ND Football: The Irish Defense Was The Squad Laying Tar Not UNC

Everyone enjoys a game that gets national attention. The mid-afternoon game the day after Thanksgiving versus the Tarheels sure got plenty of it. The play(s) of Ian Book seemed to be at the center of it all. It seemed as though the Echoes Traveled East with the team. As plays that can only happen at Notre Dame Stadium actually transcended a cross country trip to Kenan Memorial Stadium, in Chapel Hill, NC. There is also an old saying that I refer to often, “it’s not how you start, but it’s how you finish.” This was very true for the Fightin’ Irish on Friday afternoon.

First Quarter

The first quarter was a bit of a mess. Going three and out, including a sack on Book is not the way the Irish wanted to start for sure. But with Sophomore Zeke Correll getting his start filling in for the injured Jarrett Pattersen is not an easy task. Adversity also existed on the defense in the first quarter. The defense seemed to have some issues in the tackling department. It seemed as the defense was slipping off of the Tarheels uniforms. The Tarheels scored first as Sam Howell let his Running Backs do the bulk of the work and ended the drive with a six yard TD pass. The drive was 7 Plays, 50 Yards, and T.O.P. 2:54.

Book once again was not going to let the game get out of hand. The Irish knew what they had to do, run well and catch the ball. Kyren Williams earned his bully yards as usual. After the Javon McKinley catch for eight yards, Williams got for and six yards on his first two carries. Book hits Michael Mayer for sixteen yards through the air. Chris Tyree, got sixteen on his first rush attempt, and book helped his cause with the “Book Keeper” for eighteen yards. Williams finished the drive with a two yard TD rush to cap off a 9 Play, 75 Yards, and T.O.P. of 4:37. 7-7 with 5:19 remaining in the quarter.

After Howell led an air assault against the Irish defense, of seventy yards through the air, his one yard QB keeper put the Tarheels on top, 14-7. Now in this game magic happens a couple times. Earlier we referred to the Echoes. The first play of this drive was one of them. Book has his arm grabbed by a defensemen and still completes a forty three yard pass completion to Javon McKinley.

After the tremendous play by McKinley, Book helps his own cause with a thirty three yard scamper to the NC06. Two plays later, after a botched snap Book gets something from nothing and finds Williams for his second TD of the day, first through the air to bring the game even at 14-14. This is another Echoes play made by Book.

First Quarter Stats

Second Quarter

The first possession for both teams to start the second quarter resulted in punts. But, Jay Bramblett go the better of the two punts. From the ND46, Bramblett gives a booming punt that’s just amazing. The ball is downed at the NC03 after fifty one yard boot.

Bramblett places the ball in the same spot on the next Irish possession at the NC03. Talk about flipping the field consecutively.

Howell would have his last bountiful drive of the game, late in the second quarter. After a sack by Drew White and Rylie Mills, Howell led his team to the ND 25 where the Tarheels converted on a forty two yard FG to go ahead for the last time 17-14. Book used an aerial attack to get the Irish in position for a thirty two yard FG attempt. Passing complete to Ben Skowronek for six yards, Williams for eleven, McKinley for ten, then a rush of nine set Jonathan Doerer up for the FG attempt which brings the teams even at the half at 17-17.

Third Quarter

Coming out of halftime, Coach Lea and the defense further enhance the adjustments needed to slow down Howell and the Tarheels and they did just that. The Tarheels would not see the endzone at all in the third quarter as they would punt three times in the quarter not getting past the NC42.

The first drive for the Irish was a herculean task. The drive started at the ND03. Book has another Echoes moment on the first drive of the third quarter. There was trouble at points with the snap from Correll. Book fumbles the ball and some how gets the ball to Avery Davis for five yards. Irish come up short and what should be 4th and 1, is a first down after the defense is called offsides. This sets up the the Dynamic Duo for another TD shot. Skowronek is on the end of a twenty one yard pass from Book, a few short plays later, Skowronek is on the end of an end around that gets Skowronek yet another on the road TD to go up for good 24-17. 13 Plays, 97 Yards, T.O.P. 5:22

Third Quarter Stats

Fourth Quarter

The Irish defense again dominated the Tarheels. During the fourth quarter on three possessions they never saw the ND side of the field, only getting to their own NC42. The play of the drive was not even on a scoring drive. What we are calling the “no look floater“, Book is flushed out of the pocket and the ball floats between players and ends up in the arms of Mayer for an eleven yard completion.

The final scoring drive for the Irish had some great moments. Williams had a forty seven yards scamper to start the drive from the ND11 and finished on the NC42. A few moments later George Takacs is on the receiving end of a thirteen yard pass that ends up at the half yard line of NC, (hence the cover photo) setting up the Williams third TD of the day and a final score of 31-17.

Coach Kelly Press Conference

“Really great win on the road against an outstanding opponent in North Carolina. Prolific offense, our defense was outstanding, especially in the second half. One of those road wins that really shows the metal of your football team. Offense, defense was outstanding. I thought that in all phases, especially in the second half, the way our defense played and then our offense running the ball, throwing the ball, Ian Book was outstanding, Kyren, Javon, and then defensively, Drew White was outstanding. Ade was relentless in the pressure.”

“Then, we’re playing without arguably our bellwether player on the back end in Kyle Hamilton. Our safety play was outstanding. Brown and Houston Griffith were outstanding, and certainly Shaun Crawford. Great victory on the road. It gets us to our ninth win and puts us in a great position to clinch an ACC berth in the championship game with one more win. Our guys are looking forward to playing at home next week. Good win.”

The Wrap Up

So a not so pretty start, ends up with the Fightin’ Irish at 9-0 overall and 8-0 in ACC Conference play. The offensive line held up ok with Jarrett Pattersen and Tommy Kraemer not available and Correll and Josh Lugg did pretty darn well. The Fightin’ Irish defense held the Tarheels to 298 Total yards, 87 Rushing and 211 Pass Yards. The Irish defense collected 6 Sacks and held the T.O.P. to 24:56.

The Irish offense racked up 478 Total Yards, 199 Rushing, 279 Pass Yards. Book was 23-33 279 yards, 1 TD Pass, 48 Yards Rushing. Kyren Williams 3 TD’s 2 Rushing 1 Pass 124 Yards Rushing, 20 Receiving Yards. Ben Skowronek 1 Rushing TD, 13 Rushing Yards and 34 Pass Yards.

Cheers and Go Irish!☘🏈🌩

Photo Courtesy of Tim Klopfenstein
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