Notre Dame put another impressive notch on its College Football Playoff belt with a 31-17 victory at #19 North Carolina.
Earning a win over a team like North Carolina requires far more than three or four players to standout, especially with how the Irish defense played, but there were four players that stood out above the rest.
OFFENSE - Javon McKinley, Wide Receiver
Stats: 6 catches, 135 yards, 22.5 YPC
Runners Up: QB Ian Book, RB Kyren Williams, LT Liam Eichenberg
McKinley has quietly become Notre Dame's best receiver, and he's been at his best in the biggest games. Against the Tar Heels, McKinley did a little bit of everything.
The veteran wideout made plays in every zone. He worked the middle of the field with the short game, he worked the sidelines with stop routes, comebacks and out cuts (and looked good with his route running while doing it) and he was a big play weapon for the offense.
McKinley set up Notre Dame's second touchdown of the game with a 43-yard gain up the right side, outplaying cornerback Don Chapman for the ball. Notre Dame went from backed up at its own 18 into UNC territory on the play, and scored three plays later.
He started a third quarter series off with a 53-yard gain on a post route, outplaying safety Kyler McMichael for the football. It set up a field goal attempt that was missed, but it resulted in flipping the field in a contested game.
McKinley's final catch moved the chains yet again, this time on the team's final scoring drive of the game, the one that iced the game.
DEFENSE - Adetokunbo Ogundeji and Daelin Hayes, Defensive Ends
Ogundeji Stats: 3 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 sacks
Hayes Stats: 2 tackles, 1 break up
Runners Up: LB Marist Liufau, LB Drew White
Notre Dame needed its stars to play like stars, and we saw that on all three levels of the defense, but the veteran edge players were the best of the best.
Ogundeji was his usual brilliant self defending the run game on the edge. He was a force setting the edge, he got tremendous push and he made a huge play in space on a second-half third-and-5 run with the game still in doubt.
Where Ogundeji made his biggest impact was as a pass rusher. He racked up two sacks in the game, but his pass rush was consistent throughout the game and he played a significant role in UNC quarterback Sam Howell not getting into rhythm after the first two series.
Hayes wasn't as flashy from a statistical standpoint, but he was outstanding as well. UNC could not block him on the edge early in the game, and he got consistent early pressures. He won with speed, he won with double moves and he won with power. It doesn't show up in the stat sheet, but he had a strong pass rush that negated a 49-yard gain by UNC because a Tar Heel blocker held him to prevent him from getting a sack.
Hayes was strong against the run and was impactful dropping into coverage.
SPECIAL TEAMS - Jay Bramblett, Punter
Stats: 5 punts, 43.0 yards per punt, 2 inside the 20
Notre Dame struggled to get stops early in the game, but Bramblett played a big role in slowing down the Tar Heel offense. With the game tied at 14-14, Bramblett pinned North Carolina at its own 3-yard line on back-to-back punts.
The Tar Heel offense was never the same after these two backed up series. While the defense gets a majority of the credit for that, the fact Bramblett was able to pin them deep and force the Tar Heels to go to its backed-up offense gave the defense a chance to right the ship.
To comment below be sure to sign up for a FREE Disqus account, which you can get HERE.
Become a premium Irish Breakdown member, which grants you access to all of our premium content, our premium message board and gets you a FREE subscription to Sports Illustrated! Click on the link below for more
Be sure to stay locked into Irish Breakdown all the time!
Join the Irish Breakdown community!
Subscribe to the Irish Breakdown podcast on iTunes.
Subscribe to the Irish Breakdown YouTube channel.
Follow me on Twitter: @CoachD178
Follow me on Parler: @BryanDriskell
Like and follow Irish Breakdown on Facebook