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Key Takeaways Of The Notre Dame Offense From The UNC Victory

Breaking down what we learned about the Notre Dame offense from the win over North Carolina

Notre Dame finally woke up on offense, and it was quite the performance. An offense that had yet to score more than 24 points in a single game exploded for 24 points in the second quarter alone. 

The impressive 45-32 victory was fueled by a breakout from this unit. There were plenty of takeaways and things we can learn about this group.

1. Running Backs Are In Fact Very Good - Expectations for the Notre Dame backfield were quite high coming into the 2022 season. Outside of some flashy moments against Cal the talented backfield had failed to make much of a splash.

That changed in the win over North Carolina, as all three running backs went for over 100 yards of total offense. How they were used together was notable.

Junior Chris Tyree was used mainly on inside zone and counter plays in the run game, and he was used on jets and in the screen game as a receiver. After Tyree made a big splash in the pass a week ago, the Irish coaches used him primarily as a decoy in the pass game against UNC, and quite effectively I might add.

On the first big play of the game for the Irish, out of a two back alignment, Tyree was used on an inside zone action with Logan Diggs showing swing action. It was a similar look to what we saw last week, but this time Diggs ran a wheel route and came wide open.

With Audric Estime serving as the hammer, 

2. Drew Pyne Is Willing To Attack - Junior quarterback Drew Pyne was highly efficient for Notre Dame, completing 70.6% of his passes and averaging 8.5 yards per pass attempt. 

Pyne was decisive and accurate, and he took full advantage of the scheme that got players free in the flats and over the middle all game long. Pyne’s ball placement was also as good as we have seen from him in a Notre Dame uniform. 

None of that is what truly impressed me in the win. No, what stood out was Pyne’s willingness to attack down the field and be aggressive as a passer. He will need to be a bit more accurate, and the coaches can help him by putting different weapons on the field, but Pyne showed Notre Dame’s upcoming opponents that he is more than willing - and able - to be aggressive. 

Pyne attempted three shots beyond 20 yards, including the seam throw to Lorenzo Styles that went for a 30-yard touchdown. Pyne also attacked the seams on a throw to Michael Mayer that went for 20, and his high ball to Mayer on an out cut where the Irish tight end was covered was gutsy and showed impressive ball placement. 

Pyne showed the confidence, accuracy and guts Notre Dame needs from him as the leader of the offense.

3. Offensive Line Continues Improvement - A big reason for the early season struggles, and for the success against North Carolina was the play of the offensive line. It struggled to protect or move defenders off the ball. That started to change against Cal, and against UNC we saw the line we thought we would get this season.

The Notre Dame blockers worked extremely well together, they played with purpose, they were physical and they finished extremely well. Even when Carolina and everyone else in the stadium knew a run was coming the Irish line got movement almost every time. 

Left tackle Joe Alt and left guard Jarrett Patterson were an outstanding tandem and the right side of Blake Fisher and Josh Lugg also showed improvement. 

The pass pro was solid as well, and even when the line gave ground they did a quality job of staying engaged, which allowed Pyne to get out of trouble and gave the backs room to work.

4. Third Down Offense Shines - Notre Dame came into this matchup ranked 124th in the nation of third-down offense and had yet to get past 31% success in the first three games.

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That changed against North Carolina, as the Irish offense went 8-14 (57.1%). ND started off 1-3 on third down and finished 1-3, but in between they converted six straight third downs, which played a key role in turning a 7-0 deficit into a 38-14 lead.

The play design was vintage Rees, and Pyne was an impressive 6-8 on third down and also converted a pair of conversions with his legs.

5. Missed Opportunities - As impressive as this performance was, a possible key takeaway is that Notre Dame still left a lot of points and yards on the board.

Pyne missed a wide open Mayer for what should have been a touchdown but on a drive that ended with a field goal. The offense failed to convert a 4th-down play in UNC territory, and of course you had Estime’s fumble into the end zone. 

Just those three mistakes alone prevent the offense from getting to at least 59 points, if not more. 

This matters because all of those mistakes are correctable and need to be corrected. It also gives the coaches a lot of film to point to that will show the players they can and should still be much better than what we saw yesterday.

When they play better defenses they will need to do so. 

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