How in the world is it already mid-November???
I haven’t even thought for a second about the holidays coming up and I’m going to need to start shopping for Christmas gifts soon. What is happening? I guess time flies when you’re having so much fun running a huge project with so many moving parts and competing priorities and folks who don’t technically report to you and moving goalposts from leadership on what they truly want!!!
Oof, I need to stop complaining to myself before I get into a mood that I can’t come back from right before jumping on this weekly call. Okay, deep breaths....alright, time to go slam my head against the wall for an hour with all my favorite people.
*presses “Join Call” button*
Good morning everyone, happy Monday!
How was everyone’s weekend? Oh yeah? That’s super fun! I love that, so festive and autumnal!
Yeah, it was a busy but fun weekend for me — hung out with some friends, watched the game, had a Friendsgiving with some more friends...I am definitely feeling it today, though! Need to hop on my exercise bike after work and ride off some of the calories I ingested on Saturday!
Okay, well I think this is it for today’s group, I know Sarah and Francisco are both on another call and won’t be joining. So we can jump right in!
Can everyone see my screen?
Well, it’s the same basic agenda as always, so I won’t bore you all by walking through that right now...
And at this point I don’t think we need to cover the definition of W.I.N. or how this process works, but if you need a refresher, please reference these two slides at the front of the deck...
Alrighty, so let’s cover what happened last week, as it was an overall positive result but not without plenty of opportunities for improvement for this project team...
Let’s talk through the negatives first and get them out of the way ASAP this week.
Obviously a win is a win and we can all be happy about that (and about the Irish getting out to a fast start and building a nice lead against a bad opponent), but that second half was just some pitiful football from our Irish.
Notre Dame’s second half drive chart:— Pete Sampson (@PeteSampson_) November 12, 2022
3 plays, -6 yards
3 plays, 4 yards
6 plays, -1 yard
3 plays, 8 yards
3 plays, 1 yard
2 plays, -4 yards
20 plays, 2 yards
Sorry, “pitiful” probably wasn’t the appropriate word there — that’s unprofessional of me.
I don’t want to overreact or exaggerate, so let’s consult someone else on the right way to describe the Notre Dame performance — especially the offense — in that second half:
Notre Dame managed to punt four times and throw a pick while scoring 0 points in the second half, and refused to find any success on the ground against an objectively smaller and weaker defense, running for an EMBARRASSING 1.9 yards per carry (66 yards on 34 carries).
Yes, I know Navy had a top-10 rushing defense heading into the game, but let’s not act like that should have mattered for an Irish team that just steamrolled a Clemson defensive front that was pretty similar to Navy statistically but had massive 5-stars all over the place and had put up their numbers against much better competition than the Midshipmen had. Tommy Rees, for how great of a game he called and how well his running game executed against Clemson, did NOT get his group ready to perform this past Saturday.
They were out-gained by Navy’s offense, somehow gave up 5 sacks, and failed to convert on 50% of their 3rd down attempts while also allowing Navy to pick up more first downs than they did.
Al Golden and the Irish defense, of course, don’t get a pass here either. After holding Navy to a not-exceptional but still-respectable 13 first half points, they gave up 19 in the second half, including 16 in the 4th quarter that included a very late touchdown to pull Navy within a score and force the Irish to recover an onside kick to secure the victory. The lack of killer instinct against bad teams is ALARMING and so freaking confusing considering what we saw this team do to Clemson.
The Midshipmen ran for 255 yards on 5.5 yards per carry, scoring 2 TDs on the ground. Even more disappointing, though, was allowing Navy to put up over 100 yards passing and 2 TDs through the air with their 2nd and 3rd string signal callers — that’s unforgivable, you guys.
The Irish also committed double the number of penalties as Navy did, and of course lost the Time of Possession battle, because that’s what happens when you play a triple option team like Navy. So all of the above combined for a truly rough overall performance and close of the victory.
With all that out of the way, let’s circle back and discuss the good things that happened, because, as I mentioned, the Irish DID manage to still win the game, improve to 7-3, make some cool plays, and jump up to #18 in the AP Poll released on Sunday.
Drew Pyne, for as bad as he and the offense were in the second half, had a helluva first half of the game to finish the day 17-of-21 passing for 269 yards and 4 touchdowns. Navy’s secondary is one of the worst in the country and thus it was expected for Pyne to pass better against them than he did against Clemson or Syracuse, but it was still nice to see Pyne find a bit of a groove again. If he can have another nice day against BC to help his confidence, maybe he’ll be able to make some big throws sprinkled in amongst a lot of running against USC over Thanksgiving weekend.
