Well now, sometimes being wrong is really awesome. I thought the Notre Dame offense would be a bit sluggish out of the gates until it got its timing down in today’s season opener. It took Notre Dame two plays to go 70 yards and score the first touchdown of the season. The Irish didn’t slow down too much from there enroute to a 49-16 victory over a Temple team that has won 20 games the last two years.
There was a lot to like today but there also were a few causes for concern despite the easy victory. Here are my first few thoughts on today’s win brought to you from the Irish Express Chicago to South Bend bus that was my chariot for today’s game. Highly recommend them by the way and that isn’t just the Goose Island talking.
Wimbush showed he can be elite, but will have growing pains
The future is very bright for Brandon Wimbush at Notre Dame and that was very evident in his starting debut on Saturday. Wimbush made some nice throws and made a lot of plays with his legs. He accounted for three touchdowns (2 through the air and 1 on the ground) and led Notre Dame to 49 points on the day. At the same time, Wimbush showed his inexperienced with a couple missed throws and a bad decision on his lone interception on the day.
In the fourth quarter Wimbush had Equanimeous St. Brown behind the Temple defense and wide open for an easy score. He put just a bit too much air on it though and St Brown ended up not coming down with the ball. St. Brown could have made a better effort on the ball but even if he laid out, it should have been a walk in touchdown and it wouldn’t have been. His interception was just a bad decision. Should have never thrown it and in time, he won’t make that throw.
We saw what we thought we would from Wimbush today. Elite athleticism and skills but some inexperience. Unfortunately he will need to improve a lot in a short period of time with Georgia coming into town next weekend.
Running for 400+ yards was pretty awesome
I thought Notre Dame would be able to run the ball on Temple, but I never imagined that the Irish would rack up 400+ yards on the Owls today. It was a bit of an odd 422 yards if that is even possible with Notre Dame ripping off big chunk plays but struggling in short yardage situations and getting stuffed at the line a bit. Still, 422 yards.
Notre Dame had three players top 100 yards thanks to Dexter Williams ripping off a 40 and 66 yard run. He finished with 124 yards on just 6 carries. Adams checked in at 161 on 19 carries. Wimbush was the third Golden Domer to top 100 yards with 106 on 12 runs. All three scored – Adams twice – and sophomore Tony Jones Jr scored his first career touchdown as Notre Dame ran for 5 total touchdowns.
Temple was trying to take away the run a bit so it’s not time ot get concerned that Notre Dame got stuffed a number of times – especially when they ran for freaking 422 yards.
Mike Elkos’s Notre Dame debut felt a bit vanilla
Notre Dame’s defense was OK on Saturday and that is a good thing. The defense – for the most part – eliminated the big play, tackled well, and made stops when they needed to. We didn’t see Elko dial up a whole lot of exotic blitzes though. Who knew you could play good defense by just being vanilla and being fundamentally sound?
All that said, it did feel a little like Elko was holding somethings back. We didn’t see a lot of blitzes but we did see Notre Dame get some pressure and that is VERY encouraging. Notre Dame sacked Temple three times with Julian Okwara, Daelin Hayes, and Tevon Coney doing the honors. Coney even paid an homage to Jaylon Smith after his sack by celebrating with Smith’s signature swipe. If Notre Dame can keep getting pressure this year without blitzing much, this defense will be pretty good.
Now I don’t think Notre Dame or Elko was purposefully “holding back” for Temple but I do think he came into this game knowing he didn’t need to blitz Temple to get pressure and the Irish did just that. Next week, that probably won’t be the case though so expect to see many more wrinkles next week for the Bulldogs.
Notre Dame can’t rely on Wimbush to run that much every week
While it was great seeing Notre Dame run for over 400 yards and seeing Wimbush mkae plays with his legs, I couldn’t help but think that on a couple of those runs, Wimbush would have gotten lit up by a better, faster defense like say Georgia’s. Coach D of Blue & Gold said something really smart this week – he does that often – stating that Notre Dame will run Wimbush each week as much as they have to to win. This week that was 12 times. And it worked.
If Brandon Wimbush is running 12 times each week and taking as many hits as he did today every week though, we might see Ian Book in more than just mop up duty. For today though, it was hard to watch Wimbush run like he did and not think back to some of Notre Dmae’s better running quarterbacks like Tony Rice and Jarious Jackson.
Wide receivers after Equanimeous St. Brown are a concern
While there was a whole lot to like today, the wide receivers after Equanimeous St. Brown were a definite concern. Seeing Freddy Canteen and Cameron Smith as starters on the first depth chart should have given us a hint that maybe the young wide receivers weren’t quite ready. Today did not do much to dispel that notion. Notre Dame needs another wide receiver to step up opposite St. Brown.
The only wide receiver other than Brown to have more than one reception was Cameron Smith and his three catches yielded all of 10 yards. Canteen had one catch for seven yards, Chase Claypool had one for 16 yards. Miles Boykin, Chris Finke, Javon McKinley, CJ Sanders, and Kevin Stepherson had none.
Notre Dame will need another wide receiver to make some plays next week. Now, I was concerned that the timing of the passing game wouldn’t quite be there this week since Chip Long’s offense is based on a lot of quick passes and screens. We saw Notre Dame try to run a few wide receivers screens today. Those did not go well.
I was also concerned with the Temple secondary today though to be fair so let’s see how this unit performs throughout the season.
Justin Yoon is a concern too
I listed Justin Yoon as a concern going into the game and he didn’t too much to calm those concerns. He made all seven extra point attempts but he missed both field goals – one from 44 and another from 48. Now, neither miss was all that bad. The 44 yarder hit the upright and and the 48 yarder was just wide right. Still, you don’t want to see you place kicker miss his first two attempts on the year. The good news is both had plenty of leg so hopefully he just needs to work out a few kinks.
This week it didn’t matter, but next week it might. Notre Dame needs to be able to count on Yonn for field goals in the 40-49 yard range next week when Georgia comes to town.