5 Things I Liked: Notre Dame Changes Course of the Season in the Blink of an Eye

From trailing the 4th to an unlikely blowout, everything is still in front of Notre Dame

After entering the fourth quarter trailing, Notre Dame improved to 4-0 on the season yesterday with a resounding win over Wisconsin. One of the more remarkable 15 minutes of recent Notre Dame football ripped open what was a close game and turned it into a laugher. Despite more struggles from the offensive line and some glaring weaknesses appearing once again, there was a whole lot to like as the Irish sent the Badgers home with their tails between their legs.

Chris Tyree’s kickoff return for a touchdown

I try not to include individual plays that are too obvious in this column because that’s not really the point. However, the Chris Tyree touchdown on the kickoff right after Wisconsin took the lead is the kind of play we look back on at the end of the season as the play that saved the season.

When Tyree fielded that kickoff, Notre Dame trailed 10-13. They were down to their third quarterback, whose blindside was being protected by their third-string left tackle. Notre Dame hadn’t threatened to score since the second quarter. It looked grim. And then it all changed in an instant.

Plays like this are why you have to recruit dudes. Tyree got a lane and exploded through it and changed the course of the game, and might just have saved the season. From that point on, it was all Notre Dame.

Jacob Lacey’s 4th down stop in the first half

One of the more overlooked big plays in the game for Notre Dame came long before the fourth-quarter turnover party for the Irish. Jacob “Don’t Call me Jacoby” Lacey’s 4th down stop of Wisconsin in the 1st quarter.

Wisconsin was already up 3-0 on Notre Dame and knocking on the door of the redzone when they lined up for a 4th and 1 against the Irish defense. Wisconsin did the Wisconsin thing and ran it right at Notre Dame. The Irish defensive line, led by Jacob Lacey on this play, surged and stuffed the run for a loss.

If Wisconsin converts there, the Badgers are in the redzone with a first down looking to build on their early lead. But, instead, the Irish took over, and the momentum swung back in Notre Dame’s direction. Huge play early in the game from a player who was filling in for a 5th-year senior, captain – Kurt Hinish – who wasn’t available.

The players’ reaction to Brian Kelly breaking Knute Rockne’s win record

This week, there were many great plays and material for this column, but I reserved one spot in my five things just for the players’ reaction to Brian Kelly breaking Knute’s record. After the players hit him with a Gatorade bath on the sideline as the seconds ticked off the clock, you figured that Kelly was safe during his on-field interview. He wasn’t. The players got him again while Fox was interviewing him.

A sizable portion of the fanbase still doesn’t – and never will – like Brian Kelly, but it is evident every week that the players – whose opinion on the head coach matters a lot more – love the guy.

Give me more noon kickoffs

Warning, this is probably an old(er) guy take, but give me more noon kickoffs like yesterday. I absolutely loved having Notre Dame kickoff right after GameDay and be done for the day before 4:00. My only qualm with it was that I probably should have written more yesterday after the game, but I enjoyed the free time a little too much after the game.

I know some fans didn’t like the noon kickoff – especially since it was 11:00 AM CT and limited tailgating and such, but as someone watching at home yesterday, the noon kickoff was delightful. After sneaking in a nice 5.0 mile run in the morning, my wife and I had a giant pizza delivered during the game that I continued eating through the day for dinner as well.

I am not opposed to prime-time games by any means, even if they do force me to stay up much later than normal to update the site, but count me in for the occasional noon kickoff too.

Cam Hart’s two-interception day

Even with the injury to Marist Liufau in training camp, the general consensus on the defense this year was the front seven would be strong, and it would go as far as the secondary took it. The secondary has played better than most expected after a couple of growing pains the first couple of weeks through four games. Cornerback Cam Hart’s huge day against Wisconsin is an example of what happens when a team tries to stay completely away from Kyle Hamilton – the Irish have the talent to still take the ball away.

Hart’s first interception came at a pivotal juncture with the Irish offense scuffling in the first half. His second was the first nail in the coffin before two later pick-6s broke the game wide open. Hart is getting better each week and looking more and more like a potential top-line, corner for the Irish defense.

Honorable Mention: Kyren Williams pass blocking

I am cheating a bit this week with six things, but Kyren Williams’s pass protection can’t go unmentioned. He was not involved in the receiving game this week because he stayed in to block so much out of necessity. And protect he did. On Coan’s long touchdown to Austin, Williams stepped up and made a huge block that gave Coan the time he needed to find Austin on the sideline. Williams’s overall numbers are down a lot this year because of the offensive line’s struggles, but he is still playing like an All-American.

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  1. David: College athletics is supposed to be played by “student-athletes”. Notre Dame has always done this. ND offensive linemen actually “…speak in full sentences and don’t grunt…”, as one interviewer said a few years ago. It is too bad your prejudices have cost you so much of the enjoyment of watching true college sports, win or lose. I have enjoyed all college athletics for about 75 of my 83 years. Notre Dame is special. As the FOX commentator said during the Wisconsin game,”… the Irish will play all the best at any time, any where, and in any climate.” ( I admit that this does not include Mercer and the Citadel, but what-the-heck?) Alabama has a great football program, but many of its players would not be accepted by ND’s Admissions committee. Does Alabama ever play “up north” in November or December? …Maybe if they can schedule Susquehenna…

    1. Yeah…that ship sailed looooong ago.
      College f’ball and b’ball are multi-billion dolllar, tax-exempt…and still growing!…businesses.
      The NCAA gave up on the “free education” card long ago, and is rapidly losing its fight to keep the slave labor genie in the bottle.

      But enjoy the nostalgia…..lots of people prefer that.

  2. ND rises to 9 in the AP…..while Clemson drops 16 spots to 25 !??! .
    JUst think about that.
    NC State played a helluva lot better game agianst Clemson than Toledo did vs ND.

    (NC State is a hard place to play….and in 2016 it should have been Kelly’s Waterloo.)

    1. There are a few worse uses of time than complaining about early season rankings. It will sort itself out, it always does. Would be nice to be in the weak ACC again though & have that safety net for getting into the CFP xD

      1. Well then your reply to me must be a doubly worse ‘waste of time’ then…no?

        This ND team is…once again…simply not one that can compete with the best teams in the game. Full stop.

        But this farce of a system, whereby ND gets perennially overranked at the outset, and then tiptoes through its schedule to end up grossly overmatched in a bowl game it should not be in (**) is not fair to ND fans, not fair to ND’s opponent, and not fair to the team that ND replaced as the opponent.

        **Note I did not say “it has no business being in”. Because ‘business’ is the one honest element to this whole enterprise.

      1. As a fan of both teams I waited 57 years for that? The Mertz/Coan battle was won by the ND 3rd string QB.

      2. Lost by Mertz moreso than won by Pyne.
        But I feel for you. That whole show must really leave you questioning your sports loyalties.

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