So many questions for the Notre Dame football team in 2020, and so far, they’ve got all the right answers. Can they run the football? Will the secondary hold up? Are the receivers going to be ok? Are they good enough at quarterback? Can they beat Clemson? Can they avoid letdowns?
The latest question was the one at issue yesterday against the Eagles of Boston College, following the program defining win against Clemson the week before. It had all the makings of a classic letdown scenario: coming off of an enormous win, the game before a bye week, playing an inferior but sneaky good opponent, plus the whole revenge factor what have you with Phil Jurkovec playing his former team. (Did you know he used to play at Notre Dame? Yeah, he was there, but didn’t get to play, then he left, it’s a whole thing. Not sure if you’ve heard about it.)
Well, Notre Dame said no thank you to a let down, even if there were some letdowny things to happen during the game. (What’s with the fumbles guys?) They won by two touchdowns, it felt like a lot more, and moved to 8-0 and into the bye week no worse for the wear. It was annoying at times, if not stressful, but the fact is when your quarterback is playing at a high level, things tend to work out for the team as whole. Such as it was for Notre Dame, ranked #2 and in the drivers seat for a date with Clemson in the ACC title game.
Ian Book Goes About His Business
Lost in all the hoopla and narrative about Jurkovec and his feelings, missed was the fact that Ian Book was out there balling. He was sharp, he was decisive, he was nimble, and he was effective. 20/27 passing, 283 yards, three touchdowns, and another 85 yards rushing with another score. A clinic from the 5th year senior, who moved to 28-3 in his career, and continued a streak of very strong play over the last four weeks.
Obviously, if this is the Book we are going to get over the last few weeks of the season, maybe we can start to dream big dreams for where this team can go. If you’ve been paying attention to the team closely and with an open mind, you’d have seen a month ago the passing game had a ton of upside once Book got comfortable and that upside is playing out at the moment. Suddenly we are seeing what the coaches saw in Avery Davis, Ben Skowronek, and Javon McKinley all fall camp. They have size, quickness, and athleticism, Book just needed to take advantage of it. Now that he is, the offense is born anew.
Is The Secondary Ok?
It’s not just about this week, things have been a little leaky in the back for a couple weeks now. It’s one thing when it’s Clemson, it’s another thing when Boston College receivers are making plays against you. Notre Dame was often bailed out by Jurkovec not being particularly accurate, but plays were made against them that need to be cleaned up.
It’s not a panic situation, when teams are forced to pass they will make plays, but it’s a potential marginal weakness in a situation where the success or failure of the team comes at the margins.
I’m also not sure what to say about the dropped picks at this point–Kyle Hamilton dropped a certain touchdown late in the game for goodness sakes and he’s their best guy–except for the obvious thing that if you give better teams second chances like that, they’ll hurt you with it. I guess what I’m saying is, it needs to get cleaned up before it becomes a big, big problem.
A Team Full Of Badasses
Here’s the thing about this team and letdowns. I don’t want to say they are letdown proof, no team is. But, they’ve got a bunch of players who quite simply cannot wait to go out and hit people, and it’s obvious. The offensive line is clearly eager, Kyren Williams looked so angry at not being able to play when dealing with his shoulder injury, JOK and Hamilton are constantly in motion, and Tommy Tremble is, well, it’s been well documented. He’s a battering ram. And if you want to get a really good feel for the mentality of this team, watch kickoff coverage. Just a bunch of heat seeking missiles flying down blowing people up, whether they have the ball or not.
You’d likely have to go back to the late 80’s or early 90’s to find a team that was this physical, who brought the fight to the opponent nearly every play. It clearly wears teams down, and when you look at the conference as a whole, they are the only ones with this kind of mentality. Beyond what it means for the teams ultimate success, it’s a damn joy to watch.