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Notre Dame Football: Three Things After The Duke Win

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It wasn’t what we wanted but it was probably what we should have expected

NCAA Football: Notre Dame Views Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

I was so happy to be angry watching this game

Man, it felt good to be watching a Notre Dame Fighting Irish football game, didn’t it? Even when I was angry during the first half, it was a familiar, comforting kind of anger, an anger I was worried I would never feel this year. As my friends and I sat there, Guinnesses (Guinni?) in hand, fruitlessly shouting into the void, I thought to myself: finally, something in this accursed year feels right. Praise the Lord, football is back.

While the game wasn’t perfect and the team showed a lot of rust - something we likely should have expected - ultimately, the Irish took care of business and scored a comfortable, though not resounding, win over the Duke Blue Devils.

Three Thoughts After the Game

Don’t Freak About Ian Book Just Yet

Book ended up with a “meh” stat line for the day - 19-31 for 263 yards, one touchdown and one interception - and there were certainly some worrying moments from Notre Dame’s third-year starter. Short throws on crossing routes were often uncatchable bullets rather than touch passes. Open receivers went unseen. The long game was nonexistent. These were mistakes and limitations that one would hope to not see from a player as experienced as Book - even in a season opener, even after an unusual offseason.

However, it is important to remember that we have seen this from Book before, and that we have seen him snap out of it. We saw him do so in this game, as his frequent struggles were interspersed with stretches of brilliance. For whatever reason, getting in rhythm can be a struggle for Book, but when he gets there he is special. It will be important for the Irish moving forward that he build on the positive parts of his performance Saturday.

You may, however, freak out about Jeff Quinn

Yes, I know Duke has some solid players on its defensive line. Yes, I know it was the season opener after an offseason with less practice and less conditioning work. All the same: Notre Dame’s offensive line returned five starters, all of whom were coveted recruits, and was expected to be among the best in the country. They absolutely should have been able to push the Blue Devils around all day, from the start. They clearly expected to, as Tommy Rees’ game plan early on was run-heavy, but the Irish backs kept running into white jerseys as the line failed to clear the way. While things opened up later in the game, it was a disappointing showing from a veteran unit loaded with talent.

Over the last couple years, many Irish fans have worried about the possibility that Jeff Quinn, while successful at bringing in high-caliber recruits on the offensive line, has not been preparing them to play to their full potential. What we saw Saturday did not help his case.

The Youth Movement

With some veterans showing rust, young players showed out and ultimately played a major role in winning this game for the Irish, on both sides of the ball. Kyren Williams led the way with a brilliant performance that silenced doubters of his no. 1 placement on the depth chart. Michael Mayer validated every bit of his “baby Gronk” hype, with impressive catches and powerful runs throughout the game. And don’t forget Chris Tyree, who got the chance to show off his wheels on runs and in the return game and didn’t disappoint.

notre dame vs duke
Notre Dame VS Duke
ACC Media

On defense, Isaiah Foskey spent an awful lot of time in the Blue Devils backfield and while no one could fill the shoes of Kyle Hamilton, D.J. Brown played well enough to prevent his injury from becoming a factor in the game. While stalwarts like Hamilton and Jeremiah Owusu-Koromoah will still lead the way, the Irish defense showed impressive depth behind them.