Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 27, 2021

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

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Page 20 of 55 NOV. 27, 2021 21 NOTRE DAME PASSING OFFENSE: A+ Graduate student quarterback Jack Coan con- tinued his efficient play by connecting on 15 of 18 throws for 285 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in the first half alone. He picked apart the Yellow Jackets' secondary right from the start, finding senior wide receiver Kevin Austin Jr. open for a 38-yard reception on the first play from scrimmage. Coan went on to complete eight more "explo- sive" pass plays — receptions of 15 or more yards — including a 52-yard touchdown to sophomore tight end Michael Mayer and a 20-yard score to freshman running back Logan Diggs. Austin also hauled in a 51-yard reception to fin- ish with two catches for 89 yards, while Mayer had three grabs for 86 yards. All told, 11 different Irish players logged a reception. The Irish averaged an impressive 11.6 yards per attempt and 16.8 yards per reception. You simply cannot ask for much better than that. NOTRE DAME RUSHING OFFENSE: A The Fighting Irish averaged 208.4 rushing yards per game in their previous five outings and found themselves right around that mark again against the Yellow Jackets. Notre Dame ran for 212 yards, averaging 6.4 yards on 33 carries. With the game quickly getting out of hand, the Irish had the luxury of limiting junior running back Kyren Williams' workload. He actually finished as the team's third-leading rusher with 11 carries for 56 and two touchdowns. Freshman quarterback Tyler Buchner — who had a career-best 68-yard run the first time he touched the ball — led the way with 67 yards on five attempts and freshman Audric Estime came off the bench in the fourth quarter and racked up 61 yards on the first six attempts of his Irish career (10.2 yards per carry). Georgia Tech managed only one tackle for loss on a running play, while the Irish offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage. NOTRE DAME PASSING DEFENSE: A+ With backup signal-caller Jordan Yates getting the start in place of Jeff Sims (foot injury), Notre Dame dialed up a lot of pressure with a great deal of success. The Irish defensive front dominated, registering six sacks for 52 yards in losses while also forcing several errant throws by Yates. On Georgia Tech's first series of the game, junior defensive end Isaiah Foskey beat his man off the edge and was on Yates in a heartbeat. Rather than take a sack, Yates attempted to get rid of the ball but ended up throwing it directly to junior rover Jack Kiser, who returned it 43 yards for a touch- down. In the second quarter Foskey got to Yates again, this time for his team-high 10th sack of the year and forced a fumble that was scooped up by graduate student defensive tackle Myron Tago- vailoa-Amosa and returned 70 yards for a score. Yates finished just 14-of-28 passing for 96 yards, averaging just 3.4 yards per attempt and 6.8 yards per completion. NOTRE DAME RUSHING DEFENSE: A The most dangerous player on the field was second-year running back Jahmyr Gibbs, who en- tered the contest second in the country with an average of 168.0 all-purpose yards per game. He had also recorded at least one play over 50 yards in six straight games. For the second year in a row, though, the Notre Dame defense contained him with great effective- ness. He managed just 58 yards on 12 rushing attempts, which was below his season average of 68.7 rushing yards per game. The Yellow Jackets managed just 128 yards and 3.7 yards per carry as a team. Aside from letting Yates break free for a 54-yard run, plus 17- and 22-yard carries by Gibbs and Dontae Smith, the Irish front was stout. The Yellow Jackets' other 26 non-sack rushing attempts netted them just 87 yards (3.3 per carry). NOTRE DAME SPECIAL TEAMS: A Sophomore running back Chris Tyree got this unit off to an explosive start by returning the open- ing kickoff 51 yards to help set up Notre Dame's first score of the game. In addition, William aver- aged 16.5 yards on his two punt returns. With the exception of a 40-yard kickoff return by Gibbs, the Irish coverage units fared well. The other four kick- off returns averaged just 18.3 yards and the Jackets had zero yards on their one punt return. Junior punter Jay Bramblett didn't have his best day (38.0 average on three kicks), but graduate student kicker Jonathan Doerer converted all five of his extra points and was 2 of 2 on field goals (41 and 26 yards). Finally, Tagovailoa-Amosa added to his memorable day by blocking Georgia Tech kicker Jude Kelley's 47-yard field goal try at the end of the first half to preserve the shutout. NOTRE DAME COACHING: A The Notre Dame staff put together plans on both side of the ball that worked to perfection. The Irish efficiently attacked Georgia Tech's struggling pass defense and still managed a balanced offensive ef- fort with 302 passing yards and 212 on the ground. On the other side of the ball, the Irish did a good job of containing Gibbs while also creating a tremen- dous amount of pressure on Yates. The Irish coaches also did a nice job of emptying their bench, giving hard-working backups such as walk-ons Cole Capen and Connor Ratigan an opportunity to play. A sign of good coaching is continued improve- ment. As Brian Kelly noted in his postgame press conference, the Irish are a better team than they were in September, and they are playing their best football in the stretch run. REPORT CARD BY STEVE DOWNEY Senior wide receiver Kevin Austin Jr. hauled in two receptions for 89 yards, helping fuel an Irish passing attack that racked up 285 yards in the first half alone against the Yellow Jackets. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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