While the Irish are on a by this week, chaos is playing out on another college football Saturday. The Fighting Illini took down number 6 Wisconsin 24-23. That loss is enough to cause chaos in the AP and USA Today polls next week. Will the loss help the Irish? It should. But that is up to the writer’s and coaches to sort out. Their is more important topics to discuss though.
The mid-season report will look at the Fightin’ Irish top performers on offense, defense and special teams. Special consideration for player’s mentioned will also be allowed if they are performing in their Freshman year. True Freshman performance is a bonus to the team as early output can pay higher dividends towards the end of the season.
Jay Bramblett has been just amazing as a true Freshman. According to the NCAA College FBS stat tracker, ND is ranked 49th in the country. Now, don’t get upset over that stat. Remember Bramblett is just a Freshman. There is time to grow. Bramblett’s numbers are just amazing for his first half of the season. Net Punt Yards 1035 on 25 attempts, opponent return yards 36 on nine attempts, 39.2 net punt average. Bramblett’s long is 58 yards (against Georgia), 8 punts inside the 20 yard line.
Outside of the P.A.T.’s, FGA/FGM, Jonathan Doerer for the most part has the Irish ranked 19th in the country for Kick-off Return Defense. Doerer 40 attempts, 2392 yards, 59.8 average, 22 touch-backs and one out of bounds. Harrison Leonard has two attempts, 80 yards. Doerer has definitely come along way the first six games of the season.
I am not surprised by the stat we are about to discuss. Kyle Hamilton, the true Freshman leads the team in interceptions based upon two stats in this category. With two INT’s, his first INT was a “Pick 6” against the New Mexico Lobos. Coach Kelly had this to say in the post game press conference. “You know, I think the defense kind of set it up for us,the big interception by that kid, 14, who is — he’s around the ball. I mean, he just has a great nose for the football and the interception for a touchdown, you know, got us some great momentum, and then we were able to feed off that.”
Jalen Elliott is second with two INT’s. Elliott has no TD and a return for only two yards.
Adetokunbo Ogundeji (DL) is in my perspective the number one defensive player in this category. His 23 yard scoop and score against the Cavaliers showed that the big man can advance the ball, though it wasn’t easy. In the same game the number two DL in this category is Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa. Amosa had a 48 yard fumble recovery and returned it to the VA7. Had he maintained his balance, Amosa would have had his own scoop and score to match Ogundeji. The Irish are ranked sixth in the country in Fumbles Recovered: 6 games 8 fumble recoveries. They are all 14th in the country for Turnovers Gained.
In this category, are some tough guys making big plays defensively for the Irish. Alohi Gilman leads all defensive players with 38 Total Tackles, 17 Unassisted and 21 assists. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah comes in second with 37 Total Tackles, 28 Unassisted and 9 assisted. Asmar Bilal comes in third with 35 Total Tackles, 22 Unassisted and 13 assisted. Special mention to Kyle Hamilton as he places sixth on the list with 21 Total Tackles. 15 Unassisted and assisted.
Tackles For Loss
Drew White leads the way in this category. Seven Tackles For loss that equates to -16 yards for Irish opponents. Against the Cardinals and the Bulldogs White had two tackles in each and six yards lost in both games. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah comes in second with five and a half tackles and -23 yards. Julian Okwara has the third spot with -49 yards.
Sacks on the field equal out to sacks of cookies in the dorm. Julian Okwara leads by half a sack. Okwara has 4 sacks for -28 yards. Khalid Kareem has three and a half sacks for -26 yards. Remember a mere few years ago the Irish were no where to be seen in the sack department. That is no longer the case at Notre Dame.
Thrust into the starting Running Back position, Tony Jones Jr is a major reason for the Irish success offensively. Jones Jr on 80 attempts has 557 yards and 4 touchdowns. Against Virginia Jones Jr had 3 of his 4 touchdowns and 131 yards. Against USC he carried for 176 yards. Coach Kelly had this to say about Jones Jr after USC. “Well, look, Tony has been kind of pigeonholed into this kind of journeyman back, but he does so many things well. He just doesn’t have 4.3
speed. But he blocks, he’s tough, he’s physical, he’s going to get you the extra yard. Who wouldn’t want a back like that? You know, he plays through nicks and
bumps. He practices hard. He’s a great teammate. Give me a boat load of Tony Jones’ and I’ll take them in a heartbeat.”
Ian Book has three rushing touchdowns on 49 attempts with a net of 188 Rushing Yards.
We are going to mix up the stat sheet here. We will put Cole Kmet in the first spot here. Kmet after recovering from a collar-bone break before the season. Legitimately the owner of the first spot. 21 catches for 253 yards, and 3 Touchdowns in just four games. He scored the first touchdown of the game against the Bulldogs and immediately having an impact on the Irish offense.
Chase Claypool holds the second spot after the shake up of the stat sheet. Claypool has 27 catches for 394 yards along with four touchdowns. Claypool is doing his part in the Irish offense. In the second half I bet his numbers jump into a crazy fury. Passing TD’s will be on the rise.
It is hard to compare Ian Book of last year to the Book of this year. There are different factors at play. Nonetheless, Book appears to be trying to be doing to much and has put this team on the shoulders. When there is that much pressure, it’s not always going to play well. But, not all is lost. Book is still operating at QB efficiency rating of 157.54 after six games. Book is 108-171-2, which equals to 63.2 % passing. Book’s total pass yards is 1419 with 14 touchdowns. In the Red Zone offense, the Irish are #1. 22 Red Zone Attempts, 11 Rushing TD’s, 8 Passing TD’s and 3 FGM.
Scores By Quarter
When you look at the overall total points scored versus points allowed, the Irish hold a little for than a two to one ratio. ND leads all quarters against opponents. First quarter points scored: ND 56 Opp 24, second quarter 79-24, third quarter 48-16 and the fourth quarter 52-37. It’s noted that the fourth quarter that the Irish defense need’s to try and shutdown an opponent a little more. This also can be attributed to getting playing time to second and third team players. You don’t want to leave your high impact players in to get hurt, when it’s really not needed.
The Wrap Up
With the Irish record at 5-1, the second half of the season awaits. There is much help needed to keep the Irish in the discussion of getting back to the College Football Playoffs. Many seem to believe that with the loss to the Bulldogs that there is no way into the playoffs. The team cannot fall trap to the works coming of of the certain fans. The sports media is even worse. With different talk show hosts writing off the season for the Irish as well. The Fightin’ Irish will need to have faith and main the confidence that Coach Kelly and his staff has worked hard to instill in their team. This team holds destiny in their hands. Fans if you get a chance to get out to a game in the second half, be loud and support your defense when they are on the field.
Cheers and Go Irish! 🍀 🏈⚡