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Kelly Leaves for LSU – What’s Next for the Irish?

By Michael Cannon |

Saturday’s 45-14 victory over Stanford marked Notre Dame’s 11th win of the season; another rather dominant performance on both sides of the ball.  Quarterback Jack Coan passed for over 300 yards for the first time since September […]

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Irish Head to The Farm with Playoff Hopes in Mind

By Michael Cannon |

Saturday’s dominating 55-0 win over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets marked the tenth win for the Fighting Irish. This is Brian Kelly’s fifth season in a row with 10 plus wins, and as of now, the Irish are one of two Division 1 programs to have at least 10 wins every year since 2017, the other being Alabama. The game was never in doubt with the Irish dominating both sides of the ball from the opening kick. Sure, the first drive only ended in a field goal, but after that the Irish put up another three touchdowns in the first quarter alone. It was a well-rounded performance, dominant enough to allow for a good deal of Notre Dame players to get action on the field. 

Starting quarterback Jack Coan finished the game completing 15 of his 20 pass attempts for 285 yards and two touchdowns – all in the first half. Coan did lead the first drive for the Irish in the third quarter but then was relieved of his duties for Freshman quarterback Tyler Buchner. Buchner was only able to complete three of his six passing attempts but tallied up another 67 yards on the ground. The three-headed monster at running back, consisting of Kyren Williams, Logan Diggs, and Audric Estime, was a sight to see. Williams was responsible for 11 carries totaling 56 yards and two touchdowns, but Diggs and Estime showed a lot of promise for the future of the Notre Dame ground game. Showing a lot of emotion post-game, it seems relatively safe to assume that that was the last game that we as Irish fans will get to see Williams in Notre Dame Stadium as an early exit to the NFL draft is likely for this stud running back. The Irish passing attack was extremely spread out as well with 11 players getting at least one reception. Williams led the way in targets with four, while Kevin Austin Jr. and Michael Mayer each added on 89 and 86 yards respectively. It was a pleasant sight to see Mayer get involved with the passing game again, as he has flown relatively under the radar in Notre Dame’s previous few outings.

Bo Bauer, once again, led the way in tackles for the Irish defense, finishing the game with five, but Isaiah Foskey was undoubtedly the hero on this side of the ball. Foskey forced two turnovers, leading to a Jack Kiser interception and a Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa scoop and score. The Irish finished the game leading in all major statistical categories – total yards, passing yards, rushing yards, and yards per play.

This Saturday will mark Notre Dame’s final game of the regular season as the Irish travel to Palo Alto to take on the 3-8 Stanford Cardinal. With a very unintimidating record, it seems as though Stanford always raises to the occasion and gives the Irish fits, especially when playing in Stanford Stadium. The Cardinal are coming off a 41-11 loss to California, but do have an impressive, come from behind, overtime win over the then 3rd ranked Oregon Ducks. Surprisingly though, that was the last game that the Cardinal have won, coming back on October 2nd. Since then, Stanford has given up an average of 35 points per game while only scoring an average of just over 14. 

The Cardinal are led by Sophomore quarterback Tanner McKee, who had his first game back after a leg injury, this past weekend against Cal. McKee has put up middle of the pack stats throughout this 2021 campaign, throwing 14 touchdowns but adding in seven interceptions along the way in the nine games that he has appeared in. Stanford’s leading rushers, Nathanial Peat and Austin Jones, have combined to put up 744 yards on the ground; that’s 184 yards less than Kyren Williams has alone. The Cardinal passing game has been more productive and efficient with tight end Benjamin Yurosek and wide receiver Elijah Higgins leading the way. Yurosek has hauled in 566 yards through the air with two touchdowns while Higgins has added 491 air yards and four touchdowns himself.

