Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 11, 2021

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

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Page 26 of 55 SEPT. 11, 2021 27 JONATHAN DOERER DELIVERS IN THE CLUTCH Notre Dame junior safety Kyle Hamil- ton knew graduate student kicker Jona- than Doerer could handle the daunting task presented to him. Not because he trusts Doerer's right leg and experience — which he does — but rather, because the din from the 68,316 Tomahawk-chop- ping, garnet-clad folks in the Doak Campbell Stadium stands seemed subdued to him. Why? Because Hamilton and Notre Dame were inundated with it all week as part of their prepa- ration for the season opener at Florida State Sept. 5. The Irish practiced not only with piped- in crowd noise, but chants and songs specific to Florida State. They watched videos of the sta- dium chopping in unison and Osceola planting the flaming spear at midfield. By the time the highest-pres- sure moment of the game rolled around, the pandemonium was hardly a bother to Hamilton. He assumed it would be no issue for Doerer. "I was so confident he was go- ing to make that, because Coach [Brian] Kelly has been blasting that fight song in our ear all week long," Hamilton said. "He has made multiple kicks from that distance and further in practice. It was honestly quieter when he actually kicked it than when Coach Kelly was playing it. "It was a little much at practice, but he prepared him for the situation." Sure enough, Doerer swung his right leg into a 41-yard field goal attempt and sent the ball between the north end zone uprights, giving Notre Dame a 41-38 overtime win over Florida State. The Irish could leave happy instead of shell-shocked from squandering a 38-20 advantage. "I trusted him," graduate student quarterback Jack Coan said. "He's our guy and I knew he was going to knock it through. He did. Unbelievable job by him." In the small-picture view, the kick rescued Notre Dame from disaster after it blew the 18-point lead it held late in the third quarter. Viewed through the zoomed-out lens, the field goal capped a strong statement that Doerer can be the weapon he was for Notre Dame in 2019 and the first half of 2020 before a surprising slide to end last season. Doerer made just 4 of his final 9 field goal attempts to end 2020, a rut that included a clanged 24-yard try in the ACC Championship Game and a pulled 32-yarder at North Carolina. It was a bizarre break in character for a kicker who was 28 of 34 from 2019 through the Irish's Nov. 7, 2020 win over Clemson. Doerer blamed it on burning out from doing too much kicking practice in the spring 2020 height of the pandemic. There was nothing else to do but kick. He wore down during the season, he said, and it showed. The fall camp version of Doerer looked and sounded refreshed, and it carried over into the season opener. He made a 58-yard kick in warm-ups. His 48-yard field goal in the second quar- ter would have been good from several yards further back. Those were encour- aging signs. All of a sudden, in a game Notre Dame led by 18 points in the third quarter, another test arose. The hardest kind, no less: a walk-off field goal at- tempt. A make provides even more evidence 2020 was a blip that's now behind him. A miss allows doubt about him to linger. Doerer's kick from the right hash marks hit just to the left of the Allstate logo's hands on the field goal netting. It looked good from the start. Doerer took off toward the opposite end zone, ripped off his helmet and let teammates mob him. He earned the game ball shortly after. Test passed. "That's such a great way," Hamilton said, "for him to build confidence coming into the sea- son." NOTRE DAME DEFENSE STRUGGLES IN MARCUS FREEMAN'S FIRST GAME AS COORDINATOR One game doesn't tell the story of an entire season. Especially the first one. Notre Dame graduate student quarterback Jack Coan and the Irish passing attack were great in the season-opening 41-38 win over Florida State, but it still has 11 regular season games to prove that the 366 passing yards and four touchdowns through the air were not an anomaly. On the flip side, junior running back Kyren Williams and sophomore Chris Tyree will be out to prove that running for a combined 3.2 yards per carry on a healthy 25 attempts was not their status quo. That performance definitely was not as advertised. And so, switch over to the other side of the ball and look at first-year Notre Dame defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman. His unit allowed 442 total yards to the Seminoles, 264 of which came on the ground at 5.5 yards per pop. Freeman's defense at Cincinnati al- FLORIDA STATE GAME NOTES BY PATRICK ENGEL AND TYLER HORKA Doerer was 2 of 2 on field goal attempts, including the game-winning 41-yarder in overtime. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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