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Notre Dame Football: W.I.N. (What’s Important Now) — BYE Week

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Please let me know if this time won’t work for you, I will do my best to adjust based on everyone’s calendars!

No, seriously, it’s absolute garbage.

Yeah, I know most companies who give their employees this day off are just virtue signaling with Indigenous People’s Day after all those years celebrating Christopher “Atrocities” Columbus, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want my own company to do said virtue signaling and let me have a long weekend too!

I know, I’m very much not in the spirit of the day or what it should really be about — I think it’s mostly because I have to work today and I’m tired. Oof.

Okay, well I gotta go — unlike you, I have work and thus have meetings today, including my weekly one I lead right now. Enjoy your lovely Monday off!

*hangs up cell*

Ugggggggh I just really don’t wanna do this. Not in the mood at all. Ohhh well, it should hopefully be an easy one, based on what happened last week and how this is gonna be a pretty light week.

Time to power through and bury my anxieties deep down inside!

*clicks “Join Call” button*

Gooooood morning y’all! Happy Monday *grins pointedly at the camera*

I had a good weekend, thanks for asking — I had a nice little date night with my girlfriend, spent a lovely Saturday afternoon out in the suburbs, and then came back to the city for ~24 hours of football-watching — well, with some sleep in between. How was yours?

Ahh that’s great! Sounds like a really fun fall weekend — yeah it WAS beautiful outside, we’ve gotten really lucky recently.

Okay, well let’s see — I know Kimberly and Russell are out-of-pocket today so they won’t be on...does anyone know if Gustavo will be joining?

Yeah? Okay, well let’s give him another minute or so...while we wait, can you guys see my screen?

Awesome.

Okay, well maybe we should just go ahead and g— oh there he is! Hey there Gustavo. Oh no worries, we were just about to get started so you haven’t missed anything yet.

Okay so here’s the agenda for today — it’s the same as always, but since this week is a slow week I think we’ll be able to breeze through it a bit faster than normal.

Alright with that said, let’s quickly flip through the typical W.I.N. definition and process slides...

Perfect!

Okay, now let’s talk about last week’s results, as there is PLENTY to discuss.

Like last week, there are still plenty of negatives that have made themselves evident via the team’s performance, but unlike last week, this week we have a solid amount of positives to help counterbalance those a bit.

Starting with the positives, it was super cool to see Tyler Buchner be given a shot to run the full offense in the first half, and even cooler to see him command the offense and lead some very strong drives down the field with a mix of his running abilities — the dude is pretty tough/fearless the way he runs, by the way...that’s pretty fun and admirable, but also scary — and with some really nice throws, including a 46-yard pass to Kevin Austin that set up a Buchner rushing TD. He followed that up two possessions later with a 9-play, 80-yard drive that culminated in a touchdown pass to Kyren “Bellyman” Williams just before halftime. Love. To. See. It.

Speaking of Bellyman, he himself was a major positive we need to call out. He managed to run for 74 yards and a touchdown while also catching 5 passes for 26 yards and another touchdown, continuing to prove to be an astoundingly well-rounded back who can beat opponents in a number of ways. Like, what is an opposing defense supposed to do to stop this?

Other offensive skill players who were positives on the day included Avery Davis (3 receptions, 64 yards, the game-tying touchdown in the 4th quarter), Kevin Austin Jr. (3 catches for 70 yards, plus a fantastic leaping grab to secure the game-tying two-point conversion after Davis’s TD), and true freshman Logan Diggs, who was called upon after Chris Tyree went down with an injury.

Diggs looked confident, patient, smooth, and explosive in his time spelling Bellyman, running for 29 yards on 4.8 yards per carry while also snagging a nice 15-yard catch on the game-tying touchdown drive in the 4th quarter. That was awesome to see — he will very likely be RB2 behind Tyree next season, so it was fun to get a sneak peek at how far along he already is.

