Notre Dame led 30-7 late in the game, and held off a late rally by Georgia Tech to pick up a huge early season victory over a ranked team. Here are 5 quick takeaways from South Bend tonight...
Brian VanGorder Ate Paul Johnson's Lunch
So much for the Georgia Tech head coach having it out for the Notre Dame defensive coordinator. By the middle of the 4th quarter the Irish had limited the Yellow Jackets to just 7 points and were playing some of the finest option defense I've ever seen from the gold and blue.
The two late touchdowns left a sour taste in our mouth but all is well that ends well, I suppose. Georgia Tech stuffed 122 yards into those 2 final drives. Which means, the Yellow Jackets were in the middle of the 4th quarter with just 215 yards of total offense.
Big props to special assistant Bob Elliott who did whatever he did in the off-season to prepare the defense against this triple option attack. Let's do it again versus Navy!
Justin Thomas Never Got Comfortable
The dynamite Tech quarterback finished the game with 8 completions and, even worse, 27 yards on 11 carries. From the first snap Thomas looked a little hurried on some inaccurate pitches, and rarely had room to run when he kept the ball.
Without Thomas being a difference maker the Tech offense couldn't get going. Most importantly, Thomas being uncomfortable led to the outside pitch game being inconsistent and too many gives to the fullback Patrick Skov who was corralled for only 66 yards on 18 carries.
The B-Back got nearly 40% of Georgia Tech carries which probably wasn't part of the gameplan with Justin Thomas at quarterback.
Kizer & Co. Stepped Up on Offense
Things were a little shaky at times. An end zone interception on a fade pass. A fumble by Alize Jones that could have severely changed momentum into halftime. Some inconsistency on the offensive line and 4(!!) penalties by Ronnie Stanley. At least 3 crucial drops by Irish receivers. Only 4 conversions on third down.
But, the Irish offense did enough to pull away from Georgia Tech. Kizer played well in his first start finishing 21/30 for 242 yards, 1 touchdown, and the aforementioned interception. He didn't look overwhelmed in the least bit and had very good control of the offense for such an inexperienced player.
Once again, two big-time playmakers made a difference for Notre Dame as C.J. Prosise continued his ridiculous start (22 carries, 198 yards, 3 touchdowns) and Will Fuller (6 receptions, 131 yards, 1 TD) burned Tech with long scores.
Bad Day For Kickers
Special teams quietly played a role in this win. Justin Yoon missed an extra point but did come back and nail his only field goal attempt. Georgia Tech's kicker missed 2 field goals and it clearly affected their offensive mindset once they entered Notre Dame territory.
The winds were swirling inside the bowl and there were a total of 6 punts from each side that didn't go 40 yards apiece. In the end, Notre Dame played well enough where the game didn't need to come down to a field goal.
Brian Kelly Put a Feather in His Cap
What a win!
Admittedly, I wasn't very high on Notre Dame's chances this week and they went out and put together a hell of a gameplan and effort in a situation that needed them to overcome so much injury adversity.
I'm completely fine with heaping a ton of praise on everyone around the program right now. This game had the chance to see so much negativity envelop campus--Kizer could have struggled, BVG could have been all but run out of town with a bad performance, and the future could have looked awfully bleak with a 3-game stretch featuring Clemson, Navy, and USC in a couple weeks.
Now, the team made a statement with a ranked win and *should* move to 4-0 after hosting UMass next weekend. Everyone always asks where this program should be in Year 6 of the Brian Kelly era. Well, after today the Fighting Irish are in the playoff hunt and pushing towards the top 5 in the polls.