Welcome to a very late edition of “5 things I liked” for the North Carolina game. As expected, fatherhood has really thrown off my writing schedule, but these night games really kill it since it puts me behind schedule. Still, I’m going to attempt to get all of these live this season, even if they are late like this one. There was a lot to like in Notre Dame’s win over North Carolina over the weekend, so let’s jump right in.
Jack Coan, Dual Threat Quarterback
One of the most surprising plays of the UNC game, and maybe the season, was Jack Coan‘s 21-yard touchdown run in the 2nd quarter. To date, Coan has shown zero ability to escape the pocket and make plays with his legs. He didn’t do it a ton at Wisconsin either, but he did do it occasionally. Just ask Michigan about Jack Coan‘s legs. So when he ripped off this touchdown, it was a surprise.
I’ve written plenty that I’d like to see more of Tyler Buchner – especially in the redzone – but seeing Coan scramble for the score should have brought a smile to the face of even the most cold-hearted Irish fan. Coan might not have risen the ceiling – or the floor – of the Irish offense like many hoped he would, but he’s done everything that’s been asked of him, and he’s starting to play some of his best football for the Irish. It should open up the offense even more if he can make just a few more plays like this over the final five games.
Kyren Williams’s Stiff Arm
Not much else can be said about Kyren Williams’s ridiculous 91-yard touchdown run at this point, but I would be remiss had I not mentioned it in this post. The best part of the entire run to me wasn’t the initial broken tackle – he does that all the time – or even him running away from the Carolina defense. Instead, it was the stiff arm that Williams delivered to UNC outside linebacker Tomorn Fox. Fox is 6’3, 260 lbs, and Williams tossed him to the side like a rag doll. The South Bend Tribune’s Robert Franklin got a fantastic look at it.
Geez, Kyren, that was just downright disrespectful.
UNC Dancing then getting danced on
Notre Dame’s new light show between the third and fourth quarter has been extremely well received by Notre Dame players and Irish fans. Opposing players have taken notice as well. North Carolina players went out towards midfield and started dancing around as the lights flickered and the music blared. Notre Dame players took notice and weren’t amused.
Three plays after the Carolina players danced on the field, Kyren Williams danced on them to the tune of 91 yards for one of the best runs in Notre Dame football history. Notre Dame TE coach John McNulty noticed the dancing and even trolled the Tar Heels about it after the game.
Freshmen Stepping Up and Making Plays
Injuries have thrust some freshmen into prominent roles this year while other frosh have just forced their way onto the field. In both cases, the contributions Notre Dame is getting from some true freshmen bodes well for the future of the program. At one point, Notre Dame had a true freshman LT (Joe Alt) blocking for a true freshman QB (Tyler Buchner) who faked to a true freshman RB (Logan Diggs) with a true freshman WR (Lorenzo Styles).
Injuries might have accelerated Styles’ playing time, but he is becoming such a playmaker that he would make plays regardless of this season. Alt is still the most surprising since he was a tight end in high school but has become a solid left tackle as a true freshman. I wrote about all the freshmen last week already, but seeing each week has been great to see. The pieces for an elite offense in 2022 are forming in front of our eyes.
Continued Improvement from the Offensive Line
The “fire Jeff Quinn” crowd had suddenly got awfully quiet, hasn’t it? A month ago, most of the Notre Dame fanbase was screaming for a change of OL coaches. Hell, even some of the podcasts from the Notre Dame beat were openly speculating that Quinn wouldn’t be back in 2022.
Some are now conveniently moving the goalposts and saying that the OL isn’t improving and are only getting bailed out by Kyren Williams. That conveniently overlooks the fact that even without Williams’s 91-yarder against UNC, the Irish still had 202 yards rushing on 41 attempts. It also doesn’t explain the sudden drop in sacks allowed. Notre Dame allowed just a single sack against UNC and now has given up just four in the last three games. That’s a far cry from the offensive line that gave up sacks at an alarming rate earlier this season – even to weak defenses like Florida State.
While the defenses the Irish have faced aren’t as good as the ones they saw earlier this year, the line is still showing a lot of improvement. Cain Madden had a ROUGH start to the season but has settled in and looks more like the guy who was an All-American last year. Josh Lugg is starting to look like the steady RT Notre Dame expected to have back. The left side of the line with Alt and Andrew Kristofic is getting more and more comfortable.
Sorry to tell those of you who are still screaming to fire Jeff Quinn, but the improvement we’ve seen from the line during the season is even more proof that the man can coach.