5 Things I Didn’t Like from Notre Dame – UVA: They Probably Aren’t What You Think

Brian Kelly's decision to run out the clock in the first half didn't bother me, but some other things did.

For the first time in a few weeks, the five things I didn’t like column returns. I had hoped to keep up with all my weekly columns while out on paternity leave, but babies tend to have their own minds on how you get to spend your day. However, I had time this week, and there was plenty of material for a 5 things I didn’t like from Notre Dame’s 28-3 win over Virginia this past weekend, so here goes.

Bonus Thing I Didn’t Mind: End of the 1st Half

When I have the time to write it, this column is reserved for the things I didn’t like from the previous game. This week though, there were a few things that seemingly had everyone annoyed that didn’t bother me much, so I figured I’d start with them. Of course, I wouldn’t say I “liked” them; thus, they weren’t included in the 5 things I liked post, but I know they’d get mentioned in the comments, so I figured I’d get them out of the way now.

I know almost everyone was upset about Brian Kelly not going for more points at the end of the first half, but I honestly didn’t mind it. If Notre Dame was fully healthy, sure, go for it there. But Notre Dame has five scholarship wide receivers left. Five. They were up 21 points at the time, and Virginia had shown no signs of scoring much on the Irish defense. I get the whole style points argument, but at this point, Notre Dame needs to get to December without any more significant injuries, so I don’t mind playing it safe there and being happy with a 21-point lead on the road, heading into halftime.

4th and 1 QB sneak on first drive

Jack Coan hasn’t been great on sneaks this year, so the call for a QB sneak on 4th and one on the first drive of the game just didn’t make sense to me, even if it had worked. You have Kyren Williams in the backfield, making people miss left and right. Why have Coan try to convert it when you have Williams? You also have Michael Mayer, who Virginia had no real answer for. Throw it out to him and take the easy conversion.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but they haven’t felt easy even when Coan has converted sneaks this year. It obviously didn’t matter in the long run, but in future 4th and one situations, hopefully, Tommy Rees calls on Williams’s number.

Lack of Tyler Buchner before garbage time

Eventually, Tyler Buncher played a lot in garbage time, but his lack of reps before then was puzzling. He had one snap before the game was out of hand, and he relieved Coan for the rest of the night. So that game felt like a tailor-made opportunity to give Buchner more reps earlier in the game.

This isn’t a knock on Coan either. He’s done everything Notre Dame has asked to and been pretty solid over the last five weeks. Buchner looks like the future for the next few years, however, so why not get him more snaps against a bad Virginia defense? For how much run Buchner got against Virginia Tech, the few snaps Buchner is getting now is a bit puzzling to me.

Kyren Williams running the ball in the 4th with backups

Considering all of the injuries Notre Dame has on offense right now, I was more than a little surprised to see Kyren Williams running the ball in the 4th quarter with some of the backups. However, at this point, Williams is the most indispensable player on the roster for the Irish, so I’d have no problem with him being in bubble wrap whenever Notre Dame has a 28-point lead in the fourth quarter.

I know some are convinced that Notre Dame needs style points right now to reach the playoffs, but the rest of the teams will cannibalize themselves enough that what Notre Dame really needs is to avoid any more major injuries so that they have a fighter’s chance if they were to sneak into the playoffs.

ABC announcers making no mention of the missing Notre Dame defenders while showing Brennan Armstrong every 5 minutes

If you watched the Notre Dame – Virginia game on ABC, the announcers certainly did not let you forget that Brennan Armstrong was hurt. They mentioned it seemingly every five minutes and had shot after shot of Armstrong on the sidelines. Do you know who you barely saw, though? All-American Kyle Hamilton, who missed his third straight game for the Irish. You briefly saw captain and starting MIKE Drew White in street clothes, but you wouldn’t have known that the flu ravaged the Notre Dame locker room.

Notre Dame played without four captains: Hamilton, White, Avery Davis, and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, but you wouldn’t have known it watching the game. I get that Armstrong was a massive loss for Virginia that changed the game, but to make nary a mention of Notre Dame being short-handed as well was either poor producing or ABC forcing a narrative for the game. Neither of those is a good look for ABC.

