Story Poster
Photo by The ACC
Notre Dame Football

Instant Reaction | Notre Dame 31 North Carolina 17

November 27, 2020

The upset special is no longer on the menu. Notre Dame’s defense made sure of that with a performance as good as any that they’ve had during the Brian Kelly era.

It didn’t look pretty after the first couple of drives. Boosted by a short field on the first drive and TaRiq Bracy getting beat twice (on a 50/50 ball in the end zone and deep to the 1-yard line on the second drive), North Carolina rolled in the first quarter to 8.6 yards per play.

This was looking like it was going to be a shootout.

Lea never let it come to that. Even without Kyle Hamilton, his defense got it done by dominating up front. Notre Dame finished with six sacks and held a prolific running game to 87 yards.

Both of UNC’s backs were averaging over 100 per game coming in. Neither one broke 60 tonight and it’s the 15th straight game Notre Dame has not allowed a back to rush for more than 70.

A top-five offense in college football averaged 3.1 YPP in the second half. Sam Howell came in as a potential Heisman contender. He averaged 3.8 yards per attempt after half time.

Did I mention Notre Dame was missing their All-American safety? Because that should have been a big deal. It wasn’t because everyone else picked up the slack.

What a game by the Irish defense. This was a statement and they have earned the respect of anyone who watched.

. - 21.1 % Havoc Rate for the defense. Negative plays were again huge with the sacks a big part of that. Even early in the game, the pass rush was getting to Howell. He was just escaping.

They didn’t let him escape as the game went on and the pressure was constant.

Ade Ogundeji balled out with two sacks and numerous pressures, but his best play of the game came on a running play where he came off of a stunt to catch Javonte Williams on 3rd and 5. That’s the same Javonte Williams who has been a tackle breaking machine all season.

It was truly a team effort getting after Howell, but Marist Liufau deserves to be mentioned for his vicious blitzing. He had 0.5 sacks, but his pressure led to others cleaning up as well.

- UNC was supposed to be the explosive offense and they showed that early with a 26-yard run on the first drive and a 51-yard reception on the second. That was it for big plays from them, though.

Giving up those kinds of plays had been an issue for Notre Dame all year, but the pass rush hitting home helped stop them.

It was the Irish offense that hit more big plays with Javon McKinley having himself another day with 43 and 53-yard receptions, Ian Book running for a 33-yarder on a counter, and Kyren Williams putting the nail in the coffin on the final drive with a 47-yard run.

- Book was not as good as he was against Clemson or Boston College. He went with the vintage version tonight, which was still very good and at times brilliant with his ability to improvise.

That flick to Michael Mayer is going to be remembered by a lot of college football fans and it was the second time he completed one of those in the game!

- There were things that could have resulted in disaster. Fortunately for Notre Dame, they did not.

A couple of those Zeke Correll snaps would have gone poorly without Book’s quick thinking and that miss by Jonathan Doerer did look like it was going to haunt him in a one score game.

But when you consider some of the bad there, it’s impossible not to see the good Correll did for most of his first career start. Josh Lugg had some struggles at times, but he also had to deal with UNC slanting their defensive line all game long.

Notre Dame was also short on the defensive line in this game without Jayson Ademilola and Jacob Lacey. It didn’t stop the defensive line from controlling the game.

Great teams respond well to adversity and I think we have seen enough to say this version of Notre Dame football is a great team.

- North Carolina only reached the red zone twice.

They were a putrid 2 for 11 on 3rd down.

They came in averaging 27.9 1st downs per game. They had 14 compared to Notre Dame’s 25.

They were out-gained by 4.1 YPP in the second half. UNC was lucky this wasn’t a blowout when you look at it from that perspective.

Upset special? Yep, everybody who bet on the Tar Heels must be pretty upset right now.

subscribe Verify your student status
See Subscription Benefits
Trial only available to users who have never subscribed or participated in a previous trial.