When Ian Book replaced Brandon Wimbush last week as the starting quarterback, it was a bold move by Brian Kelly — and one that proved to be the correct one after a monster game against Wake Forest. The bigger questions came this week when the Notre Dame Fighting Irish hosted the Stanford Cardinal.
Could Notre Dame build on the success it had against Wake when up against the #7 team in the country? This is a team that is led by David Shaw after all, and the man that has been the biggest Brian Kelly nemesis.
Well, Brian Kelly and Notre Dame just answered that question — and then some with a 38-17 win over Stanford in front of a loud and eager crowd.
Notre Dame amassed 550 yards of offense on Saturday night, and got a ridiculously balanced attack with an emphasis on the running game. They rushed 55 times for 272 yards, and passed the ball 33 times for 278 yards. They also had 5 different players score touchdowns on the night (Dexter Williams, Miles Boykin, Alize Mack, Nic Weishar and Chase Claypool).
It’s exactly the type of offense that we saw last week, and they did it against a much better team. Everything about the offense seems different now — or even new and improved. Whereas we were all waiting on Brandon Wimbush to make a big play during the first 3 games, we now see guys making plays all over the field.
Even though the defense has been solid all season, that unit also looks like it’s improving as well. Notre Dame’s defense held the Cardinal offense to 229 yards, and an incredible 55 yards rushing. Bryce Love was held in check with 73 yards on 17 carries — 39 yards came on his 1st quarter touchdown run.
Notre Dame’s defensive front played inspired all night. Besides the constant pursuit and attack against the running game, they applied a ton of pressure to K.J. Costello throughout the night. Costello could rarely set his feet, and once he did, there was an Irish defender ready to put him on his back.
Notre Dame had 5 sacks in the game with an incredible amount of 4 coming at the hands of Jerry Tillery. The senior defensive lineman from Louisiana also had 2 of Notre Dame’s 4 quarterback hurries. Cleaning up behind him was a linebacker group of Te’von Coney, Asmar Bilal, and Drue Tranquill that played the position with the speed and nastiness of one of the better groups in the country.
Not only did both sides of the ball play balanced, inspired, and with a sense of urgency — but so too was the coaching. The best case for this was after Te’von Coney’s interception. Notre Dame could have leaned on the running game, but they went straight for the throats of Stanford and put up that final touchdown to make this victory complete.
There absolutely were questions about Notre Dame’s ability to become a complete team, and one deserving of a top 10 ranking before this game, but a 38-17 win put all those questions to bed (for now). The Irish played like a complete team, and they have a blowout victory over a top 10 opponent to prove it.
Now... they have to keep proving it next week, and the weeks following that one. 5-0 with 7 games left. We will certainly find out.