Thank goodness for that.
Not just for the blowout win, which was sorely needed, but just for the new football year finally being here. Discussing and breaking down a 4-8 season is like talking about the worst movie you ever saw for 9 months. After a while, you just don’t want to think about it anymore. And that’s what Saturday was, the official goodbye to 2016 and all the terrible things it was.
The season is here, new plays were made, and now we have to worry about overreacting to an opening blowout win against a program that went 20-8 the previous two seasons. These are the types of problems we want. That being said, beware of overreacting to this. We don’t know what Temple is, and next weekend brings one of the true tests of the 2017 season. Beating Temple by 33 is meaningless if they lose to Georgia. And regardless of what our collective expectations are, the goal is still to be elite. Week 2 will let us know if that is possible.
So, withe Bulldogs on the horizon lets take stock in where the team stands following the opener and into the big matchup.
It’s not just the explosive runs, he’s had those before, but it was the type of run Williams was able to reel off that sold me on him for this team. His biggest play prior to last Saturday was a 59 yard, reverse field run against Syracuse that was reminiscent of something you’d see on a high school highlight tape. Great athleticism and all, but not really repeatable against a good team.
Williams has always been a physical marvel, but never really showed the running instincts you want in a big time back. What he showed Saturday was not just physical ability, which was in abundance, but also patience and an understanding of the blocking scheme.
On his 66 yard burst, he presses the hole, makes a slight pause, feels the Cole Kmet block from his left, makes a little jump cut to get to the hole, then explodes through. Patience, power, understanding. A beautiful play all-around.
Perhaps most impressive, he did all of his work without getting a carry for nearly the first three quarters. He came in ready to go and he delivered. I’m a buy on Dexter Williams this year.
One of the best things about football at any level is the cohesion that takes place between units. Whether it’s defensive backs wordlessly passing off receivers to each other in zone coverage or offensive linemen executing their blocking assignments flawlessly, there is a level of art and symmetry to it that is beautiful to watch.
Such was the case for the offensive line on Saturday. The stuff we saw against an Owl defense that has was both good last season and boasted a new coordinator, was just downright sexy.
I’m not breaking news, we all expected the line to be good, but the way they looked against Temple isn’t going away. They aren’t going to run for 400+ yards every week, but this won’t be the disjointed unit from the year before either. These guys are the goods. I wanted to wait for evidence before declaring them a made unit. I’ve seen enough.
The Defensive Ends
We heard a lot about the play of the defensive ends in the preseason and we saw why against Temple. Jay Hayes was the best he’s ever looked, Daelin Hayes was jumping over dudes for fun, and Julian Okwara brought in the first sack of the season and his career. Andrew Trumbetti also held up on the line better than he has in the past and some really good reps came from Khalid Kareem. This obviously needs to be a week to week thing, there isn’t enough proven experience to take make any declarations following one game. And not to get ahead of ourselves, this was not a dominating performance.
The depth at the position is the most encouraging part. It’s hard for all of them to struggle the same week, and it’s less likely they will break down over the course of the season due to an abundance of reps for any one player. The potential here is very exciting.
On any football team, or at least most football teams, there is always the one guy who you can always count on to make the play that needs to be made. It’s just a given. Notre Dame has had a bunch of players who fit this description at linebacker over the years. Courtney Watson, Anthony Denman, Manti Te’o, Jaylon Smith. My thought was Morgan was going to be this guy on this defense. He’s finally free, in a new scheme, plus he’s the senior captain. It just makes sense.
On Saturday he didn’t live up to that billing.
I don’t want to overreact too much, it’s just the one game and we’ve seen him play really good ball. And I’m grading really hard, he did lead the team in tackles and registered 1.5 tackles for loss. But, he was missing plays that he just can’t miss as the best player on the defense and one of the leaders on the team. This may sound ridiculous in its obviousness, but if a team wants to be great, then the good players need to be good.
Morgan is the reason this defense has a chance. He’s their best player. If he’s so-so, then the ceiling of the defense goes down, and the ceiling wasn’t all that high to begin with. Missing tackles when he goes unblocked on 3rd and 2 might fly against Temple, but it won’t fly against Nick Chubb and Sony Michel next week. He’ll have a lot more chances to make plays, but this was my biggest concern following the game Saturday.
Wide Receivers Not Named Equanimeous
Outside of St. Brown this group was kind of a mess and I’m including Alize Mack in here because he spends most of his time split out. As a group, outside of ESB, they registered 7 receptions for 50 yards and about 4 drops.
Chase Claypool and Chris Finke barely saw the field, CJ Sanders and Miles Boykin didn’t play at all, along with Kevin Stepherson who is suspended even though Kelly won’ t say he is suspended. Whatever is going on with this group, it needs to get worked out, because pretty soon teams are going to take St. Brown away and make these other guys beat them.
Wiimbush was 3-8 with an interception on 3rd down against Temple, the pick coming when he stared down St. Brown on a corner route. He was 1-5 on 3rd down passes of 7+ yards. Wimbush clearly isn’t all the way comfortable throwing to someone other than his main guy. Who is going to step up and be the #2?