The hype and hoopla surrounding the Shamrock Series is over. One of the strengths of the Fighting Irish football team this has been the defense. The defense for sure made an impact in this game. Syracuse game into the Shamrock Series averaging 44.4 points per game, with a 8-2 record. Much talk national media outlets were prepping for a Notre Dame loss and even finding ways for Syracuse to make it into the College Football Playoff top four. That opportunity would require a “perfect storm” of losses. I am a believer of controlling your own destiny. Relying on others failures for your success is just to risky.
Notre Dame on the other hand, they control their own destiny, well sorta. The Irish need to win out, and then rely on the College Football Playoff committee to decide their fate. Winning on Saturday was a giant step in securing a spot, but there is still work to do. There is still a need for a “one game at a time” approach to the season.
Getting out of focus would most certainly eliminate the Irish from playing in the College Football Playoff. In the pre-game discussion, the three keys included 1) Offense and Defense mus play smart in minimize, penalties 2) Protect Ian and you can protect his healing 3) Make a BIG play. A big play will effect the outcome of the came. Syracuse came in +13 in the turnover margin. The Fighting Irish don’t want to be on the receiving end of that. Let’s look at how the scoring happened.
The Irish win the toss and elect to receive the ball. Though a first possession punt would occur, The Irish defense came in and punched the clock. The defense forced a 3 and out on Syracuse and getting the ball back into Ian Book’s hands after on 38 seconds on the field. After a few stalled attempts to get the offense going again, Book completed a pass to Tony Jones Jr for 18 yards. Book the completes his next 4 consecutive passes to Chase Claypool for 27 yards, Miles Boykin for 6 yards, and Dexter Williams reception for 9 yards finds the end zone for the Irish offense.
Remember the number three key, make a big play. Jalen Elliott intercepts Eric Dungey and returns it for 24 yards. The INT equates to a Field Goal for the Irish that puts them up 10-0. Eric Dungey gets the Orange to the ND 46 and gets injured on the play. Tommy DeVito comes in and throws two incomplete passes. On fourth down, Syracuse actually has DeVito punt the ball and pins the Irish at their own 5 yard line.
The Irish mix-up their plays and go with a consecutive run plays by Jones Jr for 5 yards then 2 yards. Book completes a 33 yard pass to Claypool and then a 47 yard completion to Alize Mack. Justin Yoon converts on the second consecutive Field Goal to put the Irish up 13-0. The Irish defense was very stingy in the first quarter. The Syracuse offense had a total of 59 yards total offense, compared to the Fighting Irish 189 yards.
The second quarter started almost the first quarter did for Syracuse. The first play leads to an Alohi Gilman INT. This time the turnover did not lead to points. During the ensuing Syracuse possession, Kurt Hinish unloads on DeVito for a sack and a loss of nine yards and forces Syracuse to punt. On a punt that put the Irish at their own 26 yard line, Book goes 5-6 in the drive passing to Claypool, Chris Finke (2), Boykin(2), the Irish drive to the one-yard line. The Irish go on fourth and goal. Book is flushed from the pocket, and instead of eating the ball for a loss, the ball is tossed up for grabs and is intercepted in the end-zone.
The bonus of the INT if there is one, is that the Irish defense once again came up big and Gilman comes up with his second INT of the day and returns it for 54 yards. Jafar Armstrong lines up for 9 yard TD rush. the Irish lead 20-0 with 4:45 remaining in the half. The Irish now lead 20-0.
The Fighting Irish defense was again played tight against the high-powered Syracuse offense to 71 yards total offense in the second quarter. The Irish offense continued to control the ball as the racked up 116 total offensive yards. The defense racked up two INT’s courtesy of Alohi Gilman’s 2 INT’s. The Irish were taking care of business and capitalizing on turnovers committed by Syracuse.
The Irish are leading the in the turnover department. The Irish forced three turnovers compared to the one turnover forced by Syracuse. The turnovers recovered by the Irish only led to three points. When turnovers occur in a game like this, turnovers need to convert to points.
There is a recurring theme here. The Irish defense is stout and stingy. To start the quarter, the defense stepped up. The defense forced yet another 3 and out of the Syracuse offensive line. Book got back to work in the third by starting off with a 9 yard rush. This drive did not rely heavy on the pass, but the legs of Williams for 14 yards on two carries. The drive again get stalled in the red zone and Yoon comes in for a 29 yard field goal attempt that is good. The Irish defense once again was stifling with a second 3 and out of the quarter. The swarming defense forced consecutive sacks by Drue Tranquill and Julian Okwara.
The scoring machine of the Fighting Irish keeps on driving. This drive is fueled by a 15 yard penalty. Cole Kmet, Tight End (also a Pitcher for the Fighting Irish) got in on the big play of the drive. A 17 yard reception on a 4th and 1 play brought the Irish to the 12 yard line. On 3rd and 8, a well known match-up of Book to Claypool puts the Irish back in the end zone to put the Irish up 29-0. A rare PAT miss by Yoon leaves another point of the board.
The Irish defense played huge on the ensuing drive by Syracuse. The Irish forced a third consecutive 3 and out of the quarter. The Irish put Syracuse in a spot of trying to figure out what to do. Don’t forget this Syracuse team averaged 44.4 points per game. At the end of the third quarter they had ZERO.
Let’s preface the fourth quarter. There are three possessions the whole quarter. Two of them are by Syracuse and one for the Irish. Syracuse found it’s mojo, but it was a little bit too late. Their opening possession of the fourth quarter is what they needed to do all day. Possess the ball and not let Book in the game. Their drive lasted 18 plays, 68 yards and then the play that still tore their heart apart. Andre Szmyt “doinks the 23 yard field goal attempt. The sound of the goal post against the left upright was quite a sound. Syracuse had the ball for 6:30. That’s a lot of time to walk away with no points.
With Book out of the game, Wimbush came in to do the clean up. The 80 yards garnered by the Irish were the result of some serious horsepower. Williams first two carries accounted for 14 yards, Wimbush would have the next three carries 44 yards (35 was his long). Williams would show the deuces as he would run for a 32 yard TD rush to put the icing on the day.
After 51:50 of play, Syracuse marched 59 yards on 11 plays, they lined up for a for a field goal which was made. Syracuse got on the board with 10 seconds remaining in the game. Syracuse was 12-32 rushing, 8-15 for 80 yards passing in the fourth quarter. ND was 7-89 rushing 0-1 passing. The Irish dominate in this victory 36-3. Your Fighting Irish advance to 11-0. The Irish garnered 463 yards total offense, 292 passing, 171 rushing. The defense had six sacks. The BIG plays came from both sides of the ball.
Post Game Press Conference
Question: Shake Down The Thunder Sports-Coach, back in September when you guys kicked off against Michigan, you were talking about
🏈🏈🏈 Ian Book 23-37 292 yards, 2 TD passes, 1 INT, 140.9 QBR, 6 attempts 16 yards
🏈🏈 Dexter Williams 13 attempts 74 yards 1 Rushing TD (32 yards), 1 TD Receiving (9 yards)
🏈 Alohi Gilman 8 Tackles (4 solo) 2 INTs