My five takeaways from the thrilling 41-38 Notre Dame victory over Florida State.
1. My second quarter mood was trending toward dumping on Notre Dame quarterback Jack Coan. He needed to run the ball once or twice to loosen up the defense. He missed a couple of deep throws. And he generally just seemed too in control. Man was I wrong. Coan had himself a night, finishing 26 for 35 with 366 yards passing and four touchdown throws. With a running game that struggled and defense that was disappointing, Coan was a spectacular game manager. The Irish needed every bit of magic that Coan provided. Hat tip to Coan for exceeding expectations.
2. It was not a good night for defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman. He’s not in Cincinnati anymore.
The gambling Irish defense lost in some critical situations in the first half. Notre Dame gave up two-big plays - an 89-yard touchdown run by Jashaun Corbin and a 60-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Travis to Ja’Khi Dougas. In the second half, after taking an 18-point lead, Notre Dame went to a three-man defensive line. It was an inexplicable prevent type of defense that played right into FSU’s hands. The Seminoles scored 18 straight points and forced an overtime. Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton came up big with two interceptions. Clarence Lewis also had one. But the defense gave up 264-yards rushing. There is a lot of work that needs to be done this week.
3. Was there a better Notre Dame moment than when Joe Wilkins Jr. wrestled a 23-yard touchdown pass away from two Florida State defenders in the second quarter? That score gave Notre Dame a 17-14 lead. It was just Wilkins' second career TD reception. There was a lot of preseason talk about how improved the Irish wide receiving core was going to be this year. That is still an issue that we can have a running debate on, but Wilkins was praised by the coaching staff and his teammates both for his super effort in the offseason in the weight room. It’s nice to see the hard work pay off.
4. Thankfully, this game won’t be remembered for the two passes that tight end Michael Mayer dropped. Mayer set the early tone when he caught four first quarter passes from Coan. That included a 41-yard touchdown pass on the first drive. The sophomore tight end lived up to the preseason All-American hype that has been lavished on him, catching nine passes for 120vyards with one score. His two mistakes were dropping a catchable 3rd-and-7 pass from Coan that would’ve kept a drive alive in the first half. Mayer dropped a pass over the middle on the last drive in regulation that would’ve put Notre Dame in field goal range for Jonathan Doerer. Doerer bailed him out in overtime with a 40-yard field goal that gave the Irish a 41-38 victory.
5. It wasn’t mean spirited or offensive (to me at least). It was just clumsy and awkward, and not particularly funny, which is how Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly wanted his post game comments about his team’s execution to be perceived.
And it’s already gone viral.
Asked by an ABC reporter about his team’s performance, Kelly said, “I’m in favor of execution. Maybe our entire team needs to be executed after tonight. We just didn’t execute very well.”
Kelly had twisted an old John McKay quote around to make a point about how poorly Notre Dame played down the stretch when it gave up 18 straight points. Florida State tied the game before losing 41-38 in overtime. McKay’s quote when asked about his team executing reportedly was: “I’m in favor of it.”
Kelly had to explain the weird moment after the game.
“It’s an old John McKay quote,” he said. “I was kidding. It was tongue and cheek. It wasn’t funny? It’s an old John McKay quote he used after the game. So, I was talking and making a joke about it. Why ? It was taken seriously. Are you people crazy? It’s a John McKay quote he used after a game. I was stealing one of his quotes and being funny. I guess no one likes to be funny anymore. So ya, if you want to take me to town on that one, please do.”
Okay, I will. Leave the standup to Lou Holtz.
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