With Pyne’s passing greatly improved week-over-week, the Irish had some nice receiver performances, and really all the best ones weren’t from the usual suspects like Michael Mayer. Jayden Thomas continues to come on strong this year, and he managed to catch 3 balls for 80 yards and a score against the Midshipmen. Deion Colzie added 2 catches for 50 yards, another nice sign he can start contributing more and more to this offense.
But the best receiving performance of the day, without question, was that of the much-maligned and often-missed Braden Lenzy, who caught 5 passes for 67 yards and one absolutely incredible touchdown where, per usual, his QB couldn’t hit him in stride with any sort of accuracy despite him burning his defender by 5-10 yards. Luckily, Lenzy was on a mission to catch Pyne’s pass no matter who was very much in his way.
That was really cool to see, and hopefully Lenzy will continue to find ways to get touches and make plays in the final few games he’s got in a gold helmet. God knows he put the fear of God into USC back in 2019 as more or less his coming-out party, so it would be pretty fun for him to come full circle and have the game of his life to finish the 2022 season in LA.
Defensively, it wasn’t an excellent performance, like I mentioned, but guys like Prince Kollie (7 tackles, 0.5 sacks) and Xavier Watts (8 tackles — 7 solo — and 1 TFL) stepped up and had nice games to go along with solid performances from some regulars like Jack Kiser (8 tackles), Marist Liufau (8 tackles), Clarence Lewis (1 INT, 2 tackles), and the Ademilola twins (10 combined tackles, 0.5 sacks from Justin). The Irish stopped Navy from converting on eight of their eleven 3rd down conversion attempts, so that was nice to see as well, despite some of the big plays they otherwise gave up to the Midshipmen backs and receivers.
Additionally, the Irish were able to retain their spot as #1 in the country in blocked punts despite South Carolina managing to pick up their 6th of the season. That’s thanks to Jack Kiser this time, getting his mitt on a punt late in the second quarter that set up Thomas’s 37-yard TD catch and put ND ahead 35-13 at the break.
What makes ND's blocked punts so impressive is that 6 different players have blocked 7 punts: Foskey (two), Kollie, Botelho, Bauer, Lewis, and now Kiser. Says it all about the job Brian Mason has done— Jamie Uyeyama (@jamieuyeyama) November 12, 2022
All in all, I think Irish fans are just relieved that Marcus Freeman didn’t follow his first signature win with another devastating and head-scratching loss to a bad opponent, and so we can all chalk this one up to it being weird due to Navy being the opponent, and then move on to focusing on the last two weeks of the season.
Cool cool cool, now let’s just quickly touch on the project scorecard and take a look at the status of some key initiatives and tasks we’ve got the team executing on right now.
As you can see, it’s a mixed bag this week. Plenty of green on the tasks assigned to Braden, Jayden, Deion, Brian/Jack, etc., but then we’ve got a semi-complete task from Drew that we need to fine-tune a bit, and some outstanding red items from Harry’s team and Al’s group.
So, please take some time to review where we are with those tasks and how we can mitigate the risks and unforeseen obstacles that have arisen from last week.
Okay, now let’s hand out some recognition to the Team Members of the Week!
We’ve had some fantastic work turned in of late by Braden, Jayden, Xavier, Prince, Jack, Marist, Clarence, First Half Drew, and Jon, so we wanted to just say how proud we are of all of you and how much we appreciate all the hard work and drive you’ve put behind this project.
We’re in the home stretch now, the holidays are coming up, and everyone is exhausted, so we really appreciate you all going above and beyond to ensure we keep accomplishing our big objectives as we close out 2022 and prepare for a great 2023. Congrats to you all, and expect a Chipotle gift card in your inboxes come this afternoon!!!
Okay, now let’s turn the page and look to this week’s big task — taking down the Boston College Eagles on Senior Day!