Notre Dame v Virginia Tech Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

I also want to make sure we recognize the offensive line’s performance as a positive — it’s a little sad, but the 4 yards per carry the offense averaged on Saturday, combined with only allowing 2 sacks, is easily the best output from the ND offensive line this season, and so it’s nice to see there was at least a little progress to be made, considering to-date this offensive line was statistically worse than any of the Brian Kelly era and the worst since 2007. They obviously still weren’t perfect or even great, but it was good to see Andrew Kristofic getting some solid PT, Joe Alt holding serve at LT for the most part, etc.

The final positive on the offensive side is the most obvious one, which is why I saved it for last — Jack Coan once again finding his clutch gene was even more unexpected than Buchner’s fantastic first half play, considering it appeared Coan’s first quarter appearances were bad enough (13 plays, 17 yards, 3 punts) to have gotten him benched for the remainder of the game. Buchner’s second half struggles certainly had me expecting Drew Pyne to be thrown back into the mix, not the guy who couldn’t get anything going in his last two games’ worth of PT.

Instead, Coan proved everybody wrong and tapped into that same next-level he found down the stretch against Toledo. He led the team on a 7-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in just a minute and a half, throwing a touchdown to Davis and then completing that circus pass/catch to Austin.

Then, after the Irish defense got a quick stop, Coan led the Irish on a 7-play, 45-yard drive to set up Jonathan Doerer for his game-winning field goal.

To respond in that way — after going through a few games that would crush the confidence of just about anyone — was so incredibly impressive, and says so much about Coan’s character and chutzpah, no matter if he’s the right choice to start going forward or not.

Also, to make sure we don’t skip over it: Jonathan Doerer continues to cement himself as an absolutely CLUTCH kicker.

He’s 8-of-11 on the season for field goals, but only one of those misses came in the second half of a game — and that was a 55-yarder against Toledo. In the fourth quarter or later, he’s 5-for-5 on field goals, including the game-winner in OT against FSU from 41 yards out and then the 48-yard game-winner he drilled in Blacksburg this past weekend.

The dude hits them when it matters, without question.

Defensively, it was yet another game where there were plenty of solid performances but not anyone who necessarily had a MONSTER game.

With that said, TaRiq Bracy had a really nice night that included a crucial interception in the 3rd quarter that set up Bellyman’s rushing TD, and JD Bertrand was his normal tackling machine self.

Isaiah Foskey was once again the only Irish player to record a sack, giving him 6.0 on the season. Drew White was all over the place, Kyle Hamilton had at least a couple very Kyle Hamilton-esque plays, and the group overall played another good game, holding the Hokies to 3.6 yards per carry, forcing two turnovers, and for the most part keeping VT’s playmakers in check.

On the negative side of things, I will say that the Irish defense did have some moments where they made Braxton Burmeister look like a much better quarterback than he is, so there’s still some things Marcus Freeman and his staff can clean up (tackling!!!) — but overall, not thaaaaat much to complain about.

Offensively, both quarterbacks had bad stretches to provide some grounding in reality when compared to their awesome stretches. Buchner’s first half was sparkling, but his second half was abysmal, unable to move the ball through the air and making several really bad passing decisions, with two ending up picked off by Hokies players and one of those two being returned for a touchdown. Such are the growing pains of true freshman QBs, but still it was an ugly stretch of football for him after he was doing everything right before halftime.

Coan, as I mentioned above, was unable to make anything happen in the first three possessions of the game, and only turned it on for the final minutes once Buchner had proven incapable of finishing out the game successfully. If Coan could just figure out how to play that way early in games instead of only at the end with his back against the wall, we wouldn’t be seeing such a ridiculous QB carousel each weekend.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Virginia Tech Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Injuries started to rear their ugly head again for the Irish in this one, so that was another big negative. Michael Mayer couldn’t go, Chris Tyree suffered turf toe early in the game, Jacob Lacey had to be helped off the field, and Bellyman even had to leave the game for a bit multiple times. Add in Mitch Evans getting tossed for managing to target someone while blocking (absolutely the right call by the letter of the law, by the way), and it truly was a game where we saw a number of Irish personnel get removed from the field of play. Not ideal.

