Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 19, 2020

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

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24 SEPT. 19, 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED TURNING POINT Notre Dame's offense opened the game with three straight three-and-out series and managed only seven yards in the first quarter. On the fourth possession, the Fighting Irish faced a fourth-and-eight from their 21-yard line while trailing 3-0. That's when sophomore punter Jay Bramblett faked the kick and on a sweep to his left made a needed cutback for a 14-yard gain. It was a gutsy call that would have been second-guessed severely had it failed so deep in Irish territory. It proved to be the spark that helped continue a 96-yard touchdown drive that included a 13-yard run by sophomore running back Kyren Williams and a 20-yard screen to senior running back Jafar Armstrong before Williams broke a tackle in the backfield to score on a one-yard run with 10:39 remaining in the first half. That gave Notre Dame the lead for good. STAT OF THE GAME After getting jolted on offense and a little bit back on its heels on defense in the first quar- ter when Duke outgained the Irish 151-7, Notre Dame then outgained the Blue Devils 434-183 over the final three quarters. Breaking it down even more, the Fighting Irish posted 213 yards to Duke's 88 in the second half, and outgained the Blue Devils 102-27 in the fourth quarter. That was not only a testament to adjusting as the game progressed, but the Notre Dame qual- ity depth on defense eventually reared its head in the second half, when fatigue can sometimes become a factor. Reserves such as sophomore vyper Isaiah Fo- skey and junior middle linebacker Bo Bauer par- ticularly excelled in their roles. BRIAN KELLY'S CONTRACT EXTENSION This had been in the works since at least the summer of 2019, and the extension through the 2024 campaign was originally planned to be an- nounced at the end of spring drills this year. The pandemic, though, cast enough of a shadow to delay the announcement until the opener. If Kelly does indeed fulfill it, his 15-year ten- ure will surpass the school-record 13 by Knute Rockne (1918-30) before his premature death. It's amusing to recall that back in September 2014 when Notre Dame announced an agree- ment with Ohio State to meet in 2022-23, Kelly was asked for his thoughts on the matchup. He responded how exciting it will be — and he would look forward to watching it while relaxing on a beach somewhere with a cocktail. One never knows just how the future will shake out. THREE OBSERVATIONS BY LOU SOMOGYI OFFENSE: RB KYREN WILLIAMS After getting pulled following a dropped pass early in the 2019 season opener, the sophomore run- ning back shined in his 2020 debut as Notre Dame's starting running back. Despite a slow first quarter, he finished the contest with 112 yards and two touchdowns on 19 rushing attempts, plus added two receptions for 93 yards. In total, his 205 total yards accounted for 46.5 percent of Notre Dame's offensive production. DEFENSE: LB JEREMIAH OWUSU-KORAMOAH Perhaps Notre Dame's top NFL prospect for the 2021 NFL Draft, the senior rover showed through- out the game what makes him such a special player. Owusu-Koramoah finished with nine tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack and a key forced fumble. This honor may have gone to sophomore safety Kyle Hamilton if he hadn't suffered an ankle injury early in the second half. SPECIAL TEAMS: P JAY BRAMBLETT A second-year starter, the sophomore punter is accustomed to kicking in high-pressure situations at Notre Dame. But on this Saturday afternoon against Duke, he showed he can do more with his legs than just kick. With the Irish offense sluggish early in the game, the Notre Dame coaches called on Bramblett to ex- ecute on a fake punt near the team's own 20-yard line. The result: a 14-yard run up the middle that involved a nifty cut back to get him past the first- down marker. Bramblett also punted the ball six times during the contest for an average of 43.8 yards per attempt. Three times Duke was pinned inside the 20-yard line, and two punts went for more than 50 yards. TOP PLAYERS OF THE GAME BY ANDREW MENTOCK Sophomore punter Jay Bramblett (No. 19) averaged 43.8 yards per attempt, but his big- gest play was a 14-yard run on a fake in the second quarter that prolonged a 96-yard drive that ended with a touchdown and put the Irish up for good. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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