On the other side of the ball, the Stanford defense has put up a team total of 14 sacks and five interceptions on the year, two of which coming from cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly. Although the Cardinal was able to put up an impressive performance against Oregon, the remainder of their season has been less than stellar. With the way the Irish have been playing in recent games, a similar approach as to that taken against Georgia Tech, should yield a comparable outcome. If the Irish can break a few big plays on the ground, I don’t expect this game to be close.  Notre Dame has outscored their opponents 117-9 in their last three contests, and I expect the offensive production to continue. The defense has been firing on all cylinders and I would be shocked if there was a letdown during the last game of the regular season. Notre Dame is entering this final matchup as a 19 (or so) point favorite, a similar spread as to what was given for Georgia Tech. Although Stanford always finds a way to put up a fight against the Irish, Notre Dame’s continual improvements and overall higher level of talent should, yet again, prevail. I’m predicting Notre Dame to improve to 11-1 with a final score of 42-13.

A Look at Notre Dame’s Opponents:

Florida State: 5-6 overall, beat Boston College 26-23

Toledo: 6-5 overall, beat Ohio 35-23

Purdue: 7-4 overall, beat Northwestern 32-14

Wisconsin: 8-3 overall, beat Nebraska 35-28

Cincinnati: 11-0 overall, beat SMU 48-14

Virginia Tech: 5-6 overall, lost to Miami (FL) 38-26

USC: 4-6 overall, lost to UCLA 62-33

North Carolina: 6-5 overall, beat Wofford 34-14

Navy: 2-8 overall, lost to East Carolina 38-35

Virginia: 6-5 overall, lost to Pittsburgh 48-38

Georgia Tech: 3-8 overall, lost to Notre Dame 55-0

Stanford: 3-8 overall, lost to California 41-11

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Cold Weather Brings (Yellow) Jackets to South Bend

By Michael Cannon |

Saturday’s 28-3 routing of Virginia marked the ninth win for the Fighting Irish in a rather boring contest.  With the Cavaliers’ starting quarterback, Brennan Armstrong, ruled out due to the nagging rib injury, Virginia’s highly potent offense looked pedestrian at best.  For the second week in a row, Notre Dame’s defense did not give up a touchdown and the offense, without putting up any crazy numbers, did more than enough to take care of business.  This Notre Dame team seems to be finding its groove, getting better each week while still getting significant reps to the younger playmakers; something that bodes well for the future of the Irish.

Although the Cavaliers’ time of possession was greater than that of the Irish, Notre Dame’s drives were significantly more efficient.  The rotation of Coan and Buchner was on display again, Coan completing 15 of his 20 passing attempts for 132 yards in the air and three touchdowns, while Buchner tacked on another three completions for 42 yards with another 10 yards coming on the ground.  Kyren Williams continues to be an absolute blast to watch, putting up 70 yards on his 14 carries; and as mentioned with the Irish getting reps to the underclassmen, freshman running back Logan Diggs added nine carries for 64 yards – and an impressive “Dukes of Hazzard-esque” hurdle slide right over a Virginia defender.  Michael Mayer, Kevin Austin Jr., and Braden Lenzy all tacked on receiving touchdown as well. 

Defensively, Bo Bauer led the Irish with nine total tackles, while the Irish put up seven sacks, two interceptions, and one fumble recovery as a unit.  Notre Dame’s defensive line continues to wreak havoc in the opponent’s backfield, setting the foundation for this defensive success.  Although the 28-3 outcome is nothing to be disappointed about as a Notre Dame fan, this game felt like it very easily could have been a 42-3 outcome.  Should the Irish have put up more “style points” for the College Football Playoff Committee?  That’s a question that I will leave for you to debate, but either way, the Irish were able to improve to 9-1 on the year and come out of Charlottesville without any other significant injuries along the way.

 For the fifth season in a row, the Irish will be going for 10+ wins, an accomplishment that should not be overlooked.  Brian Kelly has set this program up for success and the only thing standing in the way of accomplishing this tenth win is the 3-7 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.  The Irish are coming into Saturday’s matchup as just over a two-touchdown favorite, with the Yellow Jackets giving up right around 30 points per game.  Georgia Tech will be searching for their first win since an early October matchup against Duke, a contest in which the Yellow Jackets won 31-27. 

