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Notre Dame Football: A Hope Renewed

The Irish gave plenty of reasons for optimism in a hard-fought victory over a talented Michigan team.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

A Hope Renewed

Coming into 2018, there were reasons for concern. This was a Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team that had lost huge (literally) pieces on offense in Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey — not to mention Josh Adams and Equanimeous St. Brown. Gone, too, was defensive coordinator Mike Elko who had produced a respectable defense out of the same porous unit that had limped its way through a 4-8 campaign in 2016.

And in came the Michigan Wolverines. Led by Jim Harbaugh — a coach whose success with Stanford and the San Francisco 49ers led to him being widely regarded as a top 5 coach nationally — and prolific DC Don Brown, the Wolverines had the coaching. With Shea Patterson taking the reins at quarterback, and talents like Rashan Gary, Chase Winovich, Devin Bush, and Lavert Hill on the defense, they had the personnel.

And according to much of the national media, they had Notre Dame’s number.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Notre Dame Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

For the Irish, talk is cheap. They would rather settle it on the field.

And settle it they did.

The Irish jumped out to a quick 14-3 lead over the Wolverines early in the second, scoring on their first two drives. It was 21-10 leading into the half, but it wasn’t even that close. The final score of 24-17 doesn’t fully show the degree to which the Irish outclassed their opponent.

The second half brought out a conservative gameplan by the Irish that allowed a little more hope to seep through for the Wolverines, but it was a victory that was never truly in doubt. Wimbush made consistent plays against this touted defense, Armstrong gashed them for 2 touchdowns, and the Irish defense stifled a hopeful Wolverine offense.

It was a thing of beauty.

“I thought he showed great energy,” said Kelly of Wimbush in his Sunday teleconference. “He ran with physicality. He made some really good throws.”

“He knows he can play even better, which is a good thing.”

Wimbush gave Irish fans plenty of reason to question his ability, but the young man at the helm of the offense gave us all more reason for hope last night. If the defense plays consistently at the level that it did last night, Wimbush will be the difference-maker on offense.

A year ago, I wrote that Wimbush was the hero Notre Dame needed. By the end of the season, I had to eat crow.

Following the commanding defeat of the Wolverines, there is a hope renewed in both Wimbush and this Irish squad.

Other Notes from the Presser:

  • In injury news, Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa broke his foot. His estimated time missed is 10 weeks, and the coaching staff hopes to have him back at the end of the year.
  • Kelly stressed how calm, cool, and collected Clark Lea was calling his first game: “You don’t know if a bomb has gone off in the coaches’ box because he has such a calm demeanor.”
  • Kelly outlined several things that were most pleasing to him, “Leadership of Wimbush, the energy Alohi Gilman brings...consistency of Justin Yoon.”
  • Kelly stated that both Jayson Ademilola and Micah Dew-Treadway will get much more playing time in place of Tagavailoa-Amosa. “We have a lot of confidence in Jayson, he’s ready to play,” and “Micah Dew will get a lot more snaps.”
  • “You want to get him on the field,” said Coach Kelly of Chase Claypool, “His best football is still in front of him.”
  • Brian Kelly lauded how his team remained disciplined and did their jobs, pointing out how that was the key to containing Shea Patterson.
  • “Our physical and mental was really good, but our technical and tackling needs to be better,” said Kelly on how the defense could improve.
  • Asmar Bilal played better then Kelly expected: “There are things to clean up, but all in all he played pretty good... He played physical and fast. The arrow trends up for me and what he can do for us.”
  • Kelly touched on the second-half offensive woes by reminding how good of a defense Michigan has, “Michigan is very stingy defensively. We made some really good plays and it was a fight for every inch.”
  • Kelly stressed the necessity for effective communication when it comes to stopping a run-heavy offense, and singled out both Drue Tranquill and Alohi Gilman as being effective with this.
  • The 15 carries for Jafar Armstrong wasn’t planned, according to Kelly: “We didn’t know if he would get 2 or 15 carries... We went with the flow of the game and he ripped off two TDs.”
  • Brian Kelly was pleased with the play of the offensive line, pointing out that Josh Lugg, Liam Eichenberg, Sam Mustipher, and Alex Bars all played well.