Here’s a quick overview of the BC program — I won’t talk through all of this detail, but want to highlight just a couple things:
- “Baldwin” is a solid name for a Bald Eagle mascot, so kudos to them for that
- How can this school seriously call themselves Boston College if they’re not in Boston, but instead in Chestnut Hill? I’d like to officially recommend we call them Chestnut Hill College for the rest of our lives
- This is the second week in a row the Irish are playing a school who claims a national title during the same year as one that Stanford claims. 1940 must have been a boring-ass year if BC and Stanford were the teams named champions by whatever publications were handing out titles back then
- BC’s list of teams they have played but never beaten is really fun. There are some normal-fun ones, like Kansas, Nevada, Harvard, Saint Alphonsus College, etc., but then there are some hilarious ones, like Melville PT Boats, MIT Freshmen, Newton High School, and my personal favorite: Boston College Alumni.
- Speaking of BC alumni and their dominant football skills, notable Boston College alumni include the whistleblower from the Bernie Madoff scandal, the 2nd-ever winner of the Boston Marathon who is somehow named Ronald MacDonald, some fun actors and comedians, JFK’s grandpa whose nickname was apparently “Honey Fitz,” Wayne LaPierre, the co-founder of Netscape, Bruce Pearl, former NFL LB and alumnus of the best high school in the country Mathias Kiwanuka, and of course Darren Flutie, the most talented member of his family (low bar)
Okay, now let’s get into the important stuff.
What kind of name talent does this BC team have?
I mean, this is a pretty awesome list. I had to cut some decent ones to get down to 36, and that top-12 is absolutely stacked. My personal faves: Christian Mahogany, Tommy Birmingham, Shitta Sillah, Zay Flowers, C.J. Clinkscales, and Vinny DePalma. Also, shout out to Owen McGowan, because it looks like it should rhyme but probably actually doesn’t, which is a bummer.
Alrighty, so when we actually look at Jeff Hafley’s 2022 squad, what should we know about them and how they might match up with our Irish in the cold late-November weather this weekend in South Bend? We’ve covered the truly important info on this Eagles team, but let’s quickly walk through some of the more granular and insufficient details, like how they are at offense, defense, and special teams.
To use an official sports journalism term, this Boston College team is absolute hot garbage, generally speaking. Ranked 104th in the country in overall SP+, only the UNLV Rebels are rated lower amongst teams on the 2022 Notre Dame schedule. They’re 3-7 in Jeff Hafley’s third season at the helm of this program, with a super odd mix of wins and losses — they managed to lose to the likes of Rutgers, UConn, Duke, and Virginia Tech, but also defeated Louisville and NC State, who was ranked #16 when BC rolled into Raleigh and beat them with a touchdown pass in the final 20 seconds of the game.
Their rough season has largely been driven by a really bad offense, particularly when you look at their offensive line. The Eagles are currently dead last in the country in rushing offense (an abysmal 61.4 yards per game) and yards per carry (2.11!!!!), which explains how they’ve managed, after 10 games, to be ranked 102nd offensively in SP+, 120th in scoring offense (19.0 points per game), and 118th in both total offense (321 yards per game) and yards per play (4.78). They’re second-to-last in the country in total rushing touchdowns, somehow only accumulating 5 of those so far this season.
Any important rushing attempts will likely come from RBs Pat Garwo III (296 yards, 3 YPC, 2 TDs) and Alex Broome (199 yards, 4.9 YPC, 1 TD), but we shouldn’t anticipate too much from guys who haven’t combined for 500 yards through 10 games of football.
That offensive line’s inability to perform in run blocking has carried over to their pass protection as well, with BC quarterbacks Phil Jurkovec and Emmett Morehead having been sacked a combined 39 times this season, which puts the Eagles tied for 126th in the country in sacks allowed and is the main reason they’re also tied for 124th in tackles for loss allowed. Those tackles for loss have accounted for 413 yards lost in total, which is 3rd-worst in America.
Jurkovec has missed a couple games recently due to injury, but before he got hurt he was having a rough season, likely heavily influenced by the revolving door in front of him. He’s got 1,711 yards passing on the year and is completing less than 60% of his passes, averaging 6.9 yards per attempt and having tossed 8 interceptions to go along with his 11 touchdown passes.
His recent replacement, 6’5” redshirt freshman Emmett Morehead, has had mostly similar results at the helm of former ND TE coach (and now BC offensive coordinator) John McNulty’s offense, throwing for 885 yards, 8 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions while averaging 6.7 yards per attempt and completing 58% of his passes.
For both guys, there’s one major target they look for and thus one guy the Irish secondary needs to worry about the most (assuming Isaiah Foskey and co. don’t just eat the BC QB alive on every passing down): WR Zay Flowers.
