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Notre Dame Football

Instant Reaction | Notre Dame 40 Oregon State 8

December 29, 2023

The spread always seemed off and maybe that scared some people heading into The Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl. Maybe Vegas knew something we didn’t? That tends to be the prevailing thought whenever a line is closer than it should be.

It turns out Vegas didn’t know better. Both Notre Dame and Oregon State had several top players who were injured, transferred, or elected to opt-out of this game, but there is clearly a difference between the two programs when it comes to depth.

That was evident today in a blowout victory with the Irish controlling the game from the start.

Oregon State didn’t convert a 3rd down on offense until the final drive of the game when Notre Dame’s 3rd team defense was on the field. Al Golden’s defense, which was mostly intact from the season, allowed only six first downs and had a havoc rate of 32.3% through three quarters. Then they started the fourth quarter with a safety for good measure.

With a makeshift coaching staff that also experienced opt-outs (a new head coach, new offensive coordinator, and new defensive coordinator), OSU got out-coached as well as out-played on the field. They chose to only call three running plays in the first half and decided to take their chances throwing instead. To call that a poor decision by them would be putting it kindly.

Winning 10 games still means something in college football and the Irish hit that mark in Marcus Freeman’s second season. They did with a lot of young players stepping up as well and that might make this win even sweeter.

- Gino Guidugli didn’t call this game to put it on his reel as a play-caller. At least it didn’t seem that way to me.

I thought he called the type of game that was all about helping his players succeed rather than trying to make the splashy calls that would have people touting him as a genius. He knew he had a young offensive line and a brand new starting quarterback, so he kept it simple and effective.

Notre Dame ran the ball 21 times on first down compared to nine passes. It was mostly inside zone, Duo, and counter trey. Those are the type of bread and butter players that could put Notre Dame into as many positive down and distance situations as possible.

That helped greatly because they didn’t have to ask an inexperienced offensive line to deal with a ton of pressures and simulated pressures on 3rd and long. The Irish had only one 3rd down attempt that was nine yards or longer.

He also did his best to move the pocket and lean into Steve Angeli’s strength of throwing on the move while scheming receivers open with some timely calls as well. That’s a huge reason why Angeli looked so comfortable for the majority of the day and it paid off in a big way with efficient accuracy (78% completions) and very few poor decisions.

- The holes weren’t massive in this game and there were ups and downs for all of the offensive line across the board, but everything works better on offense when skill players are winning one on one battles.

Whether it was Jordan Faison catching a contested ball on a slot fade, he and Jayden Thomas breaking tackles to move the chains after the catch, or Jeremiyah Love and JD Price making defenders miss to maximize yards after contact, great athletes on offense were a huge reason part of the success on offense.

- What an incredible story for Faison to go from “Hey, keep an eye on this walk-on” in camp to winning the MVP of Notre Dame’s bowl game.

The best walk-on turned impact player in the last two decades is Shane Walton. Faison has a long way to go to get to the level Walton did, but it would seem pretty dumb to think Faison couldn’t put himself in that same conversation at some point in time after seeing how quickly he has ascended.

- Oregon State really had no chance on offense all day.

They couldn’t hang up front with three starters out and any 3rd down where the pass rush could get after it was going to be a losing proposition for them.

The tackles couldn’t block Notre Dame’s edges and their center can now join the club with all of the others who had a tough time with Howard Cross lined nose up on him in pass protection. I don’t know what else to say about the Notre Dame defense other than it just kind of seemed unfair to have them against this version of the Oregon State offense rather than the one who had a lot of success this season.

Losing receiver Silas Bolden when they already had so many other losses across the board was more salt in the wound.

- It was great to see Jordan Botelho have a big day and win the Lineman MVP of the game after he’s battled through injuries this season. It seemed both unfortunate and kind of fitting the he came out of the game injured after a big 4th down sack to turn the ball over on downs.

Let’s hope that injury isn’t serious and he’s back at full strength for Notre Dame in 2024.

- If there was a turning point in the game, then it was probably when Josh Burnham blew up the fake punt with a tackle for loss in the second quarter.

If there was an official “It’s over” moment in this game, it was probably when JD Bertrand destroyed the OSU tight end, Burnham did a great job at the point of attack, and Drayk Bowen came in and helped combine with the other two for the safety to put Notre Dame up 26-0.

It’s funny how Burnham somehow seems to show up in these kinds of moments. It doesn’t seem like a coincidence.

- It was a great win with a lot to be excited about leading into the offseason. Faison had over 100-yards receiving, Price had over 100-yards rushing, Angeli did everything he could to show he deserves to compete this spring, and 11 different defenders made a havoc play.

Everyone feels better with a win being the last thing that happened in a season.

I’m thinking about all of that positivity, while also knowing that Jaden Mickey must be feeling a ton of emotions after the game and season were completed. I can’t imagine the strength it takes to play on a day like today after losing his mother to cancer and playing the season knowing what his mother was going through.

My condolences to Mickey and his family in this extremely difficult time for them. I truly hope being around his football family can continue to help him as he grieves.

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