Blue and Gold Illustrated

December 2021

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

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Page 26 of 47 DECEMBER 2021 27 IRISH COME OUT FIRING IN PASSING GAME Thousands of Notre Dame fans infil- trated Stanford Stadium for the Fight- ing Irish's regular-season finale against the Cardinal. They likely arrived with expectations of watching the Irish run all over a Stanford defense that ranked among the worst in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Instead, they saw an aerial attack from the blue and gold rivaled only by the one put forth in the very first game of the season way back during Labor Day Weekend in Tallahassee, Fla. Graduate student quarterback Jack Coan and the Irish totaled 341 net pass- ing yards to just 129 rushing yards. And despite recent trends reflecting the opposite in those respective statistics, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said that's exactly what he was expecting in what was ultimately a 45-14 victory for the visitors. Kelly said Stanford stayed in as four- man defensive front that allowed Notre Dame to dissect the second level of the defense. It was easy pickings for Coan and company. "They really pressured the run," Kelly said. "They didn't want us to run the football today. I think they felt like this sort of would have gotten out of hand quickly if they stayed in their three- down front." Instead, it got out of hand via Notre Dame's passing game. Coan hit senior wide receiver Kevin Austin Jr. for 33 yards on the first Irish play from scrimmage. That drive was capped by a 16-yard strike from Coan to senior wide receiver Braden Lenzy for the first touchdown of the evening. Austin was a problem for the Stan- ford secondary all game. He caught six passes for 125 yards. It was sophomore tight end Michael Mayer, though, who presented the Cardinal their toughest test of the game. Mayer reeled in all nine of his targets for 105 yards. "We knew they run a ton of man," Mayer said. "I love man. I love running routes against man coverage. I think I said this at the beginning of the year, but I believe nobody can cover me one- on-one, and so that's kind of what we got. We took advantage of it." Mayer broke the Notre Dame single- season record for receptions by a tight end. He caught his 64th pass of the sea- son with his ninth grab of the game. But like it was a team effort for Notre Dame to rack up 341 passing yards against the Cardinal, Mayer gave credit to his team- mates for their help in allowing him to reach his milestone. "[They] open things up for me, which is very unselfish of them," Mayer said. "Jack has done a great job this year get- ting me the ball, and it's been an ac- cumulation of playing of a ton of things this year. This record isn't broken by me, it's by the entire team." Notre Dame threw for at least 300 yards in four games this season; the first two and the last two. There were a whole lot of meager performances in that regard in between. With one last chance to show the College Football Playoff committee that this team is more than just junior run- ning back Kyren Williams and a game managing quarterback, though, the Irish did just that. Coan was as good as he's been this season. Austin looked like an unstop- pable No. 1 wide receiver. Mayer looked like one of the best tight ends in the country. When all those things are true, Notre Dame is hard to stop. Now it's just time to see if the Irish are lucky enough for it to be Georgia or another College Foot- ball Playoff team tasked with stopping the surging Notre Dame offense. MICHAEL MAYER MAKES ROOM FOR GEORGE TAKACS ON RECORD-SETTING DAY On a day of glory and revenge for sophomore tight end Michael Mayer, his senior backup found a way into the plot. Mayer caught a team-high nine passes for 105 yards in Notre Dame's 45- 14 win over Stanford, a dynamic perfor- mance that lifted the Irish's offense and further made mockery of his snub from the list of three John Mackey Award fi- nalists. His final one broke Tyler Eifert's single-season record for catches by an Irish tight end, giving him 64 on the year. It also tied Cole Kmet's single- game record for catches by a tight end as well (nine for 108 yards at Georgia in 2019). Mayer earned the game ball afterward. And yet, when Notre Dame was on the goal line seeking a two-score lead in the second quarter, it looked to little-used tight end George Takacs to deliver it. Takacs didn't miss his chance. STANFORD GAME NOTES BY PATRICK ENGEL AND TYLER HORKA Notre Dame senior wide receiver Kevin Austin Jr. (right) went over 100 receiving yards in a single game for just the second time in his career, reeling in six passes for 125 yards against Stanford. PHOTO BY CHUCK ARAGON

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