Grades: Notre Dame Offense vs. Navy
Notre Dame put together one of its best offensive performances of the season, beating Navy 52-20.
The Notre Dame offense started the game looking like what we’ve seen throughout the season. A good run to start the game, a strong play by wide receiver Chase Claypool and then it started to come apart.
A false start and a three-yard loss in the run game put Notre Dame in a third-and-16 situation, and quarterback Ian Book was scrambling around in hopes of finding someone open. It looked like Notre Dame was about to blow another scoring chance, like we’ve seen so many times this season.
At that point running back Tony Jones Jr. threw a punishing block that sprung Book free for a 15-yard gain. Jones then converted the 4th-and-1 to breathe new life into the offense. Three plays later, Book found Claypool on a crossing route for a touchdown.
Notre Dame would score on its next six possessions, with five ending in touchdowns. It was a combination of an excellent passing game plan and top-level execution. It was what the offense should have been doing all season, at least with its pass game.
Navy brought an aggressive defense into the game that was holding opponents to just 18.1 points per game, but Notre Dame topped that by the 12:32 mark of the second quarter. OC Chip Long had a game plan that had Navy on its heels all game long. He used motions to create isolation’s for his top players, and Book attacked Navy all game.
Notre Dame was explosive throughout, which is why it faced just nine third-downs, its fewest of the season and fewest since it had nine last September in a 56-27 road win at Wake Forest.
Long’s offense played good sudden change offense, turning three of Navy’s four turnovers into touchdowns. The fourth turnover was returned fo a touchdown by the defense.
The only knocks on the game was the inability to establish the ground game and the lack of aggression of the second team offense once it was put in the game.
QB #12 Ian Book - Grade: A — 14-20, 284 pass yards, 5 TD’s / 31 rush yards — When you consider the quality of the opponent this was clearly Book’s best game of the season. This is the Book we saw last season; he was decisive, he was accurate, he showed poise in the pocket and he made plays with his legs. Most important, Book threw the ball with good timing.
Book’s 70-percent completion rate was his second best of the season. When you consider that 30-percent of his passes were at least 20 yards down the field it makes his completion numbers look even better. Book completed five of his six deep shots for 192 yards and three touchdowns. Even better, we saw Book leading receivers on deep passes.
He hit Chase Claypool on a seam throw for a touchdown and hit speedster Braden Lenzy in stride on a post route that ended up as a 70-yard touchdown pass. It was the longest completion of Book’s career.
By staying poised in the pocket, Book was able to find underneath routes and also found creases in the defense when he decided to run.
RB #6 Tony Jones Jr. - Grade: C+ — 9 carries, 26 yards, 2.9 YPC, 1 TD — Eight of Jones’ nine carries came on just two drives, as Notre Dame did not put much effort into running the football. Seven of his nine carries were graded as efficient runs, including a goal line touchdown, a 3rd-and-1 conversion and a 4th-and-1 conversion. Jones needed to be a bit more decisive as a runner, but he shook off some of the rust we saw last week.
Jones had a chance to get into the end zone again in the third quarter, but he dropped a pass on a seam throw. Jones might not have hauled in that pass, but he graded out extremely well in the pass game the remainder of the game thanks to his top-notch pass blocking.
RB #20 C’Bo Flemister — 3 carries, 16 yards, 5.3 YPC — Flemister only carried the ball three times, but he impressed in those limited snaps. The sophomore was decisive and ran with good leg drive, although I would have liked to see him bounce his second carry.
WR #83 Chase Claypool - Grade: A — 7 catches, 117 yards, 4 TD’s — Claypool has been outstanding all season, and over the last three games he’s been at his very best. The performance against Navy, however, might have been the best of his career. Claypool did a little bit of everything; he worked the middle of the field, he beat Navy deep and he made plays after the catch.
The senior receiver dominated when the ball was in the air, but his game was more than just hauling in throws in tough situations. His route running was crisp and his release off the line was truly outstanding. Claypool’s ability to win at the snap played a major role in him getting the necessary separation to make plays on the ball.
Claypool was a bit spotty as a run blocker, but overall his game was excellent.
