During a course of a season you look to draw from the players a creative moment in writing. Saturday night the direction this creative prowess went was in the form of Jonathan Doerer. In all the scenarios you draw up, Doerer was not in the discussion at all. In the press box there was actually a collaborative moment that was going with two other outlets and myself. Any time you can bring a musical medley to the story it’s a bonus for the writer.
Saturday night against the Trojans, 77,622 spectators watched two C-130 Hercules transport plane’s flyover after the National Anthem. Then one of the most beautiful sunsets you can see at Notre Dame. All of that led to what would be a nail biter of a finish against the Trojans. In the end, the Fightin’ Irish walked away with the “Jeweled Shillelagh”. The Jeweled Shillelagh will remain in the “Gug” for another year.
In our preview article on the USC vs ND game, one of the keys the game was to get to the Kedon Slovis early and get in his head. The true Freshman coming off the concussion protocol, needed to the Irish defense meant business. After two consecutive first down passes, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramorah dropped Slovis for a loss of nine yards. Putting them in a third and long situation which forced the Trojans to punt.
For the most part the Irish defense was in a “bend don’t break” position. Amon St. Brown who was hot in the beginning of the quarter, was contained by the Irish defense. As he caught his first four targets, then he would miss be missed on the next two attempts. On the third possession of the Trojans after taking possession at the USC50 , Chase McGrath attempt at a 40 yard Field Goal was good to put the Trojans ahead 3-0. That drive was 8 Plays, 28 yards, 2:56.
With the Irish on offense, Ian Book connected for his biggest play of the quarter to Chase Claypool for 26 yards. Book had a QB keeper for 17 yards, and then the penalty bug bit. Offensive holding against Tommy Kraemer set the Irish back and stalled the drive. Another penalty late in the quarter this one on Book for Delay of Game.
Jay Bramblett flipped the field two of the three times for the Irish. Punts of 37, 38, and 46 helped keep the Trojans from gaining any real advantage from the ball not advancing by the offense.
The second quarter belonged to the Irish. The Irish defense turned up the pressure on a notch on the Trojans. The Trojans ran 18 plays on four possessions. The first two possessions by the Trojans were stalled at the ND42. The Irish defense was not going to let them get in the end zone in the second quarter. Late in the second quarter, Khalid Kareem would add to the Irish sack total and bring down Slovis for a loss of 12 yards.
While the Irish defense was limiting the advancement of the Trojans, the Irish offense was putting points on the board. Once again the Irish scored quick and often.
After a monster punt by Ben Griffiths, the Trojans downed the ball on the ND3. The big play of the 1st drive of the second quarter was on the legs of Tony Jones Jr. Jones Jr scampered for 43 yards to the USC30. After a Claypool reception of 12 yards, Cole Kmet got the pass from Book for 10 yards and a touchdown. After a Doerer PAT the Irish go up 7-3. The drive was 9 Plays, 97 yards, 2:32
The next Irish drive was even quicker. On the fourth play of the drive, Braden Lenzy rushes for a 51 yard TD leaving the Trojans in his dust. After another Doerer PAT, the Irish go up 14-3. The drive was 4 Plays, 80 yards, 1:23
On the Irish final drive of the quarter, enter Jonanthen Doerer. The Irish open up at the ND44. Jones Jr has rush of 14 yards to the USC42. The Irish offense was slowed a little as the Trojans could battle the pass, but not the run. The combination set up Doerer for 45 yard FGA from the USC27. The Doerer FGA was good and the Irish lead went to 17-3. 9 Plays, 29 yards, 2:49
The definition of kerfuffle is- a disturbance or commotion typically caused by a dispute or conflict. I learned this word last year from my friend Matt Cashore at a hockey game last season. As the players were heading to the locker room , the kerfuffle ignited the stadium. While trying to get the stats for the half, I looked up to see what the commotion was and all you could see was a swarm of bodies near the 10 yard line. It was announced that all players on both teams received unsportsmanlike penalties. Both ND and UCLA. Um, UCLA is here.
First Half Stats
The Irish with some momentum on their side, received the ball to open the second half. Now after the kerfuffle, one would believe the Irish would continue to dominate the Trojans. On the opening drive of the half, Jones Jr continued to be the work horse. The Irish had three possessions but only drive would put points on the board. On the last play of the drive Doerer lines up for a 52 yard FGA. The FGA is good and the Irish go up 20-3 early in the quarter. The drive 9 Plays, 30 yards, 2:26 This would be the only scoring drive for the Irish in the quarter.
The Trojans coming out of the locker room made some serious adjustments. It was a though Troy was awake and ready to do battle. The Trojans mixed a healthy combination of rush and pass plays that put the Irish defense with it’s back against the wall. Despite the march of the Trojans, the defense bent did not break once again. McGrath once again drills a 27 yard FGA to bring the score to 20-6.
The Trojans second drive saw the return of St. Brown. Once a again a couple rushes followed three consecutive passes capped by a St Brown 38 yard touchdown reception. The score is now 20-13. You could feel the momentum swinging a little from above as the quarter came to a close.
The fourth was a classic USC vs ND match up. Both teams trying to set each other up for the knock out blow. In classic form, each team had two chances with the ball in the fourth quarter. Clock management was crucial at this juncture. Two questions remain, 1) who will manage the clock better? 2) Who will deliver the game for their team?
The Irish had possession to end the third quarter. The drive stalled at the USC25 and Doerer once again was magnificent. This time he hit from 43 yards to expand the lead to 23-13. The drive was 10 Plays, 45 yards, 3:47
Remember that creative prowess talked about at the beginning well here it is.
