Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 26, 2019*

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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30 OCT. 26, 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED H ere are several observations from Notre Dame's 30‑27 win over USC. DEFENSE: A CONTROLLING SCHEME • The majority of the game Notre Dame went with three down linemen and three safeties. The Irish started the game with four down linemen and one line‑ backer in fifth‑year senior Asmar Bilal, and then after the first series switched out the fourth interior lineman for junior Drew White and then stuck with this look for most of the remainder of the game. Any offensive play caller worth his salt that sees a five‑man box is going to run the ball and USC did that. The Trojans ended the game with 171 yards on the ground and a 4.9‑yard rushing average, but it sure felt like more. They took advantage of that five‑man box, but Notre Dame was fine with that because USC's dynamic wide receiv‑ ing corps was not doing the damage that it could have done. Many times as a football coach, you have to give up something to get something. • Senior safeties Alohi Gilman and Jalen Elliott certainly improved over last week's performance. They were utilized in a three‑deep configuration most of the time, with freshman Kyle Hamilton playing in the center. Defensive coordinator Clark Lea used both Elliott and Gilman in the box at times as well. The tackling was better, but Gilman still has a tendency to go for the big hit and it allowed USC to gain more yards after contact. The touchdown catch by USC wide‑ out Amon‑Ra St. Brown was a miss in coverage by Gilman. He was too ag‑ gressive and came in underneath of St. Brown and was playing catch up the entire time. Gilman needs to stay behind that play because he is the last line of defense there. OFFENSE: THE LINE AND TONY JONES JR. DRIVE THE RUN GAME • I felt very good about my call for an Irish blowout at halftime with Notre Dame leading 17‑3. They were finally taking advantage of the one‑ on‑one coverage that USC was em‑ ploying the entire first half. They went to senior wideout Chase Clay‑ pool in the first series on a nice back shoulder throw and catch, but forgot about it the next few series. On the first touchdown drive of the game, Notre Dame finally went to sophomore wide receiver Braden Lenzy, Claypool and then junior tight end Cole Kmet for the touchdown. The offensive line imposed its will in the second quarter and was consis‑ tently moving the line of scrimmage down field on almost every run play. • Senior quarterback Ian Book did not light up the scoreboard or the stat sheet. He was not overly impressive in the passing game for most of the night and missed some wide‑open targets once again. With that said, I do think he played well in the run‑pass option (RPO) game smartly handing off to senior running back Tony Jones Jr. the ma‑ jority of the time. Probably the most impressive aspect during the night was the last offensive drive that sealed the win for the Irish. Book was in complete control of the offense on that drive and just took what USC was giving him. Too many times the Trojan defenders turned their backs on Book and allowed him to run the ball five times for 28 yards, with the final eight yards coming on the touchdown run. He also went 2‑of‑2 for 21 yards through the air, both to tight end Kmet. He did not get rattled and did not take off too soon. What I really liked from the offense and Book were the downfield throws. He showed, at least in this game, that they were willing to take shots. It is a good step forward, but they need to see this continue from Book. • Jones continues to impress, eclipsing 100 yards for the third straight game and fourth time overall. He is seeing holes open up better than he was in the first part of the season. He is also playing through con‑ tact so much better than he did earlier and with better pad level. He has earned the trust of the coaching staff and that is evident considering junior running back Jafar Armstrong was available com‑ ing off injury and still only had only one touch for a four‑yard loss. SPECIAL TEAMS: DOERER GETS HIS KICKS • Special teams were once again a significant asset for Notre Dame. It did not seem like it at the time, but the three field goals that junior Jona‑ than Doerer kicked turned out to be the difference in the game. He hit his season‑ and career‑high mark twice with a 45‑yarder in the second quarter followed by a new mark of 52 yards to cap off the first offensive drive of the second half for Notre Dame. Doerer finished his night with a 43‑yarder in the fourth quarter that pushed the Irish lead to 10 and made it a two‑score game. • Freshman punter Jay Bramblett continues to impress as well. He punted just three times, but averaged 40.3 yards per attempt. You cannot ask much more from the true freshman than consistency at the punter position, and that is what he has given Notre Dame this season. ✦ Breaking Down The Victory Against USC THOUGHTS FROM THE PRESS BOX VINCE DEDARIO Vince DeDario has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since August 2019. He can be reached at Kyle Hamilton played center field in Notre Dame's three-safety look against the Trojans. The freshman safety finished with eight tackles, including five solo stops. PHOTO BY ANDRIS VISOCKIS

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