Game Observations: Notre Dame Offense vs. Duke
It wasn't pretty, but the Notre Dame offense pulled away from Duke to earn a 27-13 victory in the season opener.
Here's my instant analysis from the performance of the Notre Dame offense.
** Overall, it was a dry game plan from first-year coordinator Tommy Rees. He made very good use of screens early in the game, setting up a 20-yard gain for Jafar Armstrong off a fake reverse, and then hitting Kyren Williams on a tunnel screen that went for 75 yards. Outside of that, there weren't enough deep shots to soften up the Duke defense, and Notre Dame was far too conservative in the game. I also wasn't overly impressed with the use of formations or motions to gain advantages, which is a must when an offense goes without tempo—and Notre Dame went without tempo the entire game.
** Quarterback Ian Book struggled in the opener against the Blue Devils. It was a performance that was reminiscent of early in the 2019 season. Book either locked in on a receiver or didn't properly go through his progressions. There were far too many instances where he had a receiver open but he failed to get the ball out, or out on time.
** Book also showed very little touch on Saturday, which looked to be a byproduct of him rushing his throws. His pocket mechanics were rushed all game, and it forced him to miss on several short throws that could have gone for big gains. One example was a third-quarter screen pass to Williams that was set up perfectly, but Book rushed it, threw it high and hard, and it went over Williams' head.
** Book's interception was a result of him locking onto Tommy Tremble and then rushing the throw. There was a defender sitting right in the window, and that pass was tipped and then picked off in the end zone, wasting the 75-yard reception by Williams the play before.
** RB Kyren Williams ran hard in the game, and he was decisive. I was impressed with what he did in the game, although for much of the contest he didn't have much room to work (see below). When Williams did get room to work, he made plays.
** Williams scored a 26-yard touchdown on a 4th-and-1 that was aided by good blocking on the edge, but the sophomore running back read the blocking perfectly, bounced outside, got behind his blockers and raced to the end zone.
** Williams finished the game with an impressive 112 yards on 19 carries, and they were well-earned yards. He also hauled in two passes for 93 yards. His numbers would have been even better in the pass game if not for that miss by Book.
** Williams had a crucial blitz pick up on Book's touchdown pass to Davis. He picked up his pass blocking in the second half after he struggled with it early on.
** Freshman RB Chris Tyree showed some juice on the one play where he had room to work, rushing for a 25-yard gain in the fourth quarter. I was surprised he only had one touch in the first half.
** The wide receivers had an up-and-down performance. At times they struggled to get separation, and at other times they were able to work themselves open but the ball wasn't delivered on time.
** Senior WR Javon McKinley was rarely targeted in the pass game, and his one target that would have picked up a third-down was negated by an offensive pass interference penalty on Tremble. He had a great downfield block on the 26-yard scoring run by Williams.
** Senior WR Avery Davis was targeted just twice, but he made an impact on those two throws. His first catch was on an inside option route where he hauled in a pass for 9 yards to convert a third-and-8. His second catch was a contested seam route for a 17-yard touchdown. The defender was in good position, but Book gave Davis a chance to make the play—which was also on third down—and Davis out-played the defender for the ball.
** Junior WR Lawrence Keys III caught just one pass, a shovel for 4 yards, but he was open more than that. In fact, there was a deep drag route he ran in the second quarter where if Book sees him, it's probably a 60+ yard touchdown.
** Junior WR Joe Wilkins Jr. had a solid performance, hauling four passes for 44 yards. He made two clutch plays late in the first half to set up a field goal. He caught a ball in bounds but broke two tackles to get out of bounds, which stopped the clock and saved a timeout. He has to work on getting off press in the boundary, but he was solid.
** TE Tommy Tremble led the offense with five catches, but he did have a big drop that would have gone for a lot of yards in the first quarter. His blocking was stellar from what I could evaluate live. He had a great block on the Williams TD run and also sprung Williams on a counter run that went for 11 yards.
** Freshman TE Michael Mayer had a strong first game in a Notre Dame uniform. He hauled in a 16-yard out throw in traffic for his first career catch, and he set up the Davis touchdown by catching a short crossing route on third-and-7 before breaking two tackles and moving the sticks. His elite talent was on full display today.
** The offensive line as a whole was disappointing in the victory. The tackles had a hard time early with the Duke pass rush, although they did settle down in the first half. There was way too much catching in the run game, and the offense struggled to get any kind of movement between the tackles. Struggling against the tackles was to be expected, at least at times, but not getting movement against the completely revamped interior of the Duke line was unexpected and concerning.
** Right tackle Robert Hainsey and right guard Tommy Kraemer had great downfield blocks on the 75-yard screen play to Williams. Outside of that Kraemer struggled for much of the game, often getting stalemated at the line or even getting knocked back.
I'll have more on the offensive line after I break down the film.
Become a premium Irish Breakdown member, which grants you access to all of our premium content, our premium message board and gets you a FREE subscription to Sports Illustrated! Click on the link below for more
Be sure to stay locked into Irish Breakdown all the time!
Join the Irish Breakdown community!
Subscribe to the Irish Breakdown podcast on iTunes.
Follow me on Twitter: @CoachD178
Follow me on Parler: @BryanDriskell
Like and follow Irish Breakdown on Facebook