Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 6, 2021

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

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Page 26 of 63 NOV. 6, 2021 27 KYREN WILLIAMS' IMPROBABLE TOUCHDOWN RUN PROVES TO BE THE DIFFERENCE The first contact with a North Caro- lina defensive lineman came at his own 5-yard line. Notre Dame junior running back Kyren Williams was 95 yards away from the goal line. Heck, he was four yards behind the line of scrimmage. Most running backs in college football would have been pleased with just getting back to where the play started. But Williams isn't like most running backs in college football. The play was busted. Broken. Not go- ing anywhere. "We were running duo, double team on the play side," Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said. "They ran a swarm to the front side." That's football lingo for, "Uh-Oh. There's not much to work with here." Williams ducked and stepped back- ward to evade the initial push from the Tar Heels defense, putting himself at risk of losing even more yards. He turned to his left, and that's when the outlook of the play that proved most pivotal in Notre Dame's 44-34 victory over North Carolina tilted in the ball carrier's favor. "He bounced it back and just made something out of nothing," Kelly said. Williams planted UNC senior line- backer Tomon Fox into the turf at the 4-yard line with a stiff-arm that was equal parts powerfully strong and mind-numbingly nimble. That's when more than 70,000 people inside Notre Dame Stadium collectively oohed and awed. And that's when Williams knew it was all over. "I knew I was going to score as soon as I stiff-armed No. 12," Williams said. Williams got to a straight-line, full steam ahead running lane near the line of scrimmage. A handful of North Caro- lina defensive players were still in posi- tion to make a tackle as Williams darted down the sideline. Sophomore tight end Michael Mayer bulldozed one with a key block. Senior wide receiver Kevin Aus- tin Jr. took care of another. Suddenly, it was just Williams and a trio of Tar Heels hot on his heels. He probably didn't need any more help. He looked more than capable of outrunning everyone from there. Graduate student wide receiver Avery Davis, though, came flying in from Williams' right to step in front of the Tar Heel closest to Williams and seal the deal. Davis could have mailed it in him- self and assumed Williams was going to score. He didn't. Williams joked that of all the players still sprinting to finish the play, it was probably Davis who had the best chance of taking him down. "I really thought he was going to tackle me," Williams quipped. Like Mayer and Austin, Davis just wanted to make sure the deed was done. "They're there to catch balls, but when they have to block they're not go- ing to throw a fit about it," Williams said. All the while, graduate student quar- terback Jack Coan watched from several yards behind the play. He didn't think he'd be running down to the other side of the field to congratulate Williams on his improbable 91-yard touchdown. "I couldn't believe it," Coan said. "That was one of the best runs I've seen in person. The look we got from the de- fense, it should have been stopped in the backfield. Somehow he made a play and got around, and he just kept going and going. It was pretty crazy and an unbelievable play." Williams said it felt like he was back in high school with the way he cut across the field and outran everyone. Only this was a prime-time Division I college football game against a Power Five program that started the season ranked No. 10 in the Associated Press poll. Williams gave Notre Dame a 38-27 lead in the first minute of the fourth quarter with the score. That tied the Irish's largest lead in the game to that point. The touchdown didn't win the game. Kelly's team still had some work to do to get to that point. But it sure did put the Irish on a fast track to victory. "That's going to be a net zero gain, and he turns it into a 91-yard run," Kelly said. "Just an incredible individual effort." JACK COAN'S RESURGENCE CONTINUES WITH ANOTHER STRONG START Graduate student quarterback Jack Coan ended Notre Dame's first October game on the bench, watching Cincin- nati stave off a Notre Dame comeback attempt led by his potential replace- ment in a 24-13 victory that snapped the Irish's 26-game home win streak. He was benched again a week later at Virginia Tech. It was natural to wonder if he might ever reclaim his job. Well, how things can change in a month. Coan put a bow on Notre Dame's final October game with some self- deprecating humor after his second straight strong outing. In a 44-34 win over North Carolina, Coan put forth his best start since hanging 366 yards and four touchdowns at Florida State in the opener. He completed 16 of 24 passes for 213 yards with one touchdown through the air, while adding three carries for 28 NORTH CAROLINA GAME NOTES BY PATRICK ENGEL AND TYLER HORKA Williams' 91-yard touchdown run turned a likely tackle for loss into a momentum-swinging play. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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