Notre Dame made short work of Navy over the weekend like they should every year but don’t always do. In the process, Notre Dame showcased the talent in its freshman class, which should have Irish fans excited for the present and future of Notre Dame football. Here’s this week’s 5 things I liked.
Freshmen, freshmen everywhere
Saturday must have been a tough night for the “Notre Dame doesn’t play freshman” crowd. To be fair, all the connections to the previous staff where this stereotype developed are no longer around now that Tommy Rees is in Tuscaloosa. Still, Notre Dame played more true freshmen in an opener in non-garbage time than I can remember in a while. And they made an impact.
Jaden Greathouse became the first receiver in Notre Dame history to score two touchdowns in a season opener, and he did it in the first game of his career. Rico Flores didn’t score twice like his classmate, but he actually played more snaps than Greathouse. Flores was on the field for 19, while Greathouse did all of his damage in just eight snaps.
Jeremiyah Love played 7 snaps and made them count. He rushed for 40 yards on 4 carries – second on the team behind Audric Estime’s 95 yards. Jadarian Price, a redshirt freshman after missing all of last year with an injury, had 4 carries for 25 yards, including a 19-yard score on the first carry of his career. Defensively, Christian Gray played 21 snaps.
Not only is the future very bright for Notre Dame with some of these players, but it was great to see this staff be fearless in playing freshmen.
Gerad Parker’s early 3rd down play calls
Parker passed his first test as Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator with flying colors on Saturday, but what really stood out to me were his two 3rd and long play calls on Notre Dame’s first drive. Had Notre Dame not converted those and given the ball over to Navy early, it would have given the Midshipmen the exact kind of momentum they need early in these games to have a chance. Since Notre Dame won by 42, it might not have mattered, but we’ve seen it before with Navy, where the more life you give them, the more of a pain they become.
Here, Notre Dame faces a 3rd and 10. Greg breaks the play well here. You usually think of 3rd and long as an apparent passing down, but that actually can make it a good time to run if the numbers are in your favor.
3rd and long can be a run down if the defense is unsound inside. Saw Notre Dame get gashed with this numerous times last year, Gerad Parker turns it in his favor in 2023. pic.twitter.com/1sb3nHlD6H— Greg Flammang (@greg2126) August 27, 2023
Next, Notre Dame is in 3rd and 12 after previously converting a third and short that got called back for a Mitchell Evans holding, Notre Dame’s only penalty of the game. Parker was ready for the Navy pass rush and had a perfect blitz buster called here with a screen to Estime.
Great job by ND having this check ready when they saw Navy bringing the house on 3 and long. Having Estime come across the formation was a nice wrinkle pic.twitter.com/ViJhKdT2kW— Jamie Uyeyama (@jamieuyeyama) August 27, 2023
Two great examples of an offensive coordinator making great calls on third and long and NOT trying to outsmart everyone. Not that Notre Dame’s previous offensive coordinator did that, but he kind of did.
Not relying on the tight ends in the passing game
Notre Dame did not complete a pass to a tight end on Saturday, and that’s actually a great thing. I’m not worried that it’s any indicator of Notre Dame’s inability to replace Michael Mayer. I see it as Notre Dame having a quarterback who uses his wide receivers and doesn’t rely on a security blanket at tight end too often.
If tight ends don’t have a catch after three games, maybe it’s time to be concerned, but based on what we saw from the Notre Dame passing attack, fans should be excited about what is possible with this offense. Six Notre Dame wide receivers caught passes on Saturday, and that doesn’t even include starter Tobias Merriweather, who was targeted twice but didn’t come down with a catch.
Notre Dame being prepared for all of Navy’s pressures
Notre Dame looked like they hadn’t seen a pass rush before in the second half of last year’s Navy contest as the Midshipmen made their comeback. That was not the case on Saturday. Navy head coach Brian Newberry seemed almost surprised that Notre Dame was ready for everything they threw at them this year after their success against the Irish a year ago.
Joe Alt, Blake Fisher, Rocco Spindler, and Zeke Correll graded out nearly perfectly in pass protection per PFF on Saturday. None allowed a pressure on 25 pass protection snaps. Pat Coogan wasn’t too far behind, with two pressures allowed in his first career start. Navy did not register a single sack on the day.
The only way Navy would make this a game was if their pressure got home. It didn’t, and it wasn’t even particularly close in most cases.
Deion Colzie not caring about off-season reports
There weren’t a lot of positive reports from the beat about junior receiver Deion Colzie. In a lot of ways, he was the forgotten man at receiver for the Fighting Irish. Colzie responded by outperforming a lot of the receivers who did garner the headlines. Maybe Colzie is just not a great practice player, but can turn it on when the bright lights are shining.
Colzie only played 7 snaps on Saturday, but he was the highest-graded offensive player on the team and made the most of those snaps. He caught 3 passes for 45 yards, including a 25-yard catch and run for a touchdown.