Blue and Gold Illustrated

May 2017 Issue

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

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Page 20 of 63 MAY 2017 21 for us to come out of that tunnel the way it's put together. The new locker room obviously gives you a great feel." Unlike 2016 — when all eyes were on the quarterback battle between De- Shone Kizer and Malik Zaire — this year's Blue-Gold Game did not fea- ture any drama at that vital position. Junior quarterback Brandon Wim- bush went 22-of-32 passing for 303 yards for the Blue team, which fea- tured the first-team offense. Heading into his first season as the starter, Wimbush also threw two intercep- tions and was sacked seven times. He had a one-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. The quarterbacks were in red, non-contact jerseys. "I loved everything that happened to him today," Kelly said of Wim- bush. "He's just wide-eyed, listen- ing, paying attention and just totally committed to the process of getting better. And that's really what I think about more so than trying to label whether they played really well or they didn't play really well." Backup Ian Book, a sophomore, played well in his first spring game, finishing 17-of-22 passing for 277 yards, including a 37-yard touchdown to junior receiver C.J. Sanders versus mainly a reserve defense. It was par for the course for Kelly when asked what he saw from Book in the spring finale. "What we've seen all spring: Con- sistency, throws strikes, rarely misses an open receiver, can see the field very well," Kelly said. "He runs the of- fense very well. "We all came into the spring talking about Brandon Wimbush, and rightly so. The starting quarterback at Notre Dame is a big topic. It's a big story. "But the story beneath the story for me was, 'Who the heck is going to be the No. 2 quarterback?' We've used our No. 2 here quite a bit. Having that No. 2 and seeing him perform the way he has this spring has been one of the big stories. "I thought he would go out and play really well. I'm glad he did." Notre Dame's two junior running backs opened the scoring. Josh Adams of the Blue team scored on a 25-yard run to make it 7-0, then Dexter Wil- liams of the Gold squad answered with a 38-yard run to tie the score at 7-7. Walk-on senior kicker Sam Kohler — filling in for junior Justin Yoon, who is resting his kicking leg this spring — added a pair of field goals from 42 and 46 yards in the first quarter to put the Gold team up 13-7. Sophomore running back Deon McIntosh scored on a two-yard run on the first play of the second quarter to put the Gold team up 20-7. Then with a running clock in the second half, Book's scoring strike to Sanders extended the lead to 27-7. Wimbush's one-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter capped off the scoring. "One thing that I've always wanted to do is create an atmosphere for com- petition," Kelly said. "Guys locked in when they get into the building, really focused on a game-like atmosphere, because it's now no longer practice. "They have got to do what they do as athletes. Their athleticism has to take over in a coordinated pattern with their teaching. "There were a number of guys that understood that message. So that was accomplished today, just by playing the game itself, regardless of the score, regardless of who the playmakers were. Today was for me the next step in the process of total preparation of this football team." While the quarterbacks thrived, they were assisted by Notre Dame's deep corps of receivers. Junior Miles Boykin finished with a game-high 102 yards on five catches. Junior tight end Alizé Mack — who legally changed his last name from Jones for family reasons — re- turned from an academic suspension that held him out all of 2016 and caught five passes for 46 yards. Fourteen players caught passes from Wimbush, Book and third- stringer Montgomery VanGorder, il- lustrating the team's depth. Defensively, sophomore defensive end Daelin Hayes was the star of the show. Consistently a disruptive force off the edge, Hayes posted team highs with seven solo tackles and four stops for lost yardage, includ- ing three sacks (although one was a designed run by the QB). His evolution as a pass rusher is a huge positive for Notre Dame's hopes of an improved defense in 2017. Going up against All-American left tackle Mike McGlinchey through- out the spring has benefited Hayes, a former five-star recruit. "I don't think there was a point where it was overwhelming," said Hayes, who is still awed by the cap- tain's stature. "I've always been a competitor. … It makes me better ev- ery day. You go and do that with a guy like him in practice every day, and when the game scenario comes it's like second nature. "If you can do this in practice, then you can definitely do this whenever." In total, the defense recorded 11 sacks, 18 tackles for loss and two inter- ceptions — one apiece by sophomore safety Jalen Elliott and senior corner- back Nick Watkins — evidence that Junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush led the first-team offense in the Blue-Gold Game, fin- ishing 22-of-32 passing for 303 yards with two interceptions and also rushing for a touchdown. PHOTO BY JOE RAYMOND "JUST BUILDING GOOD HABITS ON A DAY-TO-DAY BASIS IS PROBABLY THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN EVERYTHING THAT WE DO." NOTRE DAME HEAD COACH BRIAN KELLY

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