Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 17, 2020

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

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26 OCT. 17, 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED Immediate observations and musings from Notre Dame's win over Florida State 1. Offensive Line Shines Florida State's defensive front has future NFL players, but it hadn't been disrup- tive or stout this year. Notre Dame's offensive line pushed it around and allowed just one tackle behind the line of scrimmage. The Irish continued to establish their outside zone running identity and leaned on the counters and stretch plays that are staples. Freshman running back Chris Tyree and sophomore running back Kyren Wil- liams had a combined three touchdowns in the first half and were not touched on any of them. There were freighter-sized holes available. All told, the Irish ran for 353 yards on 8.4 yards per carry. 2. Florida State's Options And Leaky Defense Redshirt sophomore Jordan Travis gave Florida State a rushing element its first two quarterback starters didn't. And the Seminoles leaned on it as a way to keep Notre Dame off-balance. They called a heavy dose of read-options and tags off them, and Notre Dame defenders weren't disciplined on the edge frequently enough to stop it. Florida State was going to struggle to run if it tried to block Notre Dame straight up, so it got creative and carved out yardage on the ground. That was aided by some leaky tackling by the Irish, who fell for fakes and misdirection too often. Notre Dame allowed 4.9 yards per rush, excluding sacks. The Irish's defense looked like a unit that hadn't played in three weeks, and whose first task was stopping an intricate scheme. That won't be an excuse next week against a Louisville offense that's similarly option heavy and had its way with Notre Dame in the first half of last year's meeting. 3. Offensive Line Has Depth, Too Fifth-year senior left tackle Liam Eichenberg departed the game in the first half with an eye injury before returning on Notre Dame's first possession of the second half. The Irish replaced him by moving senior Aaron Banks from left guard to left tackle and inserting senior Dillan Gibbons into the lineup at left guard. Notre Dame barely felt a difference. Gibbons performed admirably and had key blocks on Tyree's 45-yard touchdown run and fifth-year senior quarterback Ian Book's three-yard touchdown run. 4. Ian Book's Best Game As long as Notre Dame is running these outside zone-based plays, there will be play-action opportunities. They go hand-in-hand. Notre Dame went to play action on its first pass of the game again, though nothing was open downfield. But it wasn't the key ingredient in Book's best game of the year. His pocket pres- ence was strong, with few if any instances of leaving too early. His accuracy was on point, too. He completed downfield throws and appeared to have little trouble going through reads. He completed his first five passes of the game. Some of the highlights: he dropped a sideline shot into the bucket to fifth- year senior wide receiver Javon McKinley for 36 yards on play action in the first quarter. He slid a 16-yard completion to freshman tight end Michael Mayer over a linebacker on that same drive. He found McKinley later in the game for 38 yards against a blitz without play action. 5. Wide Receivers Emerge Notre Dame's wide receivers had 11 catches for 110 yards through two games. Against FSU, three receivers combined for nine receptions and 122 yards. McKinley alone had five receptions for 107 yards, while also drawing a pass interference penalty. He saw plenty of work against Seminoles corner Asante Samuel Jr., a well-regarded NFL prospect. 6. Kevin Austin Eases In The junior wide receiver and expected go-to target had a quiet first game back after missing about 10 weeks with a foot fracture. He was targeted once, on a deep shot in the first half. Head coach Brian Kelly anticipated he could play about 15 or 20 snaps. By our unofficial count, he ended the game with fewer than 10. 7. Make-You-Miss One can't discuss the running game's success without mentioning Williams' ability to make defenders whiff on tackles. It's an ideal complement to the of- fensive line and the running plays that take some time to develop. On one second-half carry, he turned what would have been a loss against a Florida State run blitz into a seven-yard gain and a first down by spinning out of a tackle in the backfield. Pro Football Focus credited Williams with 13 avoided tackles heading into the game. That'll likely rise by five or six. 8. Bo Bauer Shines Junior linebacker Bo Bauer began the year playing mainly in sub packages, but he has carved out a role in the base defense after three games. He split snaps with senior starter Drew White at Mike linebacker and kept his sub-package role. He had a sack in the fourth quarter when he sniffed out a screen play and darted through the line to tackle Travis. He also had a touchdown-saving tackle for loss three plays later. 9. Defensive Depth Hit Junior Paul Moala, the backup to senior Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah at rover linebacker, left the game with an injury in the first half and did not return. Kelly said it is "more serious" than the ankle issue he initially thought it was. 10. Special Teams Struggles This was one of Notre Dame's less impressive special teams performances of the last couple seasons. The Irish muffed a punt, nearly muffed another and had a personal foul penalty called on a kickoff return. In addition, senior kicker Jona- than Doerer missed a 45-yard field goal and sophomore punter Jay Bramblett averaged only 39.7 yards on his three kicks. The track record suggests it's a blip, but it won't be a glorious film review. 10 INITIAL THOUGHTS BY PATRICK ENGEL Freshman running back Chris Tyree (above) and sophomore counterpart Kyren Williams both averaged at least 9.4 yards per carry and combined for 288 yards with three touchdowns on 30 carries. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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