Game Observations: Notre Dame Offense From The Win Over Virginia Tech

Instant analysis of the Notre Dame offense from the 32-29 victory over Virginia Tech
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It wasn't always pretty but Notre Dame's offense showed that when it is clicking it can be very, very dangerous and explosive. After sputtering throughout the game when the offense needed rallies in the second and fourth quarters they got it done behind two different quarterbacks.

*** One of the more puzzling aspects of the offensive game plan was the insistence on playing 12 personnel even after Michael Mayer went out very early in the game. That meant freshman Mitchell Evans - a promising player but a very raw player that was a quarterback in high school last season, was a key figure in the offense.

*** The game plan was a bit dull early in the game but OC Tommy Rees seemed to thrive when freshman QB Tyler Buchner was inserted into the game. We saw counters, read zones, power reads, options, quick pitches ... we run game diversity we haven't seen all season, and it worked.

*** Rees did a very good job getting the offense going late in the game. Taking enough shots to get chunk plays but also incorporating backside seams and checkdowns that proved to be huge plays in the final two drives. This was one of his best games at Notre Dame, without a doubt.

*** I've been very hard on the offensive line all season, and for good reason. Even in this game silly penalties (bad holds, false starts, missed assignments) were problematic, but the line must get credit for playing very hard. This was the most physical game we've seen all season from the line. They were especially good in pass protection compared to past games, especially on the final two drives of the game, which proved to be the game.

*** That being said, the penalties were game changers, and they are further signs of a poorly coached unit. A false start by a junior turned a 4th-and-1 into a punting situation. A clipping penalty turned a possible field goal attempt into a 3rd-and-21 that ended with an interception. 

*** I'll watch the game again to get a better read on individual performances, but I was impressed by the physicality and movement that right tackle Josh Lugg and right guard Cain Madden got at times.

*** Veteran quarterback Jack Coan didn't play much in the game. He started early and made an impressive throw to Kevin Austin where he stayed in the pocket and found his man. Later he stepped into a third-down sack when he locked in on a read and didn't find two open receivers to his backside.

*** Coan was replaced by freshman QB Tyler Buchner, who promptly led the Irish on a scoring drive that was aided by a gorgeous 46-yard connection to Kevin Austin, who led the Irish with 70 yards on three catches. Buchner made another strong read and throw on a seam route to Avery Davis that set up the second score.

*** Buchner showed off his impressive physical tools in this game, including his ability to get the ball downfield and his ability to make plays with his legs. He also showed that he's an inexperienced player who hasn't played a lot of football the last couple of years, which resulted in him throwing an interception for a touchdown and another pick on third-down.

*** His pick six was Buchner locking in on a quick hitch/stop route and throwing it despite the cornerback being all over the receiver. 

*** Buchner was knocked out of the game after his second interception and was replaced by Coan, who showed the poise and decision making we expected from him. He was brilliant on his first drive back, taking check downs for positive yards, throwing a dart up the seam to Avery Davis for a 23-yard gain and then making a fast decision to get the ball out to Davis for the 4-yard touchdown. He did a great job keeping the two-point conversion alive and keeping his eyes downfield, another thing we expected to see from him this season but haven't ... until tonight.

*** Coan was just as good on the next drive, the game-winner, calmly finding Braden Lenzy for a 20-yard gain and then hitting George Takacs up the seam for a 15-yard gain to get the Irish into scoring territory and into field goal range.

*** The Irish wide receivers have been up-and-down all season, but tonight they were up. Kevin Austin finally executed a sound press release and it ended with him smoking a Virginia Tech corner for a 46-yard gain. He also showed great hustle and awareness getting open from the backside on the 2-point conversion, and he made a great catch. Lenzy was quiet until the final two drives and he came up clutch, and Avery Davis was his normal clutch self, hauling in three passes for 64 yards and a score.

*** This was one of the best games Kyren Williams ever played at Notre Dame. His numbers won't blow you away (74 rushing yards, 3.9 YPC) but he played extremely well. Williams showed great patience all night, his reads were very good and when he needed to run hard and hammer someone he did. His ability to make defenders miss and maximize yards was outstanding in this game, and Williams also made plays in the pass game with 5 catches.

*** We finally got to see talented freshman Logan Diggs, who rushed the ball 6 times for 29 yards. Diggs showed impressive footwork and vision himself. His read on his 10-yard run to cut an inside zone all the way out the back door was mature, his patience was noticeable and his balance continues to impress (like it did in high school). He provided the Irish with a spark with Chris Tyree went out.

*** I'll need to study the film more to see how he did all night, but I noticed George Takacs blocking more effectively tonight, including backside on a short yardage conversion where he drove a defender at least four to five yards off the ball.

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