Finally, I should probably call out the little kerfuffle or skirmish or hullaballoo or whatever you want to call the almost-fight, trash-talking session that the two teams engaged in after the game. It wasn’t really anything and I know the Hokies players were jawing all game and there was some targeting on both sides, but ideally the Irish don’t get into altercations after games, because who knows when that may come back to bite them with suspensions or something. I love to see the swagger/confidence/figurative fight in the Irish team, but hope it never escalates to fighting with a bunch of sore loser opponents after a victory.

Okay, I feel like we covered last week’s results in-depth, so this next slide should go pretty quick. Here’s the latest scorecard...

As you can see, it was a great week for Bellyman, Brian, Jack, Jonathan, and Tyler, who all completed their action items. Way to push past the finish line, guys!

I also want to mention that Jeff seems to have finally gotten his “teach the offensive line to block” into the yellow, as for once it finally looks like some progress is being made. Are they there yet? Of course not. But if we don’t recognize and celebrate the small successes at this company, then what are we even doing?

The two items of concern are those with red on the right — Logan, it looks like you’re just not going to be able to execute on being a scared freshman who’s not ready to contribute, so I’ll talk to leadership about what we should do there. And Mitch/Kurt, I just ask that maybe you guys engage with opponents much less violently, because that’s just not good in any way, ya know? I’m hopeful we can get that to at least yellow, if not green, very soon.

Alrighty, time for the best slide — let’s celebrate our Team Members of the Week!!!

There were so many great and worthy options this week, we decided to include a lot of them!

So, here’s a big ole shout-out to Jack, Tyler, Bellyman, Avery, TaRiq, Drew, Isaiah, and JD. You all had some excellent contributions to this victory, and I can’t say enough about your hard work, dedication, and “we, not me” attitude in accomplishing your project goals this week.

Jack, your 7-of-9, 93 yards, 1 TD performance during the 4th quarter was sensational, and the way you scrambled to extend the two-point conversion play and find Kevin was magical. Tyler, just like we needed Jack to come in and do his thing to win, there’s no victory without you absolutely RUNNING THINGS for the majority of the first half, showing fantastic running ability (5.6 ypc!!!) and surprising passing chops (at least this early in your career) to generate multiple scoring drives for the Irish when it looked like it was going to be tough for ND to move the ball at all against the Hokies.

Bellyman, your 100 total offensive yards and 2 touchdowns were critical to the Irish sticking around in this game, and I can’t stress enough how much your pass blocking means to the success of Tyler and Jack.

Furthermore, Avery (3 rec, 64 yards, 1 TD) — you continue to just be that ever-reliable, always-does-his-job veteran guy and we thank you for being so consistent every week. Meanwhile, TaRiq (5 tackles, 1 INT), you really stepped up after we doubted you the last couple years...well done, you truly earned this award.

Drew (6 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 QBH), Isaiah (6 tackles, 1 sack, 1.5 TFL, 1 QBH), and JD (10 tackles, 0.5 TFL) — you continue to all make tons of plays and stand as true leaders of the defense, so thank you for all you do.

Finally, Jonathan — what else can we say, except you are the hero of Project W.I.N. for the week, continuing to come through as the kicking SME whenever we need you. Thanks for all the work you do to help us win. You and all your fellow honorees will have some Chipotle gift cards waiting for you in your inboxes after this call!!!

Okay, let’s now quickly go over this week’s opponent, BYE — time to stop talking about last week.

