A much more entertaining and scrappy game than I expected (at least the 1st half)
The Irish football squad responded to its Week 0, 42-3 victory over Navy with a 56-3 win over Tennessee State in the home opener. The 1st quarter gave me some pause at several moments but at no point did the game every really seem like it was in jeopardy. The Tigers came out with a bit more of an identity and a lot more aggression than most of us imagined would be the case and it showed as the Irish had a slower start against their first traditional (i.e not triple option) team of the season.
If there’s one big takeaway from this game and I imagine for the season it’s that: Everybody Eats! We came out of the Navy game with probably the deepest depth chart Notre Dame football has had in several years and the food got spread even wider this weekend.
- We had three quarterbacks play, with over 72% completion rates a piece.
- There were 8 players who put up rushing stats, for a team average of 6.7 yards per carry.
- We also saw 13 players with receptions and team average of 14 yards per completion.
If you told me in the trenches of the 2022 season that this would be where we are now, I would’ve likely thrown a punch for just being a jerk.
But we’re living and enjoying it now so let’s dig into the data.
We ended the 1st quarter with an Irish touchdown coming on the ground by way of freshman Running Back Jeremiyah Love. What most of us didn’t expect was that to be the only time in the quarter that the Irish would find points and that the Tigers would knock through a 38 yard field goal following 15 play, 55 yard drive.
From that point on, at least as far as the scoreboard was concerned, it was all Notre Dame. The 2nd quarter was from most productive for ND with 4 touchdowns split evenly through the air and on the ground. Hartman connected with Tyree for a 24-yd TD pass and later on with Staes for a 4-yard TD pass. Estime wracked up a 5-yd rushing TD and Same Hartman demonstrated some gymnastics for another 5-yd rushing TD to close out the half.
The third quarter was characterized by an Angeli connection with sophomore Jadarian Price for a 40-yard TD pass and a pick-6 from senior cornerback Clarenece Lewis. The game was capped off by a 41-yard TD pass to sophomore wide receiver Gi’Brian Payne in the 4th quarter.
Key Team Comparisons
The Irish won out in most of the key stat categories. They beat out the Tigers in terms of First Downs (26 – 12), 3rd Down Conversions (82% - 29%) and Time of Possession (33:44 – 26:16).
Things weren’t even close from a yardage perspective. Notre Dame won out in Total Passing Yards (557 – 56), Passing Yards (336 – 67) and Rushing Yards (221 – 89). Notre Dame’s three quarterbacks passed for a collective completion rate of 80% compared with 36% for Tennessee State. The Irish ground attack averaged close to 7 yards per carry, compared with around 2.5 yards per carry by the Tigers.
If there are two knocks for Notre Dame, they came in the form of Turnovers and Penalties. The Irish lost 1 fumble for a total of 1 Turnovers, while the Tigers had 2 total Turnovers, both coming by way of interception.
ND also wracked up 4 penalties for 36 yards, compared with the Tennessee State who finished with 5 penalties for 54 yards.
We got to see Notre Dame’s current, Sam Hartman, play well in the first half and its tomorrow, Steve Angeli and Kenny Minchey, get decent game time in the second half. Hartman finished with 194 total yards, and a completion rate of 82% on 17 attempts along with 2 touchdowns.
Angeli took over for the bulk of the second half and walked away with 130 yards, a completion rate of 73% on 11 attempts and 2 touchdowns as well. Minchey completed both of his attempts for a total of 12 yards.
It was nice to see that although we’ve gone in pretty heavily on Hartman for the short-term, the future of play callers in Notre Dame’s football program is looking promising.
Receiver Corps – Return of the Tight End
It’s the return of the tight end! After laying dormant for most of the Navy game, Mitchell Evans reminded everyone that the tight end position still has a home with the Irish. They went for a collective 65 yards, with Evans accounting for 61 of them.
The receivers and the running backs were also heavy in the mix. Jayden Thomas, Jadarian Price and Gi’Brian Payne led in terms of yardage. Touchdowns were spread across Chris Tyree, Gi’Brian Payne, Holden Staes and Jadarian Price.
Running Attack by Committee
Audric Estime continues to be the core of the rushing corps, and he tallied up 116 yards, 1 touchdown and averaged 9 yards per carry on 13 attempts. He also did what a lot of people were waiting on and pulled off a long one for 50 yards.
Jeremiyah Love and Gi’Brian Payne accounted for the bulk of remaining production, with Love tallying up a touchdown.
I can’t help but be pleased and daresay a bit excited about what we’ve seen from the Irish so far. They’ve faced the triple option and a hungry team who was obviously playing to win, and they came out putting up the amount of points we would expect and holding both opponents to 3 points apiece. While there are definitely some more fine-tuned critiques to be made, from the numbers perspective I’d say we’re on track for success this season.
Cheers and Go Irish!!