Flowers has had an exceptional career at Boston College, and there was a lot of noise about other schools coming after him with NIL deals trying to convince him to transfer. Flowers remained loyal to the school that gave him a shot as a recruit ranked 1,202nd overall in the 2019 class, and has been essentially the only bright spot for the Eagles this season, having caught 67 passes for 921 yards and 10 touchdowns despite how limited the BC offense has been. His speed and talent will be a great test for Al Golden’s defense prior to the season finale showdown with all of USC’s wide receiver talent.
Other receivers to note include WR Jaelen Gill (24 catches, 371 yards) — a former Ohio State player who transferred to BC two years ago — and WR Joseph Griffin Jr. (18 catches, 234 yards, 5 touchdowns), and we might see some of Jaden Williams (11 catches, 170 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Dino Tomlin (9 catches, 169 yards) too. Garwo III (25 catches, 222 yards) and Broome (15 catches, 70 yards, 1 TD) are also pretty active participants in the Boston College “passing attack.”
Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a name you might be familiar with: the Eagles’ starting tight end George Takacs. Takacs has 24 receptions for 248 yards and a touchdown this season after seeing a better path to playing time in Chestnut Hill without the logjam of ND TE talent ahead/around him
McNulty’s offense is relatively decent at passing the ball when you’re comparing success through the air to their meager attempts to move the ball on the ground, as BC is 41st in the country in passing offense (259.6 YPG), tied for 44th in passing touchdowns, and tied for 18th in pass attempts per game. Unfortunately (and as you might have guessed from the metrics noted for their two QBs above), their aerial attack is not super efficient, tied for 90th in the country in yards per attempt, 88th in completion percentage, and 93rd in passer rating, while also tying for 101st in interceptions thrown.
All of the above leads to an offense that fails to pick up first downs (117th in the country at 17 first downs per game) and convert on third downs (122nd at 30.14%), as well as one that struggles to score (86th in red zone scoring percentage, tied for 97th in red zone TD percentage) and gives the ball away way too often (tied for 113th in turnovers lost, 83rd in time of possession). Add in a lack of explosive plays (tied for 92nd in plays of 10+ yards, tied for 71st in plays of 30+ yards, etc.), and the BC offense simply doesn’t do their team any favors.
On the other side of the ball, the report card is only marginally better. Rated 86th in defensive SP+, the Eagles are somewhat solid against the pass overall (43rd in the country allowing 209.3 YPG, 33rd in completion % allowed at 57.8%) and in not allowing easy conversions on 3rd down (40th in the nation), but they otherwise don’t do much of anything super well and even their pass defense statistics break down a bit when you look at efficiency metrics. Here’s a laundry list of everything BC’s defense does not thrive at doing:
- Scoring Defense: T-87th at 28.8 PPG
- Total Defense: T-53rd at 366.3 YPG
- Yards Per Play Allowed: 58th at 5.41 YPP
- Rushing Defense: 82nd at 157 YPG
- Yards Per Carry Allowed: 75th at 4.12 YPC
- Rushing TDs Allowed: T-97th at 19 TDs
- Yards Per Attempt Allowed: T-64th at 7.1 YPA
- Passer Rating Allowed: 72nd
- Sacks: T-81st with 20 total on the season
- Tackles For Loss: T-30th with 66 total TFL
- Interceptions: T-69th
- Passes Defended: T-65th at 42 PD
- Fumbles Forced: T-66th
- Turnovers Gained: T-92nd
- Turnover Margin: T-117th at -0.7 per game (-7 overall)
- First Downs Allowed: T-51st at 19.4 per game
- Red Zone Score %: 109th at 89.19%
- Red Zone TD %: T-105th at 67.57%
- Long Plays from Scrimmage: T-61st in plays of 10+ yards, T-73rd in plays of 20+ yards, T-56th in plays of 30+ yards, T-59th in plays of 40+ yards, T-68th in plays of 50+ yards
They do have a handful of solid individual players to note on that side of the ball, however. Linebackers Vinny DePalma (71 tackles, 1 sack, 1 FF, 1 FR) and Kam Arnold (62 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1 PD, 2 INT) are leaders of the defense, and former Florida State DB Jaiden Woodbey certainly has the ability to make some plays on the back-end (60 tackles, 2 PD).
