Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 27, 2020

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

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26 NOV. 27, 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED WIDE RECEIVERS FLOURISH When Notre Dame fifth-year senior quarterback Ian Book wanted yards, he turned to his wide receivers. Of Book's 20 completions, 14 went to wide receivers — a season high for the group. The 207 yards on those 14 catches are the second most from the wideouts this year, just behind the 213 against Clemson on Nov. 7. Book connected with them in the structure of the play and while improvising when flushed out of the pocket. After a stilted start to the year, there's now clear cohesion and trust between quarterback and pass catchers. "We're starting to jell right now," Book said. "That's just awesome. It's chemistry. It's understanding where people are going to be at the right time and what defense they're going to bring to certain plays." Notre Dame's wide receivers didn't combine for double-digit catches un- til an Oct. 31 win at Georgia Tech. Since then, they have 38 catches for 538 yards and five touchdowns, with fifth-year senior Javon McKinley pro- viding five catches in each of the last three games. "Clearly, the receiving corps is do- ing a great job," head coach Brian Kelly said. "All of the receivers are pitching in. This is what we needed to elevate the play." The lone reception by a tight end was freshman Michael Mayer 's 12- yard catch on the game's opening drive. BALL SECURITY ISSUES Notre Dame got off to a rocky start at Boston College, in large part due to issues with holding on to the ball. In the first quarter, the Irish had the ball at their own 23-yard line when a handoff to freshman run- ning back Chris Tyree went awry. Tyree never fully gained possession of the ball and, instead, it fell to the ground where a Boston College de- fender pounced on it. The Notre Dame defense held taut to force a field goal, but it still gave the Eagles a 10-3 lead early in the game. "We've got some young backs, and we'll continue to work with them," said Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly. "We had a missed exchange. Chris is a young player. He thought it was a pull situation." A few drives later, another Irish fumble occurred, this time by sopho- more running back Kyren Williams on a reception over the middle. This could have been devastating for Notre Dame if an inadvertent Boston College snap hadn't given the Irish the ball right back a few plays later. Then, in the second half, there was a third lost fumble by fifth-year se- nior wide receiver Ben Skowronek at the end of a 26-yard reception. If not for those three lost fumbles, the Fighting Irish likely would have won in a manner more decisive than 14 points. However, Kelly isn't too worried about the fumbles going forward. "You look at each one and you evaluate where you are," Kelly said. "If you're not handling the ball properly or not putting it away, then there's more concern there, but these guys are very, very conscientious. That, to me, is more important than anything else." A fourth fumble technically oc- curred but by a Notre Dame defen- sive player. When sophomore line- backer Jack Kiser picked off a pass in the second half, he fumbled the ball on the return and almost gave the ball right back to Boston College. He instead fell on the ball in order for the Fighting Irish to retain possession. IRISH DIVIDE WORKLOAD ON THE GROUND In Notre Dame's first seven games this season, Kyren Williams averaged 47.7 snaps per game, about 64 per- cent of Notre Dame's total. Of course, this peaked last week- end against Clemson when Williams played 70 of 82 snaps, while carrying the ball 23 times for 140 yards and three touchdowns and repeatedly selling out his body pass-blocking for Book. Needless to say, the sophomore back needed a lightened workload and got one in the 45-31 win over Boston College, especially after he banged up his shoulder in the second quarter. Williams stood on the side- lines for the entirety of the second half, finishing with just 13 touches for 74 yards. "It was precautionary in nature," head coach Brian Kelly said. "That was, in fact, a coach's decision. He wasn't held out for medical reasons." Still, even with a diminished work- load for Williams, the Irish eclipsed their season rushing average of 227 with a total of 278 yards. Notre Dame BOSTON COLLEGE GAME NOTES BY ANDREW MENTOCK AND PATRICK ENGEL Senior slot receiver Avery Davis had 99 yards on three touches, highlighted by a 48-yard reception. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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