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Irish Avoid Stings from Yellow Jackets

A 31-13 final score was the outcome of Notre Dame’s sixth game and sixth win this season.  It was a matchup in which the Irish were in the driver’s seat for the majority of the game and did what they were supposed to do – beat an inferior opponent.  This was Notre Dame’s second road game in as many weeks and it was a pretty balanced performance all the way around that allowed for the Irish to take the lead and never look back.

Ian Book’s numbers were nothing that jumped off the stat sheet but he was never in a position where he needed to make a big play to change the momentum of the game and I was completely ok with that.  Book finished the game completing 18 of his 26 passing attempts for 199 yards in the air and one touchdown.  He added on another nine carries 46 yards on the ground and was Notre Dame’s fourth leading rusher in Saturday’s contest.  Nearly half of Book’s yards in the air were hauled in by Javon McKinley.  McKinley finished with five catches for 93 yards – that’s an average of over 18 yards per catch!  With a dwindling wide receiving unit, McKinley is undoubtedly one of the most talented Irish receivers and he definitely proved it this past weekend.  Joe Wilkins’ lone catch was Book’s one throwing touchdown as well.  Notre Dame’s ground game was led by Kyren Williams and C’Bo Flemister, both getting 15 carries a piece.  Williams totaled 76 ground yards and two touchdowns while Flemister added 58 yards and a touchdown for himself as well.  With the talent of Notre Dame’s offensive line, it was expected for the Irish backs to assert their dominance, a facet of Notre Dame’s offense that will need to be on their A game for the upcoming battle with Clemson.  One aspect that I have been somewhat surprised about is the lack of involvement of the tight ends in the passing game.  Michael Mayer led the way this week with three catches for 15 yards while Brock Wright and Tommy Tremble each only had one catch for 11 yards.  All three of these tight ends are extremely valuable assets to the Irish offense both in the passing and blocking schemes so I wouldn’t expect such limited production from them in every game remaining on this 2020 schedule.  

On the defensive side of the ball, this was a very typical and stout Notre Dame performance.  The Irish defense held the Yellow Jackets to 13 points and recovered one fumble.  Kyle Hamilton led the way with five tackles while Darlin Hayes followed that up with four of his own.  Georgia Tech was held to only 238 total yards on just over 23 minutes in time of possession.  This was another week in which the Irish defense was unable to come up with an interception, but that shouldn’t overshadow the rest of their performance.  One of the Yellow Jackets’ scores came off a Kyren Williams fumble so this game very well could have been an even bigger scoring difference than what the final showed.  

Granted, it wasn’t a complete blowout but it was the sixth victory on the season and it keeps the winning momentum going into the upcoming showdown with Clemson.  In this past game against Georgia Tech (and throughout all the previous games this season) the Irish have seemed to make a mistake or two that just cannot happen this Saturday against the Tigers.  With the Irish driving down the field against the Yellow Jackets, Kyren Williams’ fumble that was returned for a Georgia Tech touchdown is a perfect example of that.  Yes, Williams was able to bounce back and contribute two touchdowns himself, but those are the type of mistakes that will be amplified against a team like Clemson.  A positive from this week’s game is that Notre Dame dominated the time of possession.  The Irish were on offense for nearly 37 minutes of the game and that directly correlates to rushing yards.  Notre Dame had 227 yards on the ground, moving forward and keeping the clock rolling, while the Yellow Jackets only had 88 rushing yards.  If the Irish want to have any sort of success next week, the ground game is definitely going to be a very key factor.  When Notre Dame can run the ball, that helps open up the passing game, giving Tommy Rees more freedom in calling the plays.  When the Irish can’t run the ball, it forces the offense to rely on the passing game and as we have seen, that hasn’t necessarily been the greatest.  

This win against Georgia Tech was full of positives and, as I mentioned, helped keep the winning momentum going.  It wasn’t perfect but it’s another building block.  Let’s keep the momentum going as we have the biggest game of the season coming up next week!