Guys like DE Donovan Ezeiruaku (50 tackles, 6 sacks, 3 FF, 1 PD), DE Marcus Valdez (24 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 FF, 1 FR), and DE Neto Okpala (25 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 PD, 1 FR) are pretty good at getting some pressure on QBs and should be decent opposition for Joe Alt and Blake Fisher to block, and DBs like Elijah Jones (12 PD, 2 INT), Jason Maitre (6 PD, 1 INT), and Josh DeBerry (4 PD, 1 INT, 1 FR) are all guys who could make things a little difficult for Drew Pyne to have a nice day through the air.
Other names to know: LBs Bryce Steele (44 tackles, 1 sack) and Jaylen Blackwell (20 tackles, 2 sacks), DL Chibueze Onwuka (37 tackles, 1 sack), Cam Horsley (26 tackles, 1 sack, 1 PD), and Khris Banks (19 tackles, 1 PD), and DBs Cole Batson (24 tackles, 1 PD, 1 INT) and Amari Jackson (15 tackles, 3 PD).
To add a little bonus of good news for Irish fans still wary of a “really bad” opponent after how the Marshall, Stanford, and Navy games shook out, we can at least rest easy knowing our Lord and Savior Brian Mason and his special teams unit will once again have a strong advantage. Boston College is ranked 119th in the country in special teams by SP+, and their kicker, Connor Lytton, is just 8-of-14 on field goals for the season, including 5/10 on kicks from 30+ yards out. Add a blocked punt to BC’s inability to pose a field goal threat and it could hopefully help swing the Irish to a big lead early, as long as Al Golden’s crew can keep Zay Flowers out of the end zone.
Okay, now let’s get to our final slide and quickly discuss What’s Important Now heading into this game against our longtime friends at Boston College.
I’ll let you read all this text on your own time, but here are the quick-hitter highlights:
1. For the love of God, ND needs to blow out a bad team this weekend. They’ve been absolutely abysmal in games they should be great in, and have played great when they had no right to expect to...
Notre Dame opened -19 vs Boston College at @CircaSports— Tim Murray (@1TimMurray) November 13, 2022
Underdog or favorite of a TD or less
5-0 ATS, 4-1 SU
Ohio St +17
Favorite of a TD or more
0-5 ATS, 3-2 SU
If there was ever a time for this team to put together a dominant performance over a horrible team, this is the weekend, and BC is that opponent.
2. ND needs to run these chumps over. We all need to wash out the bad taste of that Navy game and that offensive line performance, and BC is pretty darn bad against the run and up front on offense. Time for the Irish big beefy boys to just bulldoze some Eagles and put on a show on Saturday.
3. Tommy needs to keep finding ways to get Drew Pyne high-percentage throws and keep giving the wideouts opportunities to make plays against bad secondaries. This team’s identity is still obviously to run the ball early and often, but they will need to call on the passing game for help keeping up with USC’s offense in the season finale and against whoever they play in a bowl game, so now is the best time to build up some more confidence and find some more things that will work while not asking Pyne to do too much.
4. It’s time for an Al Golden redemption game. He may not have the triple option figured out (at all), but if he can’t shut down — perhaps shut out?? — this BC offense, ND will have some major issues swirling around them heading into a finale against Caleb Williams. The weirdo triple option is in the rearview mirror, so hopefully Golden and co. can get back to playing the type of defense we saw against Clemson and dominate so that heading into USC they believe they can stop such a potent offense on the road.
5. I think at this point we’ve all just come to expect it, so I’m going to make it a must-do for the final few games of the season — ND needs to block another punt. Considering no one has been able to prevent it from happening for weeks now, despite knowing ND was going to try to do so, there’s no way BC should be the team that somehow figures it out and stops Brian Mason’s crew from doing its thing. Let’s get to 8+ blocked punts on the season, fellas!
6. Honor the seniors, and build enough of a lead that all of them can get PT and some young guys can get time too. These seniors have been part of a really nice stretch of football overall and are helping lay the groundwork this year as leaders for a future that is hopefully much brighter than what they were able to enjoy in their time at ND, so let’s send them off in fine fashion.
Alright y’all, that’s all I’ve got for today — any questions?
Cool, well per usual, I will send out the link to the deck right after we hang up, and please let me know if you have any questions or concerns regarding Project W.I.N. as we head toward Senior Day this weekend.
Thanks and have a great Monday, everybody!
*clicks “End Call” button*
I wonder if we still have any leftovers from Friendsgiving that I can heat up and eat as a weirdo breakfast right now...