Key takeaways from the Notre Dame victory over Florida State, beginning with the Irish offense.
1. Jack Coan is what I thought he was - All summer Irish Breakdown has been talking about how Coan would improve the Irish pass attack, and at least for one game he certainly did that. Coan was incredibly efficient, completing 74.3% of his passes while throwing for 366 yards and four touchdowns.
In the early going Coan’s miscues were throwing short on deep throws to Braden Lenzy and Kevin Austin, but he also was more than willing to attack down the field. In the second half he let loose more and made two gorgeous throws to Austin for big gains, including a perfectly placed go route for a 37-yard touchdown.
There are certainly areas he can continue to improve, as expected in week one, but considering the poor play of the line and the fact it was game one with a new team Coan was about as good as you could expect in the opener.
2. Wide receivers had a good night - All night I watched the Notre Dame wide receivers work themselves open, even though the ball didn’t get out to them as much as they probably wanted. Lenzy was especially frustrated on one particular first half deep route where he smoked a safety, but Coan never got the chance to get to him due to the allowed pressure.
When the unit did get chances to make plays they certainly handled their business effectively. Joe Wilkins Jr. made a tremendous effort catch on a one-on-one in the end zone where he out-played the defender for a 23-yard score. It was his only target of the night and he made the most of it.
Austin had a strong first game of the season, hauling in four catches for 91 yards and a score. Not only did he stretch the field, but he also had a nifty after-the-catch move to set up another score. Lenzy could have had a much better night if Coan had more time to find him, and when Coan did go his way Lenzy made a really key sideline grab on a 2nd-and-17 early that set up the first touchdown, and he out-ran a defender on a drag for another big gain that set up a score.
3. Good red zone start - Red zone was a problem area for Notre Dame in 2020, but for at least one game the Irish took full advantage of their red zone trips. Scores of 41, 23 and 37 yards meant the Irish didn’t get many chances, but the only two trips into the red zone on the night ended with touchdowns.
4. Running backs show off their diversity - Florida State bottled up the Notre Dame running backs, holding them to 73 yards on 25 carries (2.9 YPC). There were actually some impressive runs in there, and if not for the talent of Chris Tyree and Kyren Williams the run game numbers would have been worse.
With the run game stalled offensive coordinator Tommy Rees didn’t just abandon his backs, with Williams and Tyree combining for 10 catches for 93 yards and a score. Williams hauled in six of those throws for 83 yards, including a 55-yard gain on a very well designed screen play.
5. Offensive line is very much a work in progress - Notre Dame’s offensive line had a lot of issues, and the overall sloppiness of the offense at times was never more evident than when I watched that unit. A lot of missed assignments, not nearly enough physicality and consistently getting beat off the ball were hallmarks of the game one performance for the line.
Position coach Jeff Quinn needs to quickly get his unit up to speed because performances like last night can’t be accepted for very long, and the whole “they are new” thing will wear out quickly, especially considering the fact Notre Dame started a 6th-year senior, a 5th-year senior, a senior that is going into his third season as a starter and a junior last night.
Considering how bad the line played it's quite impressive that Notre Dame had the production it did. If Quinn can get his unit going this offense could be very, very dangerous.
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