Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 2, 2019

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

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24 NOV. 2, 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED TURNING POINT In the opening minutes when the game was still scoreless, Notre Dame squandered two golden opportunities via special teams that could have drawn first blood. On the game's opening series, Michigan was called for roughing Notre Dame freshman punter Jay Bramblett. That gave the Irish a first down at the Wolverine 40-yard line — but Notre Dame ended up with minus-five yards on the drive and punted to the 7-yard line. Next, Notre Dame sophomore linebacker Bo Bauer tipped Michigan's punt near the goal line that senior linebacker Jonathan Jones tried to pounce on but fumbled, leading to a Michigan recovery. The Wolverines then drove 64 yards to set up a 20-yard field goal by Jake Moody at the 5:35 mark. After those two chances by Notre Dame were wasted, the momentum quickly shifted toward the Wolverines' side and remained there for all but about five minutes in the third quarter. STATS OF THE GAME The most telling was Michigan out-rushing Notre Dame 303-47, an immense disparity, es- pecially on a rainy, slippery night where running with efficiency and ball security was a foremost priority. Establishing the ground attack with 96 rushing yards in the first quarter, Michigan repeatedly found gaps while the offensive line generated push up front. Meanwhile, unlike in the 23-17 loss at Georgia in which the Irish basically gave up on the run in the second half, finishing with only 14 carries (tying a career low under head coach Brian Kelly) for 46 yards, Notre Dame remained relatively patient to keep running, but the 31 attempts netted only 47 yards while Michigan loaded the box. Just as significant is that after coming into the game ranked 109th in most turnovers committed (14), Michigan had none against a Notre Dame team that was No. 1 in turnover margin with a plus-1.67 average per contest. HAS NOTRE DAME REACHED ITS CEILING? This season has the earmarks of second-year head coach Charlie Weis' 2006 campaign. Following a resurgent season in 2005 in which Notre Dame finished in the Associated Press top 10 for the first time in 12 years, there were grand expectations with a veteran unit returning in 2006, and many preseason polls had the Irish at either No. 2 or even No. 1. The season wasn't bad with a 10-3 finish — but Notre Dame was blown out in all three marquee matchups: 47-21 at home to Michigan, 44-24 at USC and 41-14 in the Sugar Bowl versus LSU. Following last year's road to the College Football Playoff, the question was whether Notre Dame could now become a consistent top-10 or even top-five program. The two biggest tests were go- ing to be on the road — at Georgia and at Michi- gan — and the answer remains no. That elicits the usual inquiries now about whether this is "as good as it gets" for the Irish in today's landscape. THREE OBSERVATIONS BY LOU SOMOGYI OFFENSE: WR CHASE CLAYPOOL In a game where Notre Dame gained a paltry 180 yards of total offense, it's almost impossible to pick an MVP on that side of the ball, especially when many of those yards came in garbage time. The senior wide receiver finished with two catches for 42 yards, but both were impressive plays along the sidelines that extended drives. Claypool also had a catch or two called back due to offen- sive penalties, including one that was negated due to Liam Eichenberg getting flagged. His most important catch set up Notre Dame's first touchdown in the third quarter, the unit's lone sign of life since the outset. DEFENSE: DE JAMIR JONES No one on the Notre Dame defense played well. In total, the Irish allowed 45 points and 437 total yards against a Michigan unit that had been offensively stagnant all season. With that, the senior defensive end continues to show flashes since stepping in due to Daelin Hayes' season-ending injury. Jones picked up his fourth sack of the year and forced a fumble that resulted in a big loss for the Michigan offense. In total, he had four tackles, which was tied with classmate Khalid Kareem for the most tackles by an Irish defensive lineman. SPECIAL TEAMS: P JAY BRAMBLETT Kicking the ball in a hostile environment while also deal- ing with the wind and the rain can be difficult, but the true freshman punter was up for the challenge. Outside of one shanked punt, he consistently pinned Michigan deep within its own territory. In total, Bramblett punted the ball 10 times for an average of 42.3 yards. Four times, the Wolverines had to start a drive inside their own 20-yard line thanks to a Bramblett punt. Two of his punts were also for more than 50 yards, including a 61-yard bomb. TOP PLAYERS OF THE GAME BY ANDREW MENTOCK Senior wide receiver Chase Claypool made a pair of nice grabs for 42 yards in an otherwise forgettable offensive performance by the Irish. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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