Notre Dame played the actual game of football today. It was felt that almost everything had been given since Notre Dame had been played in December, but the Irish actually played and improved to 1–0 in conference play, beating Duke 27–13.
Here’s my quick takes from the game.
Michael Mayer is already a friend to Notre Dame Crime
I heard the hype this summer and thought, of course, Michael Mayer might have a role this year, but wow. The nickname “Baby Gronk” seemed quite appropriate when Mayer took a short down at the third end before a pass from Ian Book with a defender essentially on his back and turned it down first. Very few tight ends change that game, let alone boost true confidence.
Meyer was five yards short of the first down when he ran in a pass, broke a tackle, and then made his way for the first time. Play with a true Frosh big time. Meyer made three receptions for 38 yards on three goals in the afternoon. It was just a game, but it’s very easy to see why the staff has been so high on Meyer.
Kayren Williams looks like a stud.
Speaking of studs, how about Karen Williams. In the first start of his career, all but 19 carries were run for 112 yards with two touchdowns, while another on two receptions added 93 yards. He should also have full receiving yards, but Buch was missed on a screen in the third that was easily a 30+ yard play and could also have a 70+ yard touchdown with a blocking set up.
Williams got off to a slow start while the offensive line struggled early, but he showed why he won the job with the kind of vision and patience he faced while backing out of Notre Dame in 2019, his 26 yards touchdown in the third quarter. A prime example was this. Instead of running in line only to try to convert 4th and Short, he bounced the ball out and finished the scoring. No Notre Dame returned to the roster last year.
Struggled with Notre Dame’s offense, but we should have expected it
I admit, I got a bit stuck in Tommy Rees this off-season as an official genius notion and that cloud reduced my judgment a bit. We should expect some clashes from the offense given the lack of spring ball and all of the new weapons – especially with Kevin Austin and Brayden Lenji apparently unavailable.
Nevertheless, one issue that remained on offense that could not be overcome by lack of practice was Ian Book’s initial indecency in the pocket. This is his third year as the starting quarterback. He gained experience so that was a bit worrying. Hopefully, this is not a recurring theme.
On a positive we learned that Meyer and Williams are animals and Chris Tyree’s pace is ad-hoc. This is something Notre Dame can work on until they get Austin and Lenzi back.
Where was Brayden Lemzi?
Notre Dame entered the game with an injury without Kevin Austin as their best wide receiver. He played the game without the second-best wide receiver – and his deepest threat – Braden Lenzi. The reason for Lenzi’s absence is not known. Notre Dame stated that Lenzi was available for the game after the game. However, he did not play.
Reports began to appear before the game that Lenzi was not on the field for a warm-up, but then appeared in uniform during the game. If the reason for his absence was some kind of disciplinary reason, we would likely not get any official confirmation.
Hopefully, it was a matter of a week and Lenzi would return the following week as the Notre Dame offense needed Lenzi’s big capacity today.
Isiah Foskey is also a friend already
I’m not sure why Duke didn’t keep Isaiah Foski blocked, but future Notre Dame opponents should probably account for # 7 on Notre Dame’s defense. Fossey spent much of his day in the Duke backfield, while picking up 1.5 TFL with a sack. Foskey credited the ACC replay crew for the sack as the play was initially ruled an incomplete pass with a deliberate grounding call – meaning there was no difference in the play’s outcome – but he earned it for all time in which He had spent the Duke backfield.
In addition to his 1.5 TFL, he had two other quarterbacks Hurray and a pass breakup. Foskey seems to think that he might suit an Aaron Lynch type of Sampoamour season for the Irish.
Kyle Hamilton’s injury looked back, but it looks minor
The biggest fear on Saturday was Kyle Hamilton. Hamilton rolled in the third quarter and never returned. There are early reports that Hamilton had just sprained his ankle and could potentially return. That said, Hamilton was seen quite fondly on the shore.
Before the injury, Hamilton was his usual disruptive-self. He alone did four tackles on Duke’s first drive and just missed an interception on his second. He looked everywhere on the field, even though you’d think Duke would have coached Chase Bryce to get away from him.
Kurt Hanisch himself did a game
I spent a little time writing this summer about how Jason Edimilola and Jacob Lacey could eventually beat Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa and Kurt Hanisch this season. Weld, Hanisch did not look like a player who challenges his starting spot too soon. Hanisch had two tackles and both were for loss, including a second half sack.
It took a lot of stones to call a fake punt
Notre Dame struggled to move the ball aggressively when Notre Dame called a fake punt on 4 and 8 of its own 21. The Irish were down 3–0 at the time and if they had not changed there, Duke would have had the ball. Major position with a chance to go up two points. Instead, Notre Dame converted and finished that drive with its first touchdown of the year.
Calling that fake at the time took a lot of guts for Brian Kelly and Brian Pollen at that point on the field. It was a big risk / reward game that worked for the Irish. I can only imagine the response of the internet that it did not work, but it worked and helped turn the tide of the game quickly.