Another win in the books for the now fourth ranked Irish; it wasn’t pretty but after an extended break, there was some rust that needed to be shook off. A couple of hiccups, including a fumble, a muffed punt, and a less than stellar defensive performance may have taken the majority of the attention, but a win is a win and it has helped propel the Irish into the A.P. top four.
This game left me with some mixed emotions if we’re being completely honest. On the positive side of things, I was thoroughly impressed with the play of Ian Book. He looked to be back to his old ways of getting the ball out of his hands quickly and trusting his initial reads. Book finished the game completing 16 of his 25 passing attempts for 201 yards, two touchdowns, and zero interceptions. Javon McKinley was Book’s favorite target, hauling in five catches for 107 yards while Braden Lenzy and Michael Mayer were the recipients of the two receiving touchdowns. This was a real break out game for McKinley who showed flashes of his abilities last season and who I expect to continue to be a prominent force in the Irish receiving game. In his return, Kevin Austin did not bring in a reception and played less that initially expected but will most likely see more and more playing time as the season progresses. Offensively, two Notre Dame mistakes allowed for Florida State to put more points on the board than what they should have. A Kyren Williams fumble and a Lawrence Keys muffed punt both turned into scoring opportunities for the Seminoles, making the game a lot closer than what it should have been.
Other than the Williams fumble, a blunder that he was able to bounce back from, the Irish ground game racked up 353 yards and an additional four touchdowns on Saturday. Williams led the way 19 carries, 185 yards, and two touchdowns, followed by Chris Tyree who got 11 carries, 103 yards, and one touchdown. Two 100+ yard rushers in one game is the mark of a rather dominant performance, something that can be attributed to the talent of the Irish backfield and the production of the stellar offensive line. I would like to give some special recognition to Irish offensive lineman Liam Eichenberg who suffered an eye injury, yet still managed to get back on the field with a completely swollen shut left eye. It was thanks to the N.D. offensive line that paved the way for the success seen on the field.
Defensively, Notre Dame was able to get into the backfield and ended up totaling four more sacks against Florida State, but in my opinion, they could have had even more if it wasn’t for a few missed tackles. TaRiq Bracy and Kyle Hamilton led the way for the Irish, both responsible for eight tackles a piece while Ade Ogundeji was in the backfield for two of the Irish’s four sacks. Granted, some of the Seminoles points came off Irish turnovers, but there were two key points that are worth mentioning on the defensive side of the ball for the Irish: the injury to linebacker Paul Moala, and the fact that Florida State came right out of the second half and marched down the field to score. Moala, a junior out of close by Mishawaka, Indiana suffered an achilles injury that will most likely sideline him for the rest of the season. Secondly, Clark Lea’s defenses have been known to make outstanding halftime adjustments. The fact that the Seminoles were able to score on their first drive out of halftime was a slight cause for concern, but in the long run, those were the only points that Florida State scored in the entire second half, so I can’t complain too much.
After coming off an extended break due to the bye week and a Covid outbreak, the Irish were able to shake off the rust and come away with a 16 point win. Although not covering the three touchdown spread, I don’t think this game should be the cause for concern amongst the fan base. Ian Book’s play and the confidence he showed in the passing game was a big positive takeaway in my mind and something that I hope he is able to build upon throughout the remainder of the season. If he is able to do so, I expect the Irish to be able to put up similar scoring totals against the majority of our remaining ACC schedule. Giving credit to Florida State for putting up 26 points against a Clark Lea defense, I think this was more of an anomaly as opposed to the usual expected performance. Yes, the Irish held a scrimmage game just about a week before hosting the Seminoles as a way to get back to seeing game speed, but after an extended layoff, there are certain aspects that simply can’t be simulated in practice. I think this was a good performance and test for the Irish to get back into the swing of their season and a game in which they can build upon heading into another ACC matchup with Louisville. The Irish are 3-0 and fourth in the nation!