It's a dangerous position to be in for fans of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. A big road win early in the season, and suddenly everyone want to throw out the carpet for the homecoming of championship level football.
That's a sobering statement, but I'm not here to discourage - I'm here to encourage.
Notre Dame is winning football games again the way that they normally do when they are good. The Irish are running the football and playing strong defensively. It's not rocket science, but it has been difficult to do in recent years.
Against the Spartans, Notre Dame ran the ball 40 times. 29 of those carries came from three different Irish backs; Josh Adams, Dexter Williams, and Deon McIntosh. They combined for 131 yards and two touchdowns while averaging 4.5 yards per carry. They ran tough all night, and fought for every inch in front of their facemask.
Dexter Williams even made a splash in the passing game with a really nice 8 yard touchdown reception.
What goes well with a strong rushing attack? Defense, duh.
Notre Dame brought that as well. Let's go down a quick list of what the defense did on Saturday night:
- 3 turnovers
- A pick 6
- 2 sacks
- 5 quarterback hurries
- 3 pass breakups
- 18 points (8 came with 3 minutes left aka garbage time)
The Irish did give up about 496 yards... but who's really counting when you keep taking the ball away?
Notre Dame still didn't allow a 100 yard rusher, and didn't allow a rushing touchdown. In fact, the Irish have only allowed ONE rushing touchdown all season.
I feel like I'm talking myself into a WE'RE BACK, but I'm staying grounded here.
The Irish are 3-1 and Saturday night's score of 38-18 is just about the exact average for Notre Dame games this season. The lone loss of course was that 20-19 heartbreaker to what appears to be a ROLLING Georgia Bulldogs team that will be in the Top 10 come Sunday.
It's a great start. It's good enough that we need to really put the Brian Kelly hot seat talk to bed, and focus on the changes that we are seeing in the program with Brian Kelly 2.0.
The stuff is working. Notre Dame is playing a physical brand of football that we haven't seen in a long time, and they look stronger in the second half. WHAT SORCERY IS THIS?
It looks great, feels great, and has fans feeling pretty damn good too... but we are only a quarter of the way into the season. I think we finally have a firm grasp on what kind of team this is, but there still remains a handful of tough obstacles in front of the Irish.
If Notre Dame can continue to keep playing this style of football, words like New Year's Day, Playoff, and LEGIT will be more real than any kind of "we're back" talk can come close to right now.
The Irish aren't back, but they are moving down the right path towards saying that with enough truth to back it up completely. I'm not sure if that is this year, or next year, but it's moving and I'm skipping along with them.