I don’t know if PNC Arena needs to be rigged up to host a football game or what but something needs to be in the back pocket for all future NC State/Notre Dame games in Raleigh. I’ve never had multiple feelings about the same location being so drastically different. As a Carolina Hurricanes fan, Carter-Finley was an amazing setting for the Stadium Series and something I wish I could’ve gone to. As a Notre Dame fan every time I think of that stadium and playing in it, nothing feels good about it. Once again the Irish came to North Carolina for a matchup against the Wolfpack and the weather.
This go around the weather itself wasn’t going to be as big of an issue. The bigger issue to worry would be the effect a delay would have, especially on the away team. Oh boy, we got our answer very quickly. Not only that, this team continued to step up in difficult situations. Even when it seemed everything was working against them.
They have their ways.
NC State’s defense was the main reason I was as intrigued by this game as I was. Heading into the season I said I wasn’t as worried about NC State as others may have been, but that was primarily due to their offense. The defense was a much different story. Considering the last two defenses the Irish had faced they were going to be a much better measuring stick for what this offensive unit could be. As with the previous two games, many aspects of the offense stood out. But there was one that stood out to me more than the others.
I know it’s only his third game but Gerad Parker deserves his flowers for yesterday. For me it’s for one reason, adjustments. It wasn’t always perfect throughout this game, but each time I felt like they were about to stall out or fall into a rut, they would come back out and put that feeling to bed. This offense seems like it’s able to stop and go whenever it wants/needs to. More so than I can remember in quite some time. I know there are extremely talented players on this team who are part of it as well. But if any of you watched a certain offense in Tuscaloosa last night and had the same flashbacks I did. I think you know exactly what I’m talking about.
This offense still has some things to prove in big games, but I think yesterday solidified a lot of the positives we’ve been seeing so far this season. They spread the ball around to skilled players at every position group. Nothing speaks more to that then when they came out of the delay swinging with Big Dric’s huge run and continued to answer each time adversity rose. This was one of the better defenses they will face this year and to be able to put this game away in the fourth the way they did was big.
I’m not going to go on about the ACC and their referees as I know nothing will change. However, I will say the defense primarily has been (especially yesterday) the ones being put into tough positions by the striped shirts. Considering NC State was gifted ten points, I only count fourteen of those twenty-four. I know that’s not really how it works but when the opposing team is given multiple chances off of multiple questionable penalties it’s hard for me to put it all on the defense.
The Irish defense held the Wolfpack offense to just 2.8 yards per attempt on the ground and forced Brennen Armstrong to put the ball in the air. When he did that they made him pay with three interceptions. There actually should’ve been four since one was dropped by Morrison. Before the garbage touchdown drive, they had held Armstrong to 192 yards and just over a 41% completion percentage. They also forced at least three fumbles as well. If I have one complaint it would be none of those were recovered. Each time the ball was on the ground, it seemed like not a single Irish player in the area had any idea. I know that’s a bit of a nitpick, but I think this game gets put away earlier if one or two of those get recovered.
I think this defense has proven its resilience so far this season and I think it will be very beneficial as the season moves along. Not everything is going to go your way with the refs when you’re on defense, especially with how the sport is in 2023. Being able to stick to your game despite all of that, is what is important. This unit has shown exactly what they can do when they are put in a corner.
Notre Dame is 3-0 and looking good while doing it. After a quarter of the season gone one thing has stood out to me. It’s a bit hard to describe it but this team as a whole has a different energy about them. The best words I can use to describe it are calm and collected, or not pressing. If that even makes sense. This isn’t just for one side of the ball either. It feels like the whole team. I mean even Spencer Shrader is making 54-yarders that would be good from 60.
Is it the transfer quarterback? Is it the new offensive coordinator? Is it the players you’re bringing now? Is it better coaching? Maybe this is the feeling of your new head coach’s culture and energy taking hold in his second season. It could be any or all of those things. I’m not saying they’re going to win a National Championship or anything like that just yet. However, I am saying that it’s nice to get a vibe like this coming from this team. If they continue to put it together like this, this season could be a lot of fun.