There were a lot of stars in yesterday’s 33 point win over Temple to start the 2017 season. Notre Dame’s ground game ate up the Temple defensive front to the tune of 422 yards and the defense kept the Owls in check most of the game in new defensive coordinator Mike Elko’s first game with the Irish. That said, here are the four players that stood out to me the most.
1. Brandon Wimbush – The junior quarterback won his starting debut and despite a few hiccups, he performed about as well as expected. We knew coming in that Wimbush had a cannon and can run so the fact that he ran for more than 100 yards and juuust missed a bomb touchdown to Equanimeous St. Brown wasn’t surprising. Wimbush showed some nice touch on his intermediate throws at times as well, but he also showed that he needs some more work which is to be expected. He also showed his inexperience with his third quarter interception, but again, that is to be expected from a kid making his first career start.
While Wimbush’s running stats were impressive and encouraging, hopefully he is sitting in a room with Chip Long, Brian Kelly, and Sir Thomas Rees (if I can’t call him Tommy I am using regal terms) and talking about not taking as many hits as he did yesterday. He can’t take the type of hits he did yesterday against defenses like Georgia, Stanford, and USC and stay in the lineup every week. Again, these are all things that are to be expected with a first time starter. The key will be to improve on all of these things each week. If he does that, we saw enough yesterday to know this kid could be special.
2. Josh Adams – Adams did what he always does – make plays. He racked up 161 yards on just 19 carries with a pair of touchdowns including a 33 yarder on his first carry of the season just like two years ago when the first carry of his career ended in the end zone in the season opener against Texas. Most encouraging about that ;33 yard scamper was the explosion that we saw from him on that run. Let’s take a look.
Captain Josh Adams rumbles 37 yards for the score.
ND 7 | Temple 0
1Q | NBC
— The Fighting Irish (@FightingIrish) September 2, 2017
We didn’t see that same burst from Adams last year until past the midway point of the season as that hamstring injury lingered. In fact, Adams only ran for more than the 161 yards he had against Temple yesterday one time all last season – he had 180 against USC in the finale. It also took him until the end of October until he found the endzone two times overall last season. He reached the end zone twice against Temple before the final gun sounded. If the Josh Adams we saw yesterday is the Josh Adams we will see all season long, the Notre Dame record books will need some editing before the end of the year.
3. Jay Hayes – It’s been a long time coming, but we saw the Jay Hayes we’ve all been waiting for on Saturday afternoon, Notre Dame’s strongside defensive end was a disruptive force for the Irish defensive line and was a big reason why the Owls did what little damage they did running the football up the middle. Hayes finished the game with 5 tackles and 1 TFL. Daelin Hayes first career sack came courtesy of pressure applied by Jay Hayes too. Hayes passed his first test as a starting SDE for the Irish. Next week he has a tougher task, but so far so good.
4. Tevon Coney – The 4th Horseman of the week could have went to a lot of players, but I am going with Coney since I regrettably didn’t have him ranked high enough in my top 25 to get him into our composite rankings this summer. Coney is clearly one of the top 25 players on the Notre Dame roster and we saw why yesterday. With Temple driving towards the end zone following Brandon Wimbush’s interception, the Owls could have cut the deficit down to 11 points with lots of time remaining. Facing a 3rd and 5 though, the Owls were knocked back 10 yards because of a Tevon Coney sack – Notre Dame’s 3rd of the day. Temple missed the ensuing field goal and Notre Dame responded with a touchdown drive of their own to push the lead to 35-10. Without that sack, who knows how the final 20 minutes would have played out.
Plenty of other players could be on this list as well. Daelin Hayes and Julian Okwara recorded their first career sacks, the offensive linemen dominated Temple up front, St. Brown had 80 yards and a score, Drue Tranquill was all over the field and recovered a fumble, and so on. But there can only be four.
Note: standings for the weekly Four Horsemen will be added later and tracked throughout the season.