The Notre Dame Fighting Irish used a combination of a dominant run game and a solid, opportunistic defense to come away with lopsided win over a power five program on the road. Sound familiar? It shouldn’t. It’s this year’s theme.
As with every other game, some stats told the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Others, not so much. Let’s take a look.
Stats That Lie
The Fighting Irish Offense was 5-16 on third down. Ian Book went only 17-31 through the air for 146 yards and two interceptions. The fact that Notre Dame even threw the ball 31 times suggests that maybe things didn’t go swimmingly for the Irish in Chapel Hill Saturday afternoon.
But that wasn’t the case. It turns out that when your outstanding running back stable, behind yet another game in which Josh Adams went over 100 yards in the first half, and with the help of the as-usual outstanding offense line play the way they do, you have room for error. The margin increases when you consider the depletion due to injury on the other side of the ball; the North Carolina Tar Heels were missing what seemed like a million players on defense, and more just kept dropping as the game went on.
341 yards rushing (Adams had 118 on 13 carries and one touchdown, Deon McIntosh led the Irish with 124 on 12 carries, Ian Book added 45 yards on 12 carries, and C.J. Holmes and Tony Jones Jr. chipped in 32 and 31 respectively) affords you the luxury to experiment and open up the play book with a pass-first quarterback making his first start. Thanks to the running game, Ian Book got plenty of chances.
Stat’s That Don’t
Which brings me to my next point. 17/31 for 146 yards isn’t bad given the weather conditions, but two interceptions to one touchdown and a QBR 27.7 tell me all I need to know. Ian Book should not be starting over Brandon Wimbush and you are completely out of your mind if you think otherwise.
Brandon Wimbush’s potential as a passer combined with his current abilities as a runner are going to outweigh Book’s potential as a passer and his limited ability on the ground any day. I think 14 more points against the Tar Heels is the difference between having a healthy Wimbush in the game vs. Book. Simply because, instead of two interceptions, you more than likely have 50-60 more yards on the ground from Wimbush and the opportunity for two more scores. I don’t think you see the pass-heavy play calling in those conditions if Wimbush is your quarterback.
Here’s some more truthful stats: 265 yards of offense. Three turnovers. 13 first downs to Notre Dame’s 27. The North Carolina offense was shut down by an outstanding Notre Dame defensive effort. The defense continues to improve which is yet another luxury that will the passing offense to evolve regardless of who the quarterback moving forward is.