Irish. Bracy has quietly been having an excellent season. Look for freshman Clarence Lewis to be in the mix for a lot of playing time today. Notre Dame could also move Shaun Crawford to corner again this week if needed.
Pitt was already going to pass the ball a lot today with a putrid running attack. Now they will have a freshman at corner to target all afternoon. Look for Clark Lea to give Lewis some safety help and to perhaps dial up some more pressure than normal.
Josh Lugg was not expected to be available anyway this weekend so his loss won’t be felt nearly as much as Austin’s or Bracy’s.
I was already expecting another slog of a game this afternoon and this news only reinforces those thoughts. Notre Dame will need to manufacture yards in the air without their presumed top receiver yet again this weekend.