Notre Dame beat Florida State 41-38 to start the season in a barn burner of a game. It wasn't always pretty but the Irish got the job done. Here are my immediate thoughts of the offense from the win.
*** Offensive coordinator Tommy Rees called an excellent game for Notre Dame in the win. Rees did a number of impressive things in the victory. Early on the Irish attacked Florida State down the field. The first big play resulted in a 41-yard gain and the next was incomplete, but the offense set the tone that it was going to attack all night.
*** After Florida State took a lead early in the game Rees immediately went tempo on the next drive and the offense went right down the field. A questionable 3rd-and-5 QB counter call went nowhere and the offense had to settle for a field goal. I didn't like the call but I get it. It's 3rd-and-5 and if you gain positive yards its two-down territory, but the line was getting no push at that time and Coan isn't that kind of player, and it went nowhere, but the Irish still got points.
*** Florida State was giving Notre Dame one-on-ones on the outside the entire first half but Coan rarely had time to get the ball out. At halftime Rees dialed up two deep throws on the opening series for the offense that were basically Coan hitting his depth and letting it go to Kevin Austin. That came right after Florida State had taken a third quarter lead and we once again saw the offense respond with aggressive play-calling, but by getting the ball quickly down the field it allowed the receivers to take advantage of the one-on-ones.
*** Later in the third quarter Notre Dame faced a third-and-long situation deep in its own territory and Rees called a perfectly designed and then perfectly executed screen pass to Kyren Williams that went for 55 yards.
*** Quarterback Jack Coan had a solid first half for Notre Dame. Early on he made good reads on a stick route throw to Michael Mayer and then he saw a FSU blown coverage and quickly got the ball out to Mayer for the long score. He underthrow multiple deep balls early but he still threw them, and that allowed Joe Wilkins Jr. to make a great play on the ball for the score. You give your receivers a chance to make plays and they will make them more often than not.
*** Coan also rescued the line a few times in the first half and was constantly harassed, but he protected the ball and was efficient.
*** In the second half Coan was on fire. His deep balls were coming out quicker and leading receivers, he was quickly going through reads and throwing accurately and his decision making was outstanding. One particular savvy read was a bootleg where his first read, Mayer, actually had a step and was technically open, but Coan went deep and found Braden Lenzy out-running his defender on a drag route so Coan hit him for a 24-yard gain and a bigger play.
*** Coan had a bad miss to Mayer on the second to last drive of regulation that could have moved the chains at time when the offense needed to really move the chains. On the final drive of regulation he made a huge completion to Mayer and then hit Mayer for what should have been a play that got Notre Dame into field goal range but Mayer dropped the ball.
*** Coan finished 26-35 (74.3%) for 366 yards and four touchdowns on the night.
*** Running backs Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree saw very little run room throughout the night. They both made very good cuts to get to maximize the yards in the run game, but there just wasn't much room to work. Tyree had the better night as runner from a decision making standpoint from what I could tell live, but Williams was huge in the pass game beyond just the one long play on the screen, which is what makes him so dangerous. Even with FSU bottling him up as a runner he still made impact plays.
*** Tight end Michael Mayer had some big plays tonight, including a 41-yard touchdown grab and he with over 100 yards receiving. His blocking, however, was not up to par from what I could tell and he had two huge, I mean huge drops in the game. The first killed a drive with Notre Dame in FSU territory and the second came on the second to last play of regulation on a throw that would have put Notre Dame in field goal range.
*** At wide receiver the Irish wideouts played goo football on the night. Kevin Austin had a good game and was open often but also looked rusty at times. He did made a great grab for a touchdown and had a strong first game of the season. Wideout Braden Lenzy did some good things and had chances for a couple more big plays but Coan didn't have time to get him the ball. Lenzy did have a chance on an underthrown ball in the first half but he needs to do a better job making a play on the ball. Joe Wilkins Jr. didn't get open much but when given a chance to make a play he made a great play on the ball for a touchdown.
*** Overall I thought the wideouts played quite well and the pass game thrived, and when given a chance the wideouts usually came threw.
*** As always I'll have more to say about the offensive line when I break down the film, but this was a really, really rough night for the unit from what I was able to evaluate. The line got no movement in the run game all night long, and we saw a lot of the catching and poor footwork we saw so much in 2018 and 2019 from the line.
*** Notre Dame's line also did a poor job protecting Coan, both in the first half and late in the game during crunch time. They were getting knocked off the ball and both left tackles struggled in pass protection. Left guard Zeke Correll had an especially rough night and transfer guard Cain Madden didn't play with the physicality you'd expect from what we did at Marshall and all the praise he received in the preseason. It's just one game, but tonight was a really, really rough way to start the 2021 season.
*** A lot of things went wrong in this game, but the poor play of the offensive line was the biggest issue for the Irish offense.
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