Bronco Mendenhall kicking a field goal down 28

With Virginia down 28 points in the fourth quarter and facing fourth and 10 from the Irish 16, Virginia Bronco Mendenhall decided to kick a field goal instead of going for it. A 28 point deficit is four possession. A 25 point deficit is … also four possessions. Mendenhall joined the likes of Dino Babers from a few years ago by taking points just to save face and not get shut out. There was still more than 12:00 left in the game at the time. Three possession in that scenario wouldn’t be unheard of. Unlikely, sure. Unheard of, no. Babers took an easy field goal instead of attempting a fourth down deep in Notre Dame territory with just 10 seconds left to go.

The only thing the field goal did in this instance was prevent a shutout. It did nothing to improve Virginia’s chance of winning the game.

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  1. Kelly’s decision to run out the first half clock was inexplicable. The game was far from over, but Virginia was back on its heels. There have been many second half comebacks of 21 points or more. If nothing else he could have put Buchner in to give him practice in running a hurry up offense.

  2. Ball St. vs. CMU. Ball State intercepts a pass near their own goal line with about 45 seconds left in the half. They have 2 timeouts.
    Guess what they do? They try to get some points.
    And the ESPNU talking heads complain about their slowness in calling their first TO after a short gain. “You can’t take them with you!”.

    A .500 team going nowhere, and playing on a Wednesday night, still has some fire.
    Not Brian Kelly

    1. Duke-L’ville. Down 35-6, 1:15 left in the half, 2 timeouts, ball on itsown 25.
      Gets 3 points before the half.

      A 3-7 Cutcliffe team still plays the game.
      Why doesn’t a Brian Kelly team do that?

  3. I’d have liked to see more play action/roll out passes from Buchner,
    but a 25 point win on the road works . . .
    * Improved OL for sure,
    but when Kyren has over 60 of his 70 YAC, the openings/creases weren’t there
    ** 0 for2 first two O’ drives of each half for ND
    And nothing against what Coan brings (over 70% accuracy recently), but can we finally agree that Buchner can pass and isn’t ONLY a running QB ! It’s called having a dual threat QB- very popular these days in football.

  4. Lack of that killer instinct is reflected in the little playing time Buchner gets. Staying w/ the “safe” QB, who is slow and
    unathletic because he has experience reflects Kelly’s satisfaction w/ lower expectations. (Nothing against Coan who is really a good guy)

    Just being in the top 10 and winning by a field goal against unranked opponents w/ losing records is good enough.

  5. End of the first half is a snapshot of the ND career of Brian Kelly:
    piss poor clock management;
    wasted timeouts;
    modeling a lack of competitive, killer instinct to his players;
    showing a lack of confidence in his offense’s ability to execute;
    providing even highly over-matched competition with hope;
    no thinking towards getting underclassmen on the field for meaningful reps later.

    One notorious Kelly-ism that was NOT illustrated in that last minute is the “going for 2” with a ton of game left to play. But that one was eliminated by Kelly’s choice to not go for any at all.

    But hey, Frank is fine with it. The kool-aid clearly tastes just fine to him.

    1. Plus:
      not “running up the score”, the tactic any real contender would do to help the selection committee justify any additional consideration to get a bump.
      No, leave it up to the nail-biting wins on a weak schedule to say it all.

  6. Guess you know it was a pretty good game when 2 of the 5 things Frank didn’t like didn’t even really have to do with ND’s play.

    I guess I see Frank’s point about running out the clock in the first half. Was it possible UVA came out in the 2nd half firing and making you regret that, sure. But it just didn’t seem to be in the cards for UVA to mount that kind of comeback so it’s probably better to protect your players in that case. A seemingly rare bit of foresight on BK’s part, who seems to lack it much of the time.

    I still think they’d get their clocks cleaned in a playoff game this year. But I realize that’s what you’re playing for so you have to give it your all as a team.

    1. Right on!
      In all my years, I’ve sure never seen anyone ever back from 21 -points down in just 30 minutes.
      Especially not against ND.

  7. I recall Weis refusing to kick a field-goal against, I believe, Michigan because he thought it was bush league to put up 3 points after getting beat up the entire night. Can’t say I disagree with his thought process.

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