I’ll let you guys analyze all the comprehensive and useful data on this page, but there are just a couple key things I want to point out:

  • BYE has NEVER lost to Notre Dame
  • BYE has also NEVER defeated Notre Dame
  • Michelle Branch had some BANGERS

Please don’t read into me saying this is BYE MCBYEFACE’s 100th year as coach, as I have no explanation for who coached them before that. I don’t think the concept of the BYE was developed in 1921, I promise. I just had to pick a number for how many years of coaching they’d served there.

Anyway, now for some very specific insights about BYE heading into this match-up...

BYE is a very strong opponent — undefeated on the season and boasting a defense that hasn’t surrendered a single point or even a single yard of offense...EVER.

However, they’re also abysmal offensively and have never WON a game, considering they’ve never scored a point or even gained a yard — but also they haven’t ever entered negative yardage territory, so they’re very good at avoiding sacks? Foskey and Co. are gonna really need to bring it, I suppose.

Okay, let’s quickly talk about What’s Important Now this week, considering BYE.

To me, this is pretty straightforward. Halfway through the season, the biggest goal this week has gotta be to get some folks rested and healed and a bit healthier for the second half. Michael Mayer is a guy the Irish QBs need to be able to depend on down the stretch, and although Diggs looked great, I don’t think anyone wants to go very long without Chris Tyree on the field.

This week is also a great chance for the coaching staff to figure some things out heading into the back half of the year. Should there be a more structured plan for deploying this QB circus each game? What can be built upon from the offensive line’s modest improvement in performance last weekend? Can Jack Coan be hypnotized to believe that it’s perpetually the final 3 minutes of the game and the Irish need a touchdown to survive???

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

Also, I think this could be a nice reset week to get the cycles of Kevin Austin and Braden Lenzy synced up so that they can both actually show up next weekend against USC. It would be awesome to get those two and Avery Davis to all make some big plays in the same game, eh?

Finally, the defense needs to take a well-deserved rest this week. Most of the talk since Marcus Freeman got a handle on things has been about the offense and the QB situation, etc., while that defensive crew has just quietly done their jobs and made sure the Irish were in a position to win every game so far. Protect guys like Kyle and Isaiah and JD and Jayson and Cam at all costs, and do your best to ensure they’re all as fresh and feeling good as possible for these next 6-7 games.

Okay, with all that said, we’re about at time...Any questions?

Alright, then before we sign off I just want to direct you to a slide I’ve included in the Appendix this week, outlining a proposed QB playing time plan going forward...

In my opinion, the Irish aren’t playing enough quarterbacks — they should strive to play them all. So, I’ve worked out a regular schedule:

  • Brendon Clark starts every game, because clearly Tyler Buchner plays best when he follows someone who can’t move (Clark’s got some knee trouble, so he’s perfect for this role, folks)
  • Buchner steps in and takes the team deep into the second quarter, leading multiple scoring drives
  • Walk-on Cole Capen comes in for the final possession of the half as the Designated Kneeler (DK)
  • The Irish need to start surprising opponents with something they’re not expecting to begin the second half...enter Ronnie Powlus III for precisely one play — always a trick play — to stir some shit up each game
  • Drew Pyne then comes in and plays the vast majority of the second half, ensuring the Irish are at least in the game down the stretch, if not ahead, with a few scoring drives
  • Jack Coan, who to this point has been kept blindfolded in the locker room with ear plugs in so that he has no idea what’s happened in the game so far, is then let loose on the field and told the Irish HAVE to score in the final 3 minutes or their season will be over. He then calmly drives them down for a score, closing out another win

There’s also probably a way to work Jay Bramblett into this rotation — I expect you all to let me know in the comments how best we can achieve that low-hanging fruit. For now, though, I think the schedule in this slide would go a long way in getting this team where it needs to be. Think about it, Brian/Tommy.

Okay, that’s it folks! As always, I’ll send out the deck right after this, and I wish you all the best BYE week ever!

*Clicks “End Call” button*

That actually went pretty smoothly and quickly, all things considered. Suck it, Christopher Columbus — today ain’t your day anymore.