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Notre Dame Football

No. 2 Notre Dame puts Heel down, stays perfect

November 27, 2020
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Challenge answered.

Using explosive offense early and overpowering offense late, coupled with three quarters of brilliant defense, No. 2 Notre Dame overpowered No. 19 and host North Carolina, 31-17, Friday afternoon at Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C.

The Fighting Irish (9-0, 8-0) yielded 14 points in the first 12 minutes to the high-flying Tar Heels (6-3, 5-3) and then limited the nation's No. 7 scoring offense among teams with at least five games to a mere three points the final 48 minutes.

“It was outstanding,” Brian Kelly told ABC postgame. “It was kind of like playing triple-option. You're off for 10 days and then the speed of game, you have to get acclimated. Once we were able to get acclimated a little bit, obviously we played very well defensively.

“Again, the physicality started to show itself. Ian Book was outstanding. Wide receivers made plays. We ran the ball late when we had to run the football.”

Book's improvisation, Javon McKinley's big-play abilities in the pass game and a final, soul-crushing drive to secure the game's final score that gnawed most of the final six minutes off the clock catalyzed Notre Dame's nation's-best 15th consecutive win.

Notre Dame had scoring marches of 97 and 89 yards in the second half, the former its longest since two years ago at Virginia Tech and the latter the game's final touchdown. Kyren Williams ignited that drive with a 47-yard run on first down and finished it from a yard out with a plunge into the end zone.

Book twice in the game uncorked under-handed or shovel-style passes to prolong Irish possessions on an afternoon in which the offense looked brilliant on its second, third and final possessions but struggled for consistency in between those marches.

“Uh, it's just trust, honestly,” Book said on TV. “Just the best team, I'm having so much fun. It's a risky play that you don't want to do that a lot. But I trust Mike (Mayer) to get open. It was third down.

“We needed it.”

In addition to Book's offensive engineered, the Notre Dame defense might have played its best three quarters of the Clark Lea era. The Irish defensive coordinator, even after losing star safety Kyle Hamilton to a targeting ejection in the first half, orchestrated an Irish defensive force that allowed 125 yards and two touchdowns on North Carolina's first two possessions; then, the group allowed just 173 yards the remainder of the game.

The Tar Heels also became the latest victim to Notre Dame's unyielding run defense, limited to just 87 net yards after they entered the game with an average of more than 233 yards per game. The Irish amassed six sacks, eight total tackles for losses and held UNC to two-for-12 on third- and fourth-down conversions. The Irish didn't allow either in the second half.

Book finished 23-for-33 for 279 yards and one score, a four-yard pass to Williams on a busted play for Notre Dame's first strike. Book also added 48 rushing yards while Williams topped 100 yards on his late-game 47-yarder that sealed the win. Williams scored three of the Irish's four touchdowns; Ben Skowronek took an end-around and followed masterful blocking from Brock Wright and Tommy Tremble for a 13-yard touchdown.

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah paced the defense with nine tackles. Seven different Irish defenders recorded at least a half-sack; Ade Ogundeji paced the way with two.

 

 
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