It was the game every Irish fan asked for in Pennsylvania today. On a recent podcast episode, the Irish On Tap crew talked about how Ian Book's ability to pass the ball was going to be the difference-maker today. That scenario came to fruition and it made for a 42-point difference in favor of Notre Dame when the clock hit zero.
Ian Book finished the day with 16 completions on 30 attempts, good for 312 yards and three touchdowns. It was a signature 300 for 3 day. Things may not have been completely perfect, as there were some missed throws and questionable decisions, but Book's confidence was on display today. Book got the offense rolling early with an 11-play drive capped off by a 34-yard reception by Northwestern transfer Ben Skowronek.
Speaking of Skowronek, the question "who is WR1?" now has a clear-cut answer. Skowronek logged two receptions for 107 yards and two touchdowns today, making him stand out at the wideout position. His first touchdown catch came on a great throw from Ian Book, but the deep ball down the left side was all Skowronek.
A major topic on this week's preview podcast was figuring out who was going to be that Chase Claypool or Miles Boykin-type receiver. The way Brian Kelly and Tommy Rees opened the playbook today made the Skowronek performance happen. This wasn't even the peak performance of the Notre Dame offense. It's exactly what Irish fans wanted to see, but the question going forward remains, can the offense stick around for weeks to come and grow into something dangerous?
It's nothing new around here, but it's worth mentioning that Michael Mayer (aka Baby Gronk) is very good. The fact that this 19-year-old stud will be a piece of the Notre Dame offense for the next four years is something to get excited about. The way he is able to get off the ball, slip defenders, and make plays downfield will be a major help in keeping the Irish offense rolling. Notre Dame fans saw it with Cole Kmet last year, and Mayer is already making his case to be the next great prospect to come out of Tight End U.
Another topic discussed during the Irish On Tap game preview podcast was how good Pitt's defense is against the run and how the Notre Dame passing game was going to be important for a win. Pitt was able to hold Kyren Williams to just 38 yards on 17 carries. Williams did find his way into the end zone once, as did C'bo Flemister with one of his 13 carries. Flemister finished with 48 yards on the day. Book ran for 40 yards on eight carries, leading the Irish ground game to just 115 yards. Combine that with a 319-yard passing performance and there are no complaints here.
I will throw in a humblebrag, as I predicted that Nick McCloud would record an interception during today's game, and that's exactly what happened.
Fellow panelist Brian Mischler also made a hell of a prediction by saying that Isaiah Foskey would block a punt and run it back for a touchdown. It's no surprise that the defense was excellent this week, as they only allowed three points. That unit will need to continue improving, as the offense still needs to prove that they can string together consistent performances.
The story of Notre Dame's 45-3 win over the Panthers was how the offense finally found their rhythm and carried the momentum throughout the game. Rees called a great game, but Book needs to clean up his missed throws. Today's performance is what every week should be. The Irish will need to carry the same mentality into Georgia Tech next week in order to maintain confidence levels as the November 7th matchup against Clemson approaches.
Keep an eye out for the Irish On Tap victory podcast coming soon.