Beyond the Boxscore in Notre Dame’s Sloppy Win Over Florida State

While hardly a work of art, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish will take their 42-26 victory over the Florida State Seminoles, considering that a combination of the coronavirus and their standard bye week had kept them off the field for three weeks. In truth, the Irish hadn’t been tested for close to a month.

That absence from the field showed itself in the mistakes made, and liberal amounts of yardage given up. However, the Irish are still undefeated, and their offense did manage to shred the Seminoles defense for 554 yards, including 353 on the ground. That marks the first time since last year’s Southern Cal victory that the Irish broke the 300-rushing-yard threshold in a game.

Quick Atonement

Kyren Williams entered Saturday night’s game as Notre Dame’s leading rusher but had a rough start against Florida State. On the second play of the game, Williams fumbled, a miscue that led to the Seminoles jumping out to a 3-0 advantage. However, it didn’t take long for the sophomore to fix his mistake.

Taking Ian Book‘s handoff on the first play of the next series, Williams broke off a 65-yard run, which helped set up the Irish’s first touchdown. The next time Notre Dame got the ball, Williams took it to the house on a 46-yard scamper that game the Irish the lead back. Williams’s second-quarter score would later give them the lead for good, with the sophomore finishing with 185 rushing yards.

Rusty Defense

The Note Dame defense allowed 405 yards against Florida State, with the Seminoles one of the few teams to churn out significant yardage in both the rushing and passing games in recent memory. Both aspects of Florida State’s offense managed to surpass the 150-yard mark on the night, which usually only occurs in bad losses for the Irish or blowout victories when garbage time skews the numbers.

The Seminoles collected 18 first downs and converted on all three of their fourth-down attempts, though the Irish did manage to make nine stops from behind the line. That amount included four sacks, with another positive being the 2-for-14 performance that Florida State had in third-down situations.

First Half Fireworks

During the first two quarters, both offenses could barely keep up with each other as they combined for 55 points and 581 total yards, with Notre Dame heading into halftime with a 35-20 lead. The Irish did the majority of their damage on the ground, while the Seminoles surprisingly offered a balanced attack in the midst of holding two leads during the half.

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Sloppy and undisciplined play played at least a partial role in putting points on the board, with the second of Notre Dame’s two first-quarter fumbles coming on a botched punt return and leading to Florida State’s first touchdown. The Irish later moved into prime Seminole territory with less than a minute left in the half when Book was hit out of bounds. That penalty led to a Book to Braden Lenzy touchdown pass with 11 seconds to go before intermission.

Proper Adjustments

One constant in this chaotic season has been the Irish defense’s ability to make adjustments at intermission, with Florida State being held to just six points after the break. While the Seminoles did collect 187 yards of offense in the final two quarters, the Irish defenders’ rubber-band nature limited their success to a single touchdown.

Midway through the final quarter, Florida State was still within striking distance of Notre Dame. That desperate bid ended when Shaun Crawford picked off a pass at the Irish goal line and helped set up a lengthy Irish drive that didn’t pay off in points, but did eat up over six minutes of clock.

Next Up

Next Saturday, Notre Dame will welcome the Louisville Cardinals, who have dropped their last three contests after winning their opener over Western Kentucky. These two schools have only faced each other twice before, with the road team winning each clash. In 2014, the Cardinals escaped with a 31-28 victory over the reeling Irish, when Notre Dame’s overtime bid ended with a missed field goal in the final minute of regulation.

Last year, the Irish opened the year at Louisville and bounced back from a shaky first quarter to win 35-17. The defense was the main driver in asserting control, with Notre Dame finishing with four sacks and three forced fumbles, whle allowing just three points in the last three quarters.

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