The ensuing possession of the Trojans did not take long. After starting at the USC25, the Trojans didnt want field goals they wanted touchdowns and the did just that. Tyler Vaughns was on the end of the five yard touchdown from Slovis. The TD made those in attendance kinda nervous as the lead had shrunken to three as the score went to 23-20.
As the battle for superiority raged on, the Irish get the ball back and play with a sense of urgency and purpose. Remember that clock management discussed earlier, well here is the drive. The Irish put together a 12 rush, 2 pass drive that is capped by a Book”Keeper” from 8 yards out. The PAT by Doerer brought the score to 30-20. The drive 14 Plays, 75 yards, 6:54
Slovis has something to prove on what would be the final drive of the game. Five pass plays that garnered 64 yards, four rush plays for a net of 13 yards, 1 rush was a sack by Jamir Jones for minus three yards. The Trojans still found the end zone after a two yard rush by Markese Stepp. After the PAT, the Trojans are down three points 30-27. The drive 9 Plays, 77 yards, 2:29
The inevitable on-sides kick did not go in the Trojans favor as Brock Wright falls on it at the ND50. In a thriller, the Irish turn back the advance of the Trojans 30-27.
Post Game Press Conference
“Well, exciting football game. Really for our guys, they prepared so well for this game because it was so unique in that we were playing a team that was presenting an offensive structure that we hadn’t seen all year, and they were coming off a bye week, and we knew that there were going to be some things that we were going to have to adjust to. So it was interesting.”
“You know, we were excited as a staff to play the game, obviously, because it’s USC, but we were also — it was one of those things where, okay, what are we going to have to make adjustments to during the game. After the game in the locker room when you get a chance to kind of debrief about it, you feel really good that what you put in was going to be effective. There were a couple of plays out there that we needed to make, but we put our kids in good position to succeed tonight, took USC’s best shot. Congratulations to them. They played a very, very good football game. Clay had them playing very well.”
“But again, to win against your rival is one of the things that we’ve wanted to do, and it’s a traveling trophy that’s important to us, and to come out as the winner tonight, we’re very, very pleased.”
“Proud of my team. Proud of my coaches. Again, really good football game that we’re excited to have won. With that, I’ll get to your questions because I’m sure there’s a couple of them.”
Media Question: “The last drive with a lot of like designed quarterback runs, which I don’t think you guyshave done a ton of this year, can you sort of walk through that possession, what you’re trying to accomplish, why you felt like it worked?”
IAN BOOK: “Yeah, it was great play calling. They were bringing pressure off the edge, so just wanted to go take it up the middle, and the line did a good job of sorting it out. They were kind of doing some games with the line, so it’s hard when you’ve got the quarterback draw, but it worked out perfectly and saw the end zone, and I knew I had to get it in there, so it felt really good.”
Media Question: “How about Tony Jones tonight? Assess his performance a little bit.”
IAN BOOK: “Yeah, I’m super happy for Tony. He worksso hard every single day in practice and works his buttoff, so he’s being rewarded for that like he should be,so he’s a great tool in our offense, and if he keepsdoing that, it makes everything — it opens up everythingelse in the passing game when he can run like that.”
Media Question: “Ian, there was a few drives in the second half that stalled, Jonathan Doerer coming in hitting clutch field goals. Where have you seen his growth since he struggled this spring to this point?
IAN BOOK: “Yeah, I think just his composure. He went out there and just knew he needed to put up points for us. When we weren’t able to score a touchdown we relied on him to do that. He’s another guy that I see working hard every single day. He’s come a long way.It’s been awesome. I talked to him after the game, I just said, really proud of you, man, good job. You helped us win this game. I’ve seen a lot of growth in him.”
🏈🏈🏈 Tony Jones Jr-25 Attempts, 176 Yards (Career High), Long 43
🏈🏈 Braden Lenzy-1 Attempt 51 Yards, 1 TD (First Career Rushing TD)
🏈 Ian Book-17-32, 165 Yards Passing, 1 TD Pass, 12 Attempts 49 Yards Rushing, 1 TD
🏈🏈🏈 Asmar Bilal-11 Total Tackles (Career High), 8 Solo, 2 Tackles For Loss
🏈🏈 Alohi Gilman-9 Total Tackles, 2 Solo
🏈 Kyle Hamilton- 8 Total Tackles, 5 Solo
🏈🏈🏈 Jonathan Doerer-3 Field Goals 45, 52 (Career Long), 43
The Wrap Up
Jones surpassed 100 rushing yards with fewer than three minutes remaining in the first half, and is now tied for 14th in Notre Dame history with four 100-yard rushing games in a season.
Kmet now has posted more career receptions (38) than earned runs allowed (32) as a pitcher on the Notre Dame baseball team.
WR Braden Lenzy notched his first career rushing touchdown (second career TD), a 51-yard score, in the second quarter. It was Notre Dame’s longest rushing touchdown of the season, as well as the longest rushing play of the season.
K/P Jonathan Doerer made a career-long 52-yard field goal on the opening drive of the second half, also making a 45-yard field goal with 15 seconds remaining in the first half. Doerer added a 43-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. All three surpassed his previous career-long (36 yards).
Saturday marked the first time an Irish kicker has made three field goals of 40 or more yards in a single game since 1996.
Doerer’s 52-yarder places him in the Irish record books, matching the third-longest field goal made in Notre Dame history. Dave Reeve (1976 vs. Pittsburgh) and Kyle Brindza (2013 vs. Arizona State in Arlington, Texas) both had 53-yard field goals for the Irish.
ND’s last made field goal of 50 yards or longer came in 2015, when Justin Yoon netted a 52-yarder against Navy.
The Irish are on a “BYE” and will begin to prep for Michigan.
Cheers and Go Irish! 🍀🏈⚡