Whenever you win 55-0 on Senior Day, there is going to be a whole lot to like. Notre Dame played its most complete game of the season in routing the Yellow Jackets over the weekend and added a data point to its playoff resume that didn’t exist prior – a blowout.
A stress-free Senior Day
There was so much to like in this one; I tried to boil a lot down into a single point here. Saturday felt oddly stress-free from start to finish. Yeah, the first drive might have given some a bit of agita, but even then, Jonathan Doerer connected on a 41-yard to improve his kicking to 15 of 19 on the season.
The offense did, seemingly, whatever they wanted against the hapless Yellow Jacket defense. The Irish ran for 212 yards without a single rusher rush for more than 67 yards – and that was backup QB, Tyler Buchner. Jack Coan completed 75% of his passes and averaged 14.3 yards a completion. Kevin Austin and Michael Mayer each recorded catches of over 50 yards. Eleven different Notre Dame players caught passes. Good day in the lab for Tommy Rees.
Defensively, the Irish continue to dominate the month of November. Twelve straight quarters without allowing a touchdown is damn good no matter who the opponents. Marcus Freeman has really found his groove with this roster, and what he can/can’t do with it relative to his scheme. Earlier this season, he was still figuring it out on the fly. He’s got it down now, and the results speak for themselves.
It was all good on Saturday – offense, defense, special teams, coaching. You can’t ask for much more. A friend of mine texted me saying, “Is this what it’s felt like to be a ‘Bama fan the last 15 years?”.That’s how dominant the Irish were this weekend.
Myron Tagovailoa Amosa’s Senior Day TD
I wrote about this already, but it’s worth repeating here. The highlight of the day was easily Lord Myron rumbling down the field for a 70-yard touchdown just when it looked like the Irish might lose the shutout bid. Tagovailoa-Amosa’s senior year started under the worst circumstances imaginable for a young man about to finish college by losing his father over the summer. The Irish captain, however, capped off his senior season in style on Senior Day.
Aside from it just being great for Tagovailoa-Amosa to score, seeing teammates Jayson Ademilola and Isaiah Foskey race down the field to provide the clearing lane made it even better. So too did the reaction of his coaches and teammates on the sidelines when the big man reached the endzone.
This is a close team that cares about each other. Some might take that for granted, but that doesn’t happen everywhere. Brian Kelly and his staff have built a culture that makes moments like that possible. A culture that allowed a team that was scuffling early in the season to course-correct midseason and finish the year a much better team. Lesser teams would have fallen apart, but the Irish didn’t. The reaction you saw from Tagovailoa-Amosa’s teammates to his score highlight the culture that made all that possible.
Jordan Botelho playing ROVER
Notre Dame has a glut of defensive ends and a need at linebacker with all the injuries they’ve sustained at the position. Enter Jordan Botelho at ROVER. Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen Botelho get on the field more and more at the position, and he’s looked pretty good. Here’s a quick breakdown of one play in particular from Greg.
He finished the game with 4.0 tackles, including 1 TFL.
From a profile standpoint, Botelho is built more like a linebacker than a rush end at just 6’2”, so it’ll be interesting to see if he sticks at ROVER or eventually moves back to VYPER. However, he’s one of Notre Dame’s most talented and athletic defenders, so getting him on the field in any capacity is smart by Marcus Freeman. With Stanford’s run-heavy offense on tap this weekend, expect to see a heavy dose of Botelho again.
Four touchdowns for the Notre Dame backfield
It was not long ago that Notre Dame’s backfield was pretty average. In 2019, the three leading rushers were Tony Jones Jr, C’Bo Flemister, and Jahmir Smith. All fine backs in their own right, but it wasn’t a room that many would consider elite. Kyren Williams was in that room, but he redshirted and played only very sparingly.
Two years later, the running back room is almost night and day. Flemister, one of the leading rushers two years ago, hasn’t been able to sniff the backfield much. Kyren Williams is proving every week he’s one of the best backs in the country, despite what the misguided selection committee for the Doak Walker Award thinks. Logan Diggs has emerged as a potential heir apparent. Both backs scored twice on Saturday – Williams with two rushing scores, Diggs with one on the ground and one in the air.
We also got a glimpse of man-child freshman running back Audric Estime, and it’s a shame we had to wait this long. Estime looked like a bowling ball with moves in the fourth quarter. He even attempted to emulate his classmate Diggs with a hurdle. Diggs did it better, but props to Estime for even trying it at his size.
Add in Chris Tyree, who looks like he’s finally getting reintegrated into the backfield, and this will be one of the best backfields in the country again next year, even if/when Kyren Williams leaves for the NFL.
Explosive plays in the passing game
After the bye week, one of the few deficiencies in the rebooted Notre Dame offense has been downfield passing. The first few weeks after the off week, the Irish passing game was very much dink and dunk without much downfield passing. However, that’s every week that improved each week, culminating with Jack Coan tossing that pair for 50+ yard passes – one to Kevin Austin and another to Michael Mayer.
Notre Dame had issues protecting Coan on the first drive of the game – combined with a bit of regression on Coan’s part in terms of moving into pressure – but they corrected that quickly, and the passing game was humming. Granted, it was Georgia Tech, but the development of a downfield passing attack is critical for Notre Dame should they back into the College Football Playoffs.