WR #10 Chris Finke - Grade: B — 3 catches, 57 yards — After struggling for much of the first seven games of the season, Finke has now put together three quality performances in a row. Against Navy he was targeted just three times but hauled in each of the throws, and all three went for a first down.
Finke did a good job throttling down in the zone on his first reception, a gain of 14 yards that converted a 2nd-and-10. His third reception came on a corner route for 28 yards, and Finke did an excellent job getting separation out of his break. Finke’s second reception would have gone for a lot more than 15 yards had the throw been more accurate.
WR #25 Braden Lenzy - Grade: A — 2 catches, 87 yards, 1 TD / 10 rush yards — As has been the case all season, Lenzy wasn’t targeted much in the game, but he certainly made a huge impact whenever the ball came his way. He gained 10 yards on a reverse on the opening drive of the game, and he made an impressive catch in traffic on an incredibly well thrown comeback route from Phil Jurkovec for his final reception of the game.
Lenzy broke the game open in the second quarter with a 70-yard touchdown reception. Notre Dame caught Navy in a corner blitz, which put Lenzy in a one-on-one against the safety, and the sophomore speedster just blew past the safety for the long touchdown.
Lenzy blocked quite well in the game and that continues to be an underrated part of his game.
Lenzy has been targeted just 10 times in the pass game and has five touches in the run game. On those 15 targets/touches, Lenzy has racked up 278 yards and three touchdowns.
WR #13 Lawrence Keys III - Grade: B — 2 catches, 32 yards / 11 rush yards — Like Lenzy, Keys wasn’t targeted very much but he did damage when the ball came his way. Keys picked up 11 yards on a jet sweep, made a solid first-down catch and also had an excellent sideline toe-tap to gain 27 yards on the first series of the third quarter.
TE #84 Cole Kmet - Grade: B- — Kmet was targeted just twice in the game, and neither pass was caught. His route running wasn’t overly crisp, but despite his lack of production in the pass game we saw Kmet make his presence felt in the game. His powerful block on Notre Dame’s 4th-and-1 on the opening drive opened up the run lane, and he had an impressive perimeter block on Lenzy’s reverse. Kmet was physical at the point of attack and played with good angles on the perimeter.
TE #24 Tommy Tremble - Grade: B- — Tremble was targeted just once in the game, and he got jammed up on a couple of routes. In the run game he had an impact, getting good movement on the edge and blocking well in space.
LT #74 Liam Eichenberg - Grade: B+ — Eichenberg had another outstanding performance and he graded out as Notre Dame’s top blocker in the game. He got excellent movement on multiple drive blocks, and he combined with Kmet to have a pair of explosive combo blocks that helped convert a 3rd-and-1 and a 4th-and-1. Eichenberg was good on the back side and he finished extremely well in the run game.
His pass protection was top-notch, with Eichenberg not allowing a single hurry in the game. He handled Navy’s speed rushes with ease and was quick to recognize stunts and pressures.
LG #69 Aaron Banks - Grade: B — Banks had a consistently solid performance against Navy. He wasn’t dominant, but he did his job effectively, limiting mistakes and handling pass protection extremely well. There were too many snaps where Banks caught defenders in the run game, but he was assignment sound and blocked well on the perimeter.
C #55 Jarrett Patterson - Grade: B+ — Patterson had an outstanding performance in pass protection. He stoned the interior pass rushers and was quick to get off to pick up blitzers and stunters. His ability to handle those movements played a big role in the line being able to give Book a clean pocket throughout the game. Patterson was assignment sound in the run game and got movement in short yardage situations.
RG #57 Trevor Ruhland - Grade: C — Ruhland did a better job holding his water against Navy, and we didn’t see him getting driven back like he did against Duke. He didn’t get very good movement in the run game and he caught a lot, but at least he didn’t get knocked back. Ruhland graded out well in the pass game, handling stunts well and holding the point against power rushes.
RT #75 Joshua Lugg - Grade: C+ — Lugg had a couple of misses and miscues on Navy’s edge stunts, but overall his game was solid. When Navy tried to rush him off the edge on pure speed moves the junior right tackle picked them up with ease. His length and power played well in those instances, and he did a good job getting reaches on the edge in the run game.