Georgia Tech is usually led by sophomore quarterback Jeff Sims who is not afraid to pick up yardage with both his arm and his legs.  Sims has tallied up just shy of 1500 yards through the air this year and is the Yellow Jackets’ second leading rusher with another 372 yards on the ground.  To go along with Sims, another freshman running back, Jahmyr Gibbs, is not only the Jackets’ leading rusher – with 687 yards on the ground – but also their leading receiver with 469 yards through the air.  Gibbs is a dynamic playmaker that is responsible for a lot of production on the offensive side of the ball for Georgia Tech, leading the nation in all-purpose yards.  With that being said, Sims’ recent struggles will most likely mean that redshirt freshman quarterback Jordan Yates will either get the start or significant minutes against the Irish.  The Yellow Jackets’ offensive line has been shaky, and I expect the continually improving Irish defense to rack up another impressive performance this weekend.   

What would constitute success this weekend for the Irish?  In addition to the tenth win of the season, I would love to see Tyler Buchner get more playing time.  With Georgia Tech and Stanford remaining on Notre Dame’s schedule for this regular season, it’s time to give Buchner multiple drives, allow him to get in a rhythm, and continue to develop rapport with the “ones”, getting a jump start for next season.  I expect this game to go similarly to that of this past week, the Irish are the more talented team and need to go out and take care of business (without suffering any other major injuries, fingers crossed).  As long as the Irish play to their potential, there is no reason that this game should be close.  I’m predicting a 38-10 Notre Dame victory to wrap up the regular season at home and send the Irish seniors out with one more W in Notre Dame Stadium.  Go Irish.  Beat Yellow Jackets.

A Look at Notre Dame’s Opponents:

Florida State: 4-6 overall, beat Miami (FL) 31-28

Toledo: 6-5 overall, beat Ohio 35-23

Purdue: 6-4 overall, lost to Ohio State 59-31

Wisconsin: 7-3 overall, beat Northwestern 35-7

Cincinnati: 10-0 overall, beat South Florida 45-28

Virginia Tech: 5-5 overall, beat Duke 48-17

USC: 4-5 overall, coming off bye week 

North Carolina: 5-5 overall, lost to Pittsburgh 30-23 (OT)

Navy: 2-7 overall, coming off bye week

Virginia: 6-4 overall, lost to Notre Dame 28-3

Georgia Tech: 3-7 overall, lost to Boston College 41-30

Stanford: 3-7 overall, lost to Oregon State 35-14

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QB Questions Complicate Cavs’ Game Plan – Notre Dame vs. UVA Preview

By Michael Cannon |

After one of, if not the, most dominant performance by Notre Dame’s defensive line, the Irish improved to 8-1 overall with a win over the Navy Midshipmen and moved up to number nine in the College Football Playoff rankings.  The Irish held the Midshipmen out of the endzone for the entirety of the game to complete a 34-6 routing.  

For the Irish, Jack Coan finished the game completing 23 of his 29 passing attempts for 269 yards and one touchdown through the air.  Six of those 23 completions went to Kevin Austin Jr. who totaled 139 yards through the air.  Kyren Williams continues to impress on the ground, adding in 17 carries for 95 yards and two rushing touchdowns.  If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times – Williams may be one of the most impressive running backs in the Brian Kelly era.  Unfortunately, everything wasn’t sunshine and rainbows for the dominant Irish offense this past week.  On one of Kyren Williams’ touchdown runs, Avery Davis went down with a non-contact injury that was later confirmed to be an ACL team.  Davis will have to miss the remainder of the season – a big loss for Notre Dame’s offense as the Irish are now down to only five scholarship wide receivers.  The loss of Davis will mean more expanded roles for freshman wide receivers Lorenzo Styles Jr. and Deion Colzie.  

