Blue and Gold Illustrated

Dec 19, 2020

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

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26 DEC. 19, 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED KYREN WILLIAMS, OFFENSIVE LINE FINISH HISTORIC SEASON For the first time since 2017, Notre Dame has a 1,000-yard rusher. And he required only 10 games to get there. Sophomore running back Kyren Williams hit the mark in the Fighting Irish's handling of Syracuse, running for 110 yards on 20 carries. His 14- yard scoot in the fourth quarter put him over 1,000 for the season. "Reaching that has been a goal of mine since quarantine, when I really realized that I can do this and that I can play at this level," Williams said. "I just attribute that to my line. With- out them, it's not possible. Every yard, every second of that moment I had, I went to thank them. "They played their absolute hearts out. I appreciate them. I know all of our running backs and all the coaches appreciate them and what they do, because they're soldiers and they go through a lot." Williams has spent the past two games running behind a front five beset by injuries. Notre Dame lost starting sophomore center Jarrett Pat- terson for the season to a foot injury suffered at Boston College Nov. 14. Fifth-year senior right guard Tommy Kraemer missed the game at North Carolina Nov. 27 after an emergency appendectomy. Sophomore Zeke Correll, Pat- terson's replacement, did not play against Syracuse due to an ankle in- jury. Senior Josh Lugg shifted to cen- ter from right guard, where he started against North Carolina. Senior Dil- lan Gibbons started at right guard, but Kraemer talked his way into the lineup for a few series despite Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly's plan to use him only in an emergency. "Tommy had made it clear that, in his last home game, he wanted to play," Kelly said. "Once he was cleared by our doctors, we saw that there was no need not to get him in the game." Kraemer is expected to start and play a full workload in the ACC Championship Game Dec. 19. Lugg and Correll will compete for the center spot. Each has started one game there this year. Lugg's most notable mo- ment was a snap exchange that turned into a lost fumble, but Kelly gave him positive reviews on the whole. "He developed a big welt on his hand, and he tried to work through it," Kelly said. "I thought he played solid in there. We'll evaluate the film tomorrow and have a better-detailed understanding of what we did up front, but the longer we stuck with it in terms of our offensive running production, the better we were." IRISH DEFENSE PLAYS POORLY AGAINST RUN Prior to Dec. 5, the Notre Dame defense allowed 85.3 rushing yards per game, the fourth-best mark in the nation (and third among teams to have played at least four games). The Irish had also shut down All- America-caliber backs in Clemson's Travis Etienne and North Carolina's Javonte Williams, limiting each to a pedestrian 28 yards and fewer than 2.6 yards per carry. Given the success against the na- tion's premier rushers, it seemed hard to imagine a fruitful day for Syracuse freshman running back Sean Tucker, who began fall camp fifth on the depth chart, when the Orange trav- eled to Notre Dame Stadium. But such assumptions were proven wrong. Tucker became the first opposing running back to eclipse 70 rushing yards against Notre Dame this sea- son, as he scampered for 113 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, breaking a number of tackles along the way. He also hauled in two recep- tions for 46 yards. "They're a good offense," sopho- more linebacker Jack Kiser said of the Orange. "They have good players. They'd been hit with some injuries this year. But the defense is a little disappointed. We didn't play up to our standard." Later in the game, sophomore run- ning back Cooper Lutz entered the contest and picked up where Tucker left off. While much of his production came against Notre Dame's reserves, Lutz still carried the ball six times for 102 yards, which was highlighted by an 80-yard touchdown. His production only exacerbated how subpar the Irish run defense per- formed. In total, Syracuse carried the ball 35 times for 229 yards (6.5 yards per attempt) and two touchdowns. "They were able to rush a little bit on us," Kiser said. "We've got to tighten things up next week and move on from it." FRESHMEN CONTINUE TO EMERGE From the Notre Dame 6-yard line, freshman running back Chris Tyree corralled a handoff and exploded out of the backfield and through the defensive front seven untouched. Al- ready at full speed, he then sprinted past the second level of the defense and seemed to jog the final 40 yards to the end zone, a 94-yard score in to- tal. Two Syracuse defenders pumped their arms furiously in a failed at- tempt to catch up. On one play, Tyree provided a glimpse of the vision, speed and de- termination that has allowed him to play more than any freshman run- ning back at Notre Dame since Josh Adams in 2015. Against the Orange, Tyree finished with 188 all-purpose yards and a touchdown. He was just one of several true freshmen to make a significant im- pact against the Orange. Cornerback Clarence Lewis re- turned to the starting lineup on Saturday and Syracuse did its best to attack the young defensive back, constantly throwing and running his SYRACUSE GAME NOTES BY ANDREW MENTOCK AND PATRICK ENGEL Williams eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards on the season and posted his sixth game over the cen- tury mark. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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