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Notre Dame Football: The Syracuse Hangover

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How was anyone worried about a fruit? Notre Dame OWNS citrus in 2018.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Notre Dame Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

I suppose most people are still in a little bit of shock after the 36-3 pounding the Notre Dame Fighting Irish put on the Syracuse Orange. I mean — I’m still a little shocked, and I was the guy saying all week that the notion that Notre Dame was going to have to score a lot of points was complete BS.

So Notre Dame is 11-0 and ready to hit the next level by making the college football playoff, but before we can move on to the next party... we have a hangover to deal with.

THE RUNNING GAME IS A PUZZLE BUT A BEAUTIFUL PUZZLE

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Notre Dame Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

For most of the game, I had a lot of rage towards the Notre Dame running game. Things looked “off” and mostly it had to do with the offensive line. There seemed to be little push coming from the Notre Dame big bodies, and they were getting blown off the ball by the Syracuse defensive line. Throw in some timing issues at the mesh point, and everything looked out of sync.

Chip Long and Notre Dame stuck with the run though, and didn’t abandon it completely. In doing so, they were still able end the game with a respectable 171 yards on the ground. 32 of those yards came on a Dexter Williams touchdown run in the 4th quarter (a run that came from a direct handoff that initially had Wimbush under center). That touchdown run came shortly after a 35 yard run from Brandon Wimbush. That means that up until about 6 minutes left in the game, Notre Dame only had about 103 yards rushing.

The running game wasn’t perfect on Saturday, but the running game set up everything the Irish wanted to do, and they still put up 36 points. Had it been working a little bit better, Notre Dame would have won the game by 50.

THE PERFECT PLAY

Notre Dame ran a fullback counter trap for a touchdown — AND OH MY GOD IT WAS AWESOME. Chip Long did a lot of different things in this game, but this play was a thing of beauty. Dexter Williams lined up as the tailback with Jafar Armstrong as an offset fullback and Ian Book under center. It’s a classic play from a bygone era, and it worked to perfection.

RUNNING BACKS IN THE PASSING GAME

Real quick... LET’S TALK MORE ABOUT THE RUNNING BACKS! There were two plays of note in the passing game that involved the running backs, and they came on the same touchdown drive.

  • The first was a 19 yard pass to Tony Jones Jr. The significance was what the play actually was. It was essentially the old Holtz 300 fullback dump that worked great with guys like Jerome Bettis and Marc Edwards. The fact that this is a part of the arsenal for Notre Dame now is pretty exciting because of the plays ability to draw the safeties down if they try to sit on it. SWOON!
  • The second was the TD. It was just a good old running back angle pattern — but it was to Dexter Williams in a bit of traffic. Williams has long been criticized for his receiving skills, and yet he looked every bit the part in this play as he caught it and drove into the endzone for the score.

These are added dimensions needed for the postseason, and at worst, they make the defense prepare for it during game week.

CAN WE GIVE SOME LOVE TO TERRY JOSEPH?

There has been a ton of praise sent towards Notre Dame defensive coordinator Clark Lea — and rightfully so. The Irish defense has been really good this season, and after the departure of Mike Elko, many wondered if that would ever be the case in 2018.

But for all the press the defensive line has been getting, Clark Lea’s rise to power, the great linebackers, and Julian Love All-American... it’s been the improved Notre Dame safety play that has been one of the biggest difference makers this season.

Obviously, Alohi Gilman has made a huge impact in his first year as a player for the Irish, but Jalen Elliott wasn’t supposed to play this well. Hell... most of us didn’t even have him penciled in as a starter for the entire season.

Gilman has been amazing, and I am in no way diminishing that fact, but Jalen Elliott is making the same type of impact because of how much he’s improved. A ton of that improvement should be attributed to new Safeties coach, Terry Joseph (who replaced Mike Elko in this manner).

Joseph has been one of the more underrated hires by Notre Dame over the last couple of years... just wanted to say that I’ve noticed and I’m in love.

SO UHH... BRANDON WIMBUSH

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Notre Dame Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

I think Philip is planning something specific about Brandon this week, so I won’t go off with my new theory just yet — but it’s good. it might be pure fantasy — but it’s good.

At the very LEAST the inclusion of Brandon Wimbush at running back is going to force the USC Trojans to prepare for it, as will any Irish opponent in the playoffs postseason. Brandon came to Brian Kelly and Chip Long and said he wanted to get more involved. It sounds like Brandon’s involvement (according to BK on Sunday) is still evolving. This could be a pretty exciting twist as we near the end of the season.

Could this new role have any effect on Wimbush after the season is over and he plans on what to do with his final year of eligibility? I’m sure it will, but I have ZERO idea on exactly how much.

MOVING FORWARD

Look, the Notre Dame defense held an offense that was scoring about 45 points per game to 3 points (and that was just a cheap FG against backups to avoid a shutout). These guys are playing fast, mean, and incredibly smart.

that’s all incredibly important as the Irish head to L.A. to take on the USC Trojans. Southern Cal is ranked 93rd in total offense (377 ypg) and is ranked 82nd in scoring offense (26.9 ppg). Meanwhile, the Irish are ranked 20th in total defense (320 ypg) and is ranked 15th in scoring defense (17.3 ppg).

Defense travels and Notre Dame is going to murder Southern Cal the end.