Defensively, as mentioned at the top, the dominance for the Irish started up front.  Defensive lineman Kurt Hinish led the way for the Irish racking up 10 total tackles and one sack.  This was probably Hinish’s best game of the year, and it felt like he was living in the backfield for majority of the game.  I was extremely impressed with the execution of Marcus Freeman’s defensive scheme – no matter what an opponent’s record is, it’s impressive to not give up a single touchdown in a collegiate football game.    

After taking care of business against the ground and pound triple option run by the Midshipmen, the Irish look to change gears and hone in on the dynamic offense that the Cavaliers of Virginia will bring to the contest.  Virginia comes in with a 6-3 record but a great deal of questions surrounding the availability of their starting quarterback, Brennan Armstrong.  The Cavaliers are coming off a bye week, but prior to that, Armstrong took a big shot against BYU resulting in a rather significant rib injury.  His status remains a “game time decision” but would be a huge blow for Virginia if he cannot play.  Just how big, you may ask?  Well, Armstrong has 406 passing attempts on the year, the next closest quarterback on the Cavaliers roster is Jay Woolfolk who has a total of six.  Armstrong is also Virginia’s second leading rusher on the season and has accounted for seven rushing touchdowns through the Cavaliers’ first nine games.  

Other Virginia players to keep an eye out for are senior running back Wayne Taulapapa who has been averaging over five yards per carry.  The Cavaliers have a plethora of playmakers at the wide receiver position as well, led by Sophomore Dontayvion Wicks.  Wicks has hauled in 42 receptions through nine games for 972 yards and nine touchdowns.  Yes, that’s an average of just over 23 yards per catch.  To go along with Wicks, Virginia trots out Keytaon Thompson at what might be the most unique position I have seen – “FBP”. Thompson is listed as a “football player”; technically a quarterback but has also seen 32 carries at running back and 51 receptions at wide receiver.  A unique skillset to say the least. 

I look at Virginia similar to North Carolina – a good football team that has quite a few playmakers at the skill positions and a dynamic quarterback.  The unique position that Virginia is in however, is that they have the chance to win the ACC Coastal division regardless of the outcome against the Irish.  With Armstrong potentially being less than 100%, is it worth rushing him back for what is essentially a “meaningless” game in the grand scheme of things?  That is the question that Cavaliers head coach Bronco Mendenhall will have to answer.  

For the Irish to have success, I think it comes down simply to building on the performances that they have put out in the last three to five games.  There have been major improvements on both sides of the ball as this season has developed and it’s time to continue to take another step forward.  The Cavaliers pose the biggest threat remaining on Notre Dame’s schedule and will be featured in another primetime matchup.  The Irish are currently 5.5 point favorites and I think the final score will be very reliant on whether or not Armstrong plays for the Cavaliers.  With Armstrong in the game, I think the Irish will win 38-31; if Armstrong is not able to go, I think the margin of victory will be much bigger.  Go Irish.  Beat Cavaliers.

A Look at Notre Dame’s Opponents: 

Florida State: 3-6 overall, lost to NC State 28-14

Toledo: 4-5 overall, lost to Eastern Michigan 52-49 (playing Bowling Green on 11/10/21)

Purdue: 6-3 overall, beat Michigan State 40-29

Wisconsin: 6-3 overall, beat Rutgers 52-3

Cincinnati: 9-0 overall, beat Tulsa 28-20

Virginia Tech: 4-5 overall, lost to Boston College 17-3

USC: 4-5 overall, lost to Arizona State 31-16

North Carolina: 5-4 overall, beat Wake Forest 58-55

Navy: 2-7 overall, lost to Notre Dame 34-6

Virginia: 6-3 overall, coming off bye week

Georgia Tech: 3-6 overall, lost to Miami (FL) 33-30

Stanford: 3-6 overall, lost to Utah 52-7         

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