On Saturday, the Notre Dame football team took the field for the first time since their 52–0 beatdown of South Florida on September 19th. The Irish successfully completed the “Quarantine, Isolate and Eliminate” process for beating a COVID-19 outbreak, and were able to return to the field on Saturday after three weeks off from gameplay.
As expected, the Irish started a little slow with a Kyren Williams fumble that set FSU up in plus territory to start the game, but after the muffed punt by Lawrence Keys towards the end of the first quarter, the Irish seemed to find their rhythm. Notre Dame came out with the 42–26 victory after a high scoring first half.
Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree are as Dynamic of a Duo in College Football
The duo combined for 288 yards on 30 carries and finished the game with three touchdowns. Both backs possess the top-end speed that Notre Dame has lacked at the position for years. Their ability to stick a foot in the ground and change directions is unmatched at the college level, and once they get to their top speed, it’s see you later. Brian Kelly and Tommy Rees are doing a great job distributing the workload between the two backs and both are producing at an unreal clip.
Both Williams and Tyree are averaging 7.5 yards per carry (YPC) through three weeks of the season, and the duo has combined for six touchdowns. Let’s also not forget this team still has Jahmir Smith, C’Bo Flemister, and Jafar Armstrong all at the running back position, who can all contribute when their number is called. The combination of Notre Dame’s backs and the talented offensive line is a combination that can run any team right out of the stadium.
Wide Receiver Usage is Starting to Become a Problem
Although Ian Book played a great game on Saturday, it has been quite alarming through the first few weeks of the season how little he is using his talented receivers. This in part has to do with how talented his running backs and tight ends are, but their receivers, with guys like Braden Lenzy, Bennett Skowronek, Lawrence Keys, and Javon McKinley, have not seen the ball as much as one would expect three weeks into the season.
We did see Ian Book take more shots down the field, and safe shots at that, as he didn’t throw an interception or fumble the football on Saturday. For this Notre Dame team to be a true contender, Tommy Rees needs to take more shots down the field with speedy receivers such as Braden Lenzy and Kevin Austin, with the latter recently returning from injury. We’re all fully aware that Notre Dame lost 60% of its offensive production to the NFL last season, but there still is a lot of talent that isn’t being fully utilized in the receiver room and we haven’t even seen any of the stud freshman wideout Jordan Johnson.
As it stands after three games Notre Dame’s leading pass catcher in terms of receptions is Tommy Tremble with nine, and both McKinley and Williams are tied with 114 yards through the air in three games this season. Quite anemic numbers for an offense that has one of the most trusted quarterbacks in the nation, as well as an offensive coordinator who played the same position at the same school. I would look for them to expand their playbook in the coming weeks and look to get the wideouts more involved.
Regardless of Who Suits up for the Defense, They Come to Ball Every Week
For starters, the Irish defense was put in a bad spot to start the game after the Kyren Williams fumble on the ND 32-yard line on the second play of the game. They held strong and forced FSU to kick a field goal, giving FSU a 3–0 lead. Later in the first quarter, a Lawrence Keys fumble set the Seminoles up at the Irish 19-yard line which turned into an FSU touchdown. There isn’t much you can do in those situations and to walk away with only giving up 10 points is a blessing. What made it easier to swallow, after leaving the first quarter with 17 Seminole points on the board, Notre Dame’s defense only allowed FSU to score nine more points for the rest of the game.
23 different Irish defenders recorded a tackle on Saturday, and when Brian Kelly inserts players that aren’t traditionally starters into the lineup such as Bo Bauer or Jack Kiser, not much has been changed on this defense. The preparation, matched with the recruiting they’ve done to build this defense, leaves this group as one of the top units in the nation and is only giving up 13 points per game while only allowing around 323 yards per game. In a year like this, and especially after we saw COVID affect the team, it is important to make sure that all of your players are ready, even if they aren’t currently in the starting lineup, as opportunities may be at a premium for reserve players this season.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koromoah is proving week in and week out that he is one of the best linebackers in the country. Couple that with the talent Notre Dame has in the secondary in guys like Shaun Crawford and Tariq Bracy, and the sky is the limit with this defense. This defense will have a difficult test this weekend against Louisville with explosive playmakers like Tutu Atwell, but will have an opportunity to flex their muscle and prove why they’re a top unit in the country.
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