by John Vannie
C.J. Sanders returned the opening kickoff for a 92-yard score and Notre Dame never looked back in cruising to a 44-6 win over Army on Saturday in San Antonio, Texas. The Irish streaked to a 21-0 lead in the first eleven minutes and stretched their lead to 38-6 at the half before calling off the dogs against the outmanned Black Knights. DeShone Kizer threw three touchdown passes, two to tight end Durham Smythe from Belton, Texas, and directed a balanced attack before Malik Zaire came on in relief in the third quarter.
Army could not generate much offense behind backup quarterback Chris Carter, who started the game due to an injury to starter Ahmad Bradshaw. Although Carter failed to complete a pass and ran for only 30 yards, it would not have mattered had Bradshaw been in the lineup. The Notre Dame defense was ready for the option attack and turned back all but one scoring threat when the Knights managed to reached the red zone.
The Irish thoroughly dominated the contest and were never threatened. They recorded 31 first downs to ten for Army, and even outgained them on the ground by 261-229. The victory raised Notre Dame’s record to 4-6, however the schedule becomes more difficult in the final two weeks with encounters against Virginia Tech and USC remaining.
There not much more in the way of analysis that I can add to the account of this mismatch, but let’s look at the answers to the pregame questions.
Will the depleted middle of the Irish defensive line be able to shut down the inside run? Yes, the Irish were in control of the line of scrimmage throughout, and Jarron Jones even made a cameo appearance to get in on the fun.
Can the young Army cornerbacks keep Notre Dame from passing them silly? Jaylon McClinton made a few outstanding plays for the Knights, but the Irish receivers were open most of the day.
Will Notre Dame’s special teams finally make a positive contribution? Yes. Of course, it helped to be playing against the only team in the country whose special teams are objectively worse.
Can Kizer get into a passing rhythm and improve his accuracy? He had plenty of time in the pocket and made some quality throws, but his accuracy still left a lot to be desired.
Will Army match Navy’s success by avoiding turnovers? Each team had an interception to thwart a scoring threat, but there were no turning points in this game.
Can the Poe brothers haul in any long passes against the Irish? Christian Poe had one of the two Army receptions on the day for a grand total of nine yards, while a couple of other apparent completions were negated by penalties.
Will the Knights elect to gamble on critical fourth downs? Can they convert? They tried several times, but the Irish won all but one of those battles where Army scored its only touchdown.
Can NBC manage its camera angles to avoid showing all of the empty seats? NBC did a stellar job of masking the half-empty stands, but Dan Hicks and Doug Flutie did a poor job of telling us what was happening on the field.
Next week’s first-ever meeting with the Virginia Tech Hokies is the final home game for the Notre Dame seniors. The Irish will try to keep hope alive for a post season berth, hopefully in a warm weather location.