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Notre Dame Football

Three for Monday

September 28, 2020
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The college football season is four weeks into the season and it's a beautiful mess. 

Some teams have played one game while others have played three and Notre Dame folks saw how quickly a game week could change. 

The Irish sit at No. 5 in the AP Poll and it didn't even register excitement from most of the fanbase when Notre Dame jumped up two spots on Sunday. 

We've learned quite a bit in just two games, but it almost feels like the Irish will be starting over if they are able to kickoff against Florida State on October 10th. 

LEARNED 

Tommy Rees will run the ball as the Irish have run 87 times for 459 yards and eight touchdowns in 2020. The Camping World Bowl was a small sample of Rees, but it's clear he values the run game and will be stubborn in doing so. 

Sure, the ratio of run/pass calls might change a little bit more with stiffer competition coming in October, but I think Notre Dame fans can be pleased Rees isn't turning to the Air Raid. 

The second thing we've learned is Clark Lea has cleaned up the run defense. Duke and South Florida aren't top 25 programs, so Lea will continue to improve, but Notre Dame let Louisville and New Mexico run for over 200 rushing yards in the first two games in 2019. 

Notre Dame is giving up 2.8 yards per carry. That can improve to be considered elite, but if Notre Dame holds teams at 3.0 yards per carry, I think everyone would take it. 

LOVE

Heading into the season, we knew the Irish had plenty of talent, but we didn't know if some of the inexperienced players were ready to go. 

Isaiah Foskey, Jack Kiser, Clarence Lewis and Bo Bauer have all turned heads over the first two games along with other players. It speaks volumes to Lea's (and his staff) strength in development and Notre Dame might be a little deeper than expected. 

Not to hype up the run game too much, but you have to love seeing this from Notre Dame's top three rushers. 

Yards per Carry
Kyren Williams: 6.0
C'Bo Flemister: 9.8
Chris Tyree: 6.1

That's consistency from the offensive line and backs making plays. You would like to see the longest run be more than 31 yards (Flemister and Tyree), but I have a feeling that's coming. 

The offensive line has been good for seven quarters along with the tight ends. It's hard not to love what they are doing right now. Pass protection has been solid for the most part and the run game has shredded teams since the third three-and-out in the first quarter of game one. The three and four tight end sets have been classic Rees and enjoyable to see.

LACKLUSTERish

The Irish pass game has left a lot to be desired two games in, but I do think there is a lot of digest here. 

Ian Book needs to be better and he'd be the first one to say it. His stats reflect he's playing well as he's completing 62 percent of his passes for 406 yards with one touchdown and one interception. 

If Book can find a way to take a few more shot plays, it could open up the offense even more. 

The lack of "big" plays is a concern and somewhat expected when looking at things. It's a new receiver corps essentially as Javon McKinley, Avery Davis and Braden Lenzy (one game) are new starters. Joe Wilkins Jr. hasn't played much. Ben Skowronek has played in half a game and Lawrence Keys III has played one game. 

But hey, it can always be worse, right? You could be Oklahoma and see your prize quarterback throw for 487 yards and four touchdowns, but also throw three back-breaking interceptions – and also lose to an average program at best.

It's a mess of inexperience combined with a shortened offseason and no consistent rotation in two games. Kevin Austin Jr. returning to the lineup will give Book a true No. 1 receiver who can win 50/50 balls. Lenzy getting healthy over the two weeks off will also benefit the passing game. I'm not sure Notre Dame wanted to push Lenzy against South Florida after returning from a hamstring injury. I think Jordan Johnson is a name to watch moving forward. You saw why he wasn’t getting game reps with the first team against South Florida, but if he can clean what he needs to up, the Irish could definitely use his playmaking ability. 

The passing game is a concern heading into October and the Irish have one game to figure it out as they'll need it against Lousiville and Pitt. I’d hold out judgment on the passing game for a few more weeks as Austin’s return is key and a consistent rotation of receivers will benefit Book over the randomness of the first two games. 

Also, the more tight ends on the field means it takes away some of Notre Dame’s big-play capability in the pass game. Tommy Tremble and Michael Mayer can make plays in the pass game, but they aren’t going 50 yards to the house in most cases. (They will pound the opponent into the ground) But, I’d like to see where Rees takes the playaction game moving forward (Austin) as it has been successful. 

 
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