Notre Dame passed their final test before their big exam next weekend against Clemson. The Irish took care of Georgia Tech 31-13 to improve to 6-0 on the season and set up a battle of unbeatens next weekend in Notre Dame Stadium. Like most of the season, yesterday wasn’t always pretty, but it was effective.
That game was like vanilla ice cream for dessert
There was a time when winning on the road 31-13 against anyone would have been a reason to celebrate – that time was just four years ago. However, we know a lot has changed since then, and that’s why yesterday’s game left Notre Dame fans a bit unfulfilled. Two weeks ago, Clemson took the same Georgia Tech squad to the woodshed 73-7.
Fans were hoping for a blowout, and honestly, yesterday basically was everywhere but the scoreboard. Georgia Tech never seriously challenged the Irish, and had it not been for some self-inflicted wounds, the Irish win this one much more impressively.
That kind of performance is fine against Georgia Tech but won’t be next weekend against Clemson. That kind of performance – especially offensive – next week will not end how Notre Dame wants it to.
Brian Kelly clearly wasn’t pleased with his team’s effort
While Irish fans probably weren’t overly thrilled with the outcome, you know who else wasn’t? Brian Kelly. In his postgame interview on the field, you could tell that Kelly expected his team to be much more crisp in their execution. He wisely didn’t throw his team under the bus at all, but his agitation was evident if you watch Brian Kelly enough.
Kelly took a calculated risk last week when he admitted he and his team had their eyes on bigger prizes than yesterday’s game. It didn’t backfire on him with Notre Dame taking care of business for the most part, but it’s also possible that his team wasn’t as focused on the Yellow Jackets as they could have been.
We can look at this with green-tinted glasses and say that the outcome yesterday was a perfect result for Kelly and his staff. Notre Dame won reasonably easy, avoided significant injuries, and there’s enough on film for Kelly and staff to be harp on this week.
Kyren Williams’s fumble changed the narrative of the outcome
All this said, are we having this conversation if Kyren Williams doesn’t fumble on Notre Dame’s second drive of the game with Tech scooping and scoring? Probably not. Reverse what happens there, and the final score is 38-6. The optics of that look much better, and we’re all feeling a whole lot better about Notre Dame’s performance right now.
That play did happen, of course, and it did impact the outcome. It also is a perfect example of what Kelly and staff can preach this week in practice. Notre Dame cannot give up a play like next weekend and expect to win – even with Trevor Lawrence unavailable for the contest.
Still too many penalties for the Irish
Speaking of things that need to be cleaned up, Notre Dame once again had far too many critical penalties. They only got flagged five times on the day, but those penalties added up to 50 yards. That also is something that Notre Dame can’t do next weekend. They overcame some of the penalties that had the potential to kill drives against the Yellow Jackets, but again, next weekend is a whole other beast.
Javon McKinley is showing explosiveness after the catch he hasn’t shown previously
I still question how Notre Dame will move the ball vertically against the Clemson defense, but one of the more promising developments the last two weeks has been Javon McKinley’s play after the catch. McKinley has been more of a big, plodding wide receiver thru most of his career. Still, he’s flashed some explosiveness in the open field we previously only saw against a terrible New Mexico defense last year.
McKinley has had an up and down year. He torched a pretty good Florida State corner a month ago but then struggled when it looked like Notre Dame was forcing the ball to him against Louisville. In that game, McKinley missed multiple opportunities to make plays on 50/50 balls that cost the Irish points. Since then, however, McKinley has been much more effective.
We’ll see if McKinley can translate his success the last two weeks into success on Saturday against a much better defense.
Notre Dame seemed content to dink and dunk
While we all were hoping for some more offensive firepower, it seemed pretty clear that that was not in Tommy Rees’s plans for the Irish offense. The first drive of the game consumed nearly 9:00 of clock after 15 efficient plays. The second drive was shaping up to the same before Williams’s fumble.
Unlike last weekend, Notre Dame didn’t push the ball vertically at all. There were some plays there that Book could have made, but he didn’t pull the trigger. The Irish did use some misdirection and motion on a few plays that were most likely put in place to set something else up for next weekend against Clemson, but overall the game plan was very vanilla.
Welcome to the defensive party, Daelin Hayes
In my prediction post for this week, I said it felt like it was about time for Daelin to breakout, and boy did he. Hayes only had six tackles on the season heading into yesterday’s contest but added five tackles against Tech alone, including two sacks and two forced fumbles. It was the kind of performance we have all been waiting for from Hayes this year. It was the kind of performance we all thought would be more commonplace, given how Hayes played in 2019 before his injury. Hayes took a little time to get here, but his timing couldn’t be better.
Georgia Tech only allowed ten sacks in their first six games of the season, but Notre Dame racked up five yesterday alone. In addition to Hayes’s pair, Ade Ogundeji, Shaun Crawford, and Isaiah Foskey added one of their own. Notre Dame will need that same level of pressure next weekend against another true freshman quarterback.
Why do teams continue to throw or run anywhere near Kyle Hamilton?
I just don’t understand why teams continue to throw or run the ball anywhere near Kyle Hamilton in critical situations. Hamilton is still looking for his first INT of the year (next weekend would be an excellent time for that, Kyle), but he was all over the field yesterday. He led the Irish in tackles with six, including two big TFL. He also blew up Georgia Tech’s two-point conversion attempt in the fourth quarter.
Elite sums up Hamilton’s play this year perfectly. We have gotten to the point where if a pass is completed on Hamilton, it’s a big deal. That’s insanity. That’s the level of play expected out of the sophomore safety, though.