Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 6, 2021

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

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Page 22 of 63 NOV. 6, 2021 23 NOTRE DAME PASSING OFFENSE: A It wasn't the offensive onslaught Notre Dame put on Florida State two months ago, but at this point in the season Notre Dame offensive coordi- nator Tommy Rees isn't asking for that out of grad- uate student quarterback Jack Coan and company. Coan completed 16 of 24 passes for 213 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions, while freshman Tyler Buchner completed his two attempts for 17 yards and a touchdown. Efficiency and effectiveness. It's been the name of the game for the Irish in recent weeks. Everything worked well once again with five play- ers, including junior running back Kyren Williams, catching at least two passes. Graduate student wide receiver Avery Davis led the way with five catches for 51 yards. Sophomore tight end Michael Mayer caught four passes for 51 yards. Freshman wide receiver Lorenzo Styles Jr. led the team with 74 yards receiving on three catches. NOTRE DAME RUSHING OFFENSE: A+ Mr. Williams, take a bow. He had one of the highlights of the entire college football season with his 91-yard touchdown run on a broken play. That's not all he did, though. He rushed for 108 yards even without the long score. And yet, he didn't get the game ball from head coach Brian Kelly. That went to the entire offensive line, and Williams said he was just fine with that. The Irish big men up front have come a long way from their struggles in the early part of the season. They paved the way for Williams to run for 199 yards and for the team to run for 293 yards in total. Freshman Logan Diggs compiled 42 yards on 11 carries. Even Coan had 28 yards, 21 of which came on a touchdown run, on three attempts. It looked like the Notre Dame of old, running at will to the tune of 7.0 yards per carry. NOTRE DAME PASSING DEFENSE: C+ This is a passing grade because North Carolina junior quarterback Sam Howell only threw one touchdown pass and was intercepted once as well. It's a less than satisfactory grade because Howell completed 24 of 31 attempts for 341 yards. There were multiple busted coverages. Howell had wide-open receivers to throw to too many times for head coach Brian Kelly's liking. That needs to be fixed by both the players and defen- sive coordinator Marcus Freeman. For the second straight game, an opposing wide receiver reached double digits in receptions. Granted, USC 's Drake London and UNC 's Josh Downs are two of the best receivers in college football. But Notre Dame needs to do a better job of defending the opposition's aerial attack — espe- cially with Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong and the Cavaliers' pass-happy offense looming on the schedule. Getting All-American junior safety Kyle Hamilton back from his knee injury would certainly help, too. NOTRE DAME RUSHING DEFENSE: C- Somehow, some way the Notre Dame rushing defense was a little worse than the passing de- fense. Given the description of the latter's perfor- mance, that's not a good thing for the Irish. Howell ran 18 times for 101 yards. He eluded Notre Dame defenders time and time again in scrambling situa- tions. There was definitely a tackling issue from the Golden Domers. Many of Howell's positive gains could've been stopped in the backfield. North Carolina running backs Ty Chandler and D.J. Jones were let off the hook with missed tack- les, too. Chandler ran 15 times for 83 yards and two touchdowns. Fifty-three of those yards came on a long touchdown run. Jones gashed Notre Dame for 38 yards on five first-half carries. He finished with seven rushes for 39 yards. Notre Dame seemed content at times with a three-man front on the defensive line, and North Carolina exploited it. It wasn't the Irish's finest four hours defensively to say the least. NOTRE DAME SPECIAL TEAMS: B+ Williams' career-long 47-yard punt return will go down as an underrated moment in this game. Notre Dame moved the ball a bit on its first pos- session but did not come away with any points. Williams put the Irish offense in a prime position to make sure it didn't go without points on its second drive. He set his team up on the North Carolina 41-yard line, and the Irish scored just a few minutes later. Graduate student kicker Jonathan Doerer made all three of his field goal attempts. Two of them were chip shots at 20 and 21 yards, and the first was a 31-yarder. Junior punter Jay Bramblett kicked twice with an average of 41.5 yards. Again, it was a relatively quiet night for Notre Dame special teams-wise, but Williams' punt return certainly made a lot of noise. NOTRE DAME COACHING: B The Notre Dame offense has played two really good football games in back-to-back weeks against USC and North Carolina. The defense, not so much. Rees is doing a great job of adapting to what he has. Freeman, not so much. Notre Dame has been outgained in six of eight games this season. In the early part of the year, that was the offense's fault. The last two weeks it's been the defense's fault. Kelly had the team prepared to play from an overall standpoint and Rees game-planned well to beat a middling North Carolina defense, but more needs to come from Freeman's unit. Allowing 564 yards to any opponent isn't going to cut it for a one-loss Notre Dame team that has visions of still only having one loss at the end of the year. REPORT CARD BY TYLER HORKA Freshman wide receiver Lorenzo Styles Jr. led Notre Dame with 74 receiving yards on just three catches. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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