Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 27, 2020

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

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Page 8 of 55 NOV. 27, 2020 9 UNDER THE DOME Our life plan community for those over the age of 62, provides residents with exceptional personalized services, a secure atmosphere and carefree luxury lifestyle – while making it possible to ease into further healthcare levels as needs change throughout retirement years. For his efforts in the 47-40 double-overtime vic- tory versus No. 1 Clemson, sophomore running back Kyren Williams was named the ACC Back of the Week. The honor was bestowed not only be- cause of his 140 rushing yards — highlighted by a 65-yard touchdown on his first carry — but for his fabulous work in the passing game. No, not the part about catching one pass for minus-two yards. Rather, it was Williams' role in blitz pick-up against a Clemson defense that was repeatedly sending rushers from all angles. Yet fifth-year se- nior quarterback Ian Book, who dropped back almost 50 times, lost only eight yards on the night, and a major reason why was because of Williams' fearlessness and instincts in pass protection that consistently provided Book a little extra time to ex- tend plays. This included Williams' fourth-quarter pick-up on the 53-yard completion to senior slot Avery Davis that set up the tying touchdown. Williams' acumen in that area — the most dif- ficult adjustment of all for young college running backs to make — were a major reason why he was on the field for 70 of the 82 snaps the offense had against the Tigers. "The focus was for our backs to be more active in protection," Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said. "Clemson ran a lot of twist games and stunt games that knocks off your offensive linemen. Even though we were in a six-man protection, the back didn't get out a lot and it limited us a little bit in some of our check-down opportunities. "We gave up some potential check-down op- portunities that Ian could have had, but did not have because we left the back in to pick up some of those [blitzes and stunts] that inevitably knock off a lineman because they're so aggressive in picking off linemen in their twist stunts. We felt we needed to give something up, and that was a back not getting out." Part of why there was confidence of not having Wil- liams as an outlet option as a receiver was because of the developing chemistry and progress with the wideouts, which was a struggle earlier in the year, especially with a season-ending injury to junior Kevin Austin Jr. and junior Braden Lenzy's hamstring issues. Against Clemson, the wideout trio of fifth-year se- niors Javon McKinley and Ben Skowronek, plus Da- vis, combined for 13 catches, 213 yards and a score. Supplementing their production was the tight end po- sition that added eight catches for 99 yards with fresh- man Michael Mayer (five catches for 67 yards) and junior Tommy Tremble (three catches for 32 yards). Using Williams as a receiver would have been self-defeating because it would have lessened the protection for Book. Kelly said he and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees placed a greater empha- sis in practices on getting the receivers far more involved beyond the short and intermediate game. "Just knowing that if we were going to take that next step, the ball needed to be pushed out there," Kelly said. "Plays needed to be called. Tommy and I being on the same page, we felt the same way, and ultimately you have to call those plays." Williams' work as a pass blocker makes it easier to make those calls. — Lou Somogyi Kyren Williams: New Kid On The Blocks Williams earned ACC Back of the Week honors for his all-around performance against Clemson, highlighted by his blocking on blitz pickups. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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