There are few places on Earth more breathtaking than God’s Country, Notre Dame.
Yes, that’s absolutely biased, but with the Irish winning the 2017 season opener against Temple, everything has more appeal to it for a Notre Dame Faithful, including myself.
Last year I would do predictions before each game, but clearly that was not a helpful practice as the Fightin’ Irish Football team finished the season at an abysmal 4-8. So this year, I will be doing post-game reviews each week, filling in all of the gaps and whatever else is needed to talk about the season.
The Temple Owls didn’t really step foot into South Bend with much chance to win, it was just a matter of how well Notre Dame would play. From the start, the Irish were favored by more than 10 up until kickoff. Trust me, they covered.
The first drive of the game spelled out how the rest of the game would play out. Heavy, heavy, dosage of run plays. The stable of running backs (Adams, Williams, and Jones Jr.) proved to be the run game that Brian Kelly has been searching for the last few seasons. Adams found the gap and showed off his speed into the end zone on a long run that capped off a 21 point first quarter.
Brandon Wimbush’s debut as the Notre Dame starting QB was good, but not great. But, I’ll sure as hell take that over a Week 1 loss and an awful Wimbush. He showed off his speed and arm, as he ran for 106 yards and a rushing touchdown as well as 184 yards through the air with 2 touchdowns. Seeing him work in person gave more appeal to the new QB of the team. He was composed, calm, and only made one bad throw the entire game, a lone interception. For a QB that had little starting experience prior to this season, I liked what I saw.
The other clear thing in the first half was that the offense is going to be hard to stop- against anyone. The run game was exceptional and the pass game was great. It was evident who Wimbush’s main targets were, Alize Mack and EQ. Other than that, the wide outs will need to step up. Either way, the Owls couldn’t stop the duo of Mack and EQ in the pass game either. The young receivers is an area that the Notre Dame football team will need to get up and running quickly, as they host Georgia this coming Saturday.
Don’t think that Brian Kelly wasn’t up to his same questionable coaching antics though. With under 1 minute to go in the 1st half, Notre Dame had the ball with 3 timeouts. Kelly allowed the clock to run down to 23 seconds before he used his 2nd timeout. Why? Jesus only knows (and i mean that). These decisions are the ones that haunt me when I think about the matchup against quality teams like Georgia coming up in the near future. Missing out on a scoring attempt like that can make or break a game, or Kelly and the Irish’s season.
The second half was much more of the winding down the clock, while still trying to muster up points that almost every team tries, but nobody ever succeeds at. Once again, another great Kelly moment. After a couple of 3- and-out possessions, the offense finally got back on track and moved the ball down the field. The 4th quarter came and the Owls couldn’t stop the second running back Dexter Williams or the 3rd, Tony Jones Jr. Watch out for that dude, as the frosh proved that he deserved to be on the field, even with more minimal plays.
The glaring face looking back at Brian Kelly in the mirror was the defense, as we all expected. Were they better than last year? Yes. Is that saying much from the team that lost to Duke? No. There were some clear factors that were signs of improvement.
The biggest? When mid-1st quarter my lovely girlfriend pointed out to me after a sack, “man, we didn’t see many of those last year did we?” Damn, was she right! Seeing a sack was like seeing Big Foot in the forest. This was a sign, even against a not-so-good Temple team that the Irish CAN bring pressure and CAN tackle a QB. Second, the secondary was able to compete in the passing game. The young corners and safeties of last year are still young, but more experienced. That showed on Saturday as they were able to break up passes and cause enough pressure on opposing wide receivers to limit the deep balls.
Room for improvement? ALWAYS.
There was one area that will HAVE to get better by next Saturday. The run defense. The Temple Owls were able to rush all over the Irish for most of the game, although they couldn’t convert many of these opportunities deep in opposing team’s territory for points. the “D Boyz” will have to be better up front and the linebackers able to tackle early in plays.
NEXT WEEK: GEORGIA at NOTRE DAME
Georgia comes in as the 15th ranked team in the country and the 1st SEC opponent the Irish have faced in a regular season game in a whole lotta’ years. This one will be a tough one. Mr. Chubbs, the running back that everyone remembers, will look to show his prowess as the Notre Dame D looks to prove that they are worth talking about. Although Georgia is favored, it is not by much and the Notre Dame faithful would love nothing more than to see another W in the 2017 season under the lights of Notre Dame Stadium. Additionally, the QB for the Bulldogs is their Freshman backup Jake Fromm, as their starting QB was injured last week.
Prediction? Notre Dame 28, Georgia 24.
I’ll be watching this W from the stands on Saturday. As always,