It’s been a minute, huh? Yeah really thought we would be getting this write up going coming out of the Louisville game, but that is a matchup for us to forget. Let’s consider that game the “what the heck happened there” game of the 2023 Fighting Irish season. It’s done and we are done talking about it so time to move on.
And move on the Irish did as they came out on Saturday night in Notre Dame Stadium and completely dominated our rival and also shut down reigning Heisman-winning QB Caleb Williams. The Irish won going away by a final score of 48-20 and the night ended with the Irish faithful on the field mobbing the team while celebrating into the night.
On a night when Irish lacrosse was recognized for their 2023 national championship, the football team played at a championship-caliber level, similar to last year’s victory over Clemson. The Irish defense played their best game of the year, the offense and special teams did their part and the Irish took down another undefeated team at home.
In the end, it was a much needed win for the team as we headed into the bye week with the chance to get the team some rest and get some of our key players healthy. Additionally, it was another signature win for Coach Marcus Freeman as he continues to prove himself in these big games.
By now, those of you who follow me, you know the drill. We are going through our countdown to eleven regular (now including the postseason ;)) season wins for our Irish and with victories in six out of our first eight games, our original “Eleven Reasons Why...” column has now moved to “Six Reasons Why...” with wins over Navy (11), Tennessee St (10), NC State (9), Central Michigan (8), Duke (7) and Southern Cal (6).
Let’s get after it and in no particular order...
#1 - Xavier Watts was Superman on Saturday night:
Was that a “Zero” on Xavier Watts chest or was that an “S”? With the way he played over the course of the evening, one might not be sure what they were seeing on his jersey. Here is his stat line:
4 defensive stops
3 passes defended
1 forced fumble
1 recovered fumble
1 defensive touchdown
Is that good? Asking for a friend. Inquiring minds want to know.
What a game for Xavier who has had an incredibly strong season and has continued to prove himself each and every week. On Saturday night, he was he not only the best player on the field in South Bend, but he was the best player in all of college football for the entire day.
#2 - Notre Dame’s Defense was UNREAL:
Along with the play of Xavier Watts, the entire Notre Dame defense was just incredible on the evening. Coming into this game, Caleb Williams had six career interceptions. By halftime he had added three more to that total. It was an awesome game plan by Coach Al Golden as he dialed up blitzes, coverages and pressures that confused SC all night. The Irish finished with six sacks on the game and five total turnovers forced. Everyone played well from the linemen, to the linebackers to the secondary. A complete team effort and doing so against Caleb Williams, especially with what he did last year against our Irish (not to mention his taunting), was chef’s kiss perfect. Add on to this that Williams is probably out of the Heisman race, it makes it only that much sweeter. Defeating our rival is great, but to do so in this fashion, with a complete defensive domination, was picture perfect. Congrats to Coach Golden and the boys, breakout your cameras, mission accomplished.
#3 - Jadarian Price and his 99 yard house call:
For as dominant as the Irish were throughout most of the evening, there did come a time where SC got the score to within 31-20. The team from LA was gaining some momentum and you could see a scenario where if ND were to stall on their next drive, that the game could have gone to a place that none of us wanted to see. Then came the ensuing kickoff which Jadarian Price fielded a the one yard line and 99 yards later he was celebrating in the endzone with his teammates. It was a HUGE return, when the Irish needed it most and a play that we all could see Jadarian making. He has been special when he has gotten the ball in his hands this year (wouldn’t mind seeing him being more involved in the running game, Coach Parker, but I digress) and he continues to be one of my most favorite players on the whole team. I have said it before, but I expect him to be a Captain here soon for Notre Dame. Keep it up Jadarian, your time is coming.
#4 - The offense scored when they needed to:
Let’s be honest, there is still a ton of room for improvement for our Irish offense. And probably no one is more excited for this bye week than Coach Parker. He now has some time to fully analyze his game plans, look at his tendencies and get things right as we head into the final four game stretch of this season. Getting his WR room healthy will also help as the Irish offense just operates better when Jaden Greathouse and Jayden Thomas are at full speed, and hopefully that will be the case against Pitt in nine days (or Clemson in sixteen days if need be)f.
Coming into the game against SC, lots of us thought this was Parker’s biggest game of his career.....we were not wrong. And while there were moments when we wanted to scream into the void with what the offense was doing, they came to play at pivotal points in the matchup. We got TDs after each of our INTs, we got the running game going a little bit again and we hit home on a big play to Chris Tyree when we needed it.
There is still much to be desired and Sam Hartman and the entire offense needs to be better, but I am expecting some good results coming out of this bye week and moving forward. Coach Parker, come on down, let’s see what you can do in these final four games.
#5 - Coach Marcus Freeman digs deep at a huge moment:
Being 5-3 and heading into our bye week was going to be tough. None of us wanted to face that, especially after starting out the season at 4-0 and being a one play away from beating OSU and being top 5. But that was what we were looking at if we could not get a victory against SC. Kudos to CMF and the job he did in the week leading up to this massive matchup. The team was tired, we were coming off a brutal loss to Louisville, it was midterms week and we had the #1 offense in the country / Heisman Trophy winner coming into town. We needed a special night from CMF and his team....and they delivered. The boys fed off the confidence of their coach and they provided a special moment we will not soon forget. It is nights like these that so many of us point to when we see the special person / leader / coach that CMF is, and it is nights like these that have me so excited for what is to come for our program being led by this man. LFG!
#6 - This team refused to back down:
Not only was there a lot written about CMF in the days leading up to this game, but there were many doubting that this Irish team could come out and get a big win against SC. Reading message boards, listening to podcasts, going through articles and predictions, almost no one gave our Irish a chance to win this game. Yeah, I was even in the camp of picking them to lose and I am so very, very glad that they proved me wrong. This was a total team effort, the boys showed out, they came to play and did so in their fourth straight night game against their fourth straight undefeated and ranked opponent. Leadership leads and the team relied on the voices in the locker room to propel us to an epic evening. Let’s give them some credit, in a season where not everything has gone the way we hoped, the team played like champions on Saturday night.
Okay, time to breathe.
We needed a win, we needed it badly. We got it and the break is here with the opportunity for us to rest up and still finish with double digit wins on the season. This past Saturday showed us some glimpses of what we can be if we put things together and play to our potential. Our defense stepped up and dominated. Enough said. They did what no other team has been able to do to a Lincoln Riley coached team. Job complete. We did what no one else has done to Caleb Williams. Sweet vengeance.
Now it is time to build. Let’s build on what we did defensively. Let’s build back to where our offense was as we got the early games of the season under our belts. Let’s build ourselves back into the best special teams unit in the country. All phases working as one, a complete football team.
Pittsburgh is up next and that means another chance to prove ourselves at home and get a big win. We only have four more Saturdays to watch our Irish this year. LFG, time to finish what we started and do things the right way.
You better believe I will see you next week. Yeah, you heard me...Go Irish!