Surviving the Weekend
It was far from a pretty day of football for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. In a 19-14 struggle against the Pittsburgh Panthers, the Irish looked little like the team that manhandled both Stanford and Virginia Tech.
But while they struggled, several other teams did as well: Georgia, Washington, West Virginia, Penn State, and Auburn all dropped their respective contests.
And with that, the Irish survived this upset weekend. It was one of the most important weeks for Notre Dame to stay alive, and they did.
It was far from perfect. Pitt stuffed the Irish running game, Ian Book threw two interceptions, and Pitt was allowed to return a kickoff for a touchdown.
But lost amidst a hectic weekend and a near-loss to a lesser team were some positives worth holding onto.
Chase Claypool quietly had a solid outing (5 receptions, 61 yards, ad a touchdown). Fans and coaches alike were waiting to see Claypool make some plays this season, and for the first time this season, he delivered a complete game from top to bottom.
TaRiq Bracy - a true freshman cornerback - also showed out agaisnt Pitt. He came in to replace a struggling Donte Vaughn, and ended as the Irish’s highest graded player on the night according to Pro Football Focus.
Kelly lauded Bracy’s effort in his Sunday Teleconference, “The moment is not too big for him. He’s a level-headed young man... we really like his skill set when the ball is headed downfield.”
There are many more - such as a stout defensive performance, or Ian Book’s completion percentage continuing to be fantastic - but the takeaway from this week is that the Irish kept on winning. In a weekend tabbed by many as being a potential letdown, it was. But if the letdown is still a win, all Notre Dame fans will take that.
The Irish survived; next up: advance.
Other Notes from the Teleconference:
- Injury News: Kelly stated that they escaped Pitt without injury, and that they expect already-injured players Troy Pride and Jafar Armstrong to be back with the team soon.
- Hitting on the state of the team, Kelly said, “Super excited. 7-0 with a very difficult schedule. Beat three Top 25 teams... We can get better. If you asked me about this preseason, I’d be extremely happy and I am now.”
- When asked what was most important for his team this week, Kelly offered, “Probably the mental piece. Physically, we’re in a good place... We also want to start preparing for Navy.”
- Kelly touched on the running game struggle against Pitt: “There were a couple of plays we wish we could have blocked up better. All in all, Pitt’s plan was to exert a lot of pressure on the running game and they left themselves vulnerable in the passing game.”
- Kelly hit on the lack of holding penalties being called, “Today was a little unusual. We sent in twice as many plays as we normally do.”
- Elaborating on the holding penalties and the league’s respons, “It’s been a mixed bag. We get ‘that should have been called’ or ‘it’s a gray area call,’ ...We’ll just keep playing and not complain about it.
- Kelly praised Wimbush’s support for Ian Book, “He’s right next to Ian when he comes off the field, talking to him, he’s been outstanding.”
- On Donte Vaughn and why he was pulled, “They went after him a little bit, and then we moved Julian Love to the boundary and Tariq Bracy was better to work the field. Donte is much better against the run, which is why we made the change.”
- Touching on Navy, Kelly said: “They’ve kind of morphed over the past year in terms of what they are doing, using multiple quarterbacks and going out of the shotgun... We’ll go out tomorrow and the first thing we’ll do is install Navy’s offense... It’s about using this week to get the base looks and keep them up to date with new things.”
- On the kickoff struggles: “Placement hasn’t been where it needs to be. We’re kicking it down the middle of the field, we need to be better with lane distribution and tackling.”
- On Justin Yoon versus Jonathan Doerer for kickoffs, “Justin was a little overworked and we didn’t want to push him. He’ll get some rest and we can then evaluated if giving him both duties is in our best interest.”
- The team will get a good amount of rest, according to Kelly, “They will get Wednesday through Saturday - almost four days off - which is a pretty substantial break for them.”
- Kelly touched on the importance of doing the right things during this later stretch of the season, “We need to stay healthy, continue to grow, and keep playing, prepare the right way, and see how it plays out.”