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  • Irish Smother Hapless Heels

    by John Vannie

    Notre Dame’s defense turned in a dominating performance on Saturday as the Fighting Irish mauled dysfunctional North Carolina by 33-10. Mike Elko’s much-improved unit recorded three turnovers, a safety, numerous sacks and quarterback pressures, and countless series that ended in three plays and out for the Tar Heels. Meanwhile, Josh Adams and Deon McIntosh had long scoring runs as Notre Dame outrushed Carolina by 341-86. Ian Book played the entire game and performed respectably. He was 17 for 31 passing in his first career start with one touchdown and two interceptions. The victory raised the Irish to 5-1 on the season as they head into a well-deserved bye week before hosting USC on October 21.

    The game began with offensive struggles on both sides as Carolina failed to earn a first down in the opening quarter while Notre Dame was stuffed on a fourth down play near midfield. The Irish finally got going as Book settled in and began to find his receivers. He capped a long march with a scoring pass to Cameron Smith on the first play of the second period. Moments later, Josh Adams burst around left end, broke an arm tackle, and completed a 73-yard romp to give his team a 14-0 advantage. The Tar Heels continued to struggle on offense, but finally put together a few positive plays. Their first visit to the red zone ended with a fumble, but quarterback Chazz Surratt led them on their only touchdown march late in the half. A 25-yard strike to Anthony Ratliff-Williams brought them to within 14-7.

    The last two minutes of the half returned momentum back to Notre Dame. The Irish failed to move the ball after the Tar Heel score, but punted to the Carolina one yard line with 38 seconds remaining. Prudence dictated that Coach Larry Fedora run out the clock, but he foolishly rolled the dice. After an incompletion, a deep handoff to tailback Jordon Brown was stopped in the end zone by Jay Hayes for a safety. This blunder enabled Notre Dame to take a 16-7 lead into the locker room.

    Defense dominated again for the Irish in the third quarter. On the first series, end Romeo Okwara tipped a Surratt pass and picked it off at the Tar Heel 16. Justin Yoon added a field goal to extend the lead to 19-7, and Carolina continued its patter of going three and out as the third quarter unfolded. A rare punt return by Notre Dame brought them into Carolina territory on a change of possession, and the Irish quickly capitalized. Deon McIntosh scored the first of his two touchdowns with a 35-yard romp to make it 26-10.

    McIntosh answered a fourth quarter Tar Heel field goal with a 24-yard scoring run to account for the final 33-10 margin. Surratt came into the game with a 63% completion rate, but managed only 19 of 42 against the Irish and was running for his life most of the long, wet, and frustrating day.

    Let’s look at the answers to the pregame questions:

    Will Notre Dame’s running backs be healthy enough to shred the Tar Heel defense? Yes. Adams ran well early and McIntosh came on in relief to post 100-yard games.

    Can Surrat or Harris convert on third down? No, the Tar Heels could not sustain drives, and they held onto the ball for only 23:28.

    Will the Carolina front four be able to pressure Book into mistakes? Book threw a couple of interceptions, but Carolina pressure had little to do with it.

    Which offense will achieve the greatest success in the red zone? The Irish were not sharp and squandered a couple of opportunities, but Carolina was simply inept.

    Can the Irish secondary tighten up and prevent long completions? The Tar Heels managed only one completion of consequence, and it resulted in their lone touchdown.

    Will Wimbush suffer a similar fate (job loss) as Malik Zaire and Wally Pipp? Book played well enough to earn the trust of the coaching staff, but Wimbush will be back under center for USC.

    Can Brian Kelly 2.0 remain calm and collected with a first time starter at quarterback? Kelly had a long teaching moment with Book after a careless interception, but he managed not to turn purple in front of the cameras.

    The game was as sloppy as the weather at times, but Notre Dame remained firmly in control throughout. The defense played an excellent game and gave maximum effort, but the quality of the competition rises considerably in the upcoming weeks. The staff needs to improve the woeful special teams and coax more consistency from a passing game that suffers from poor timing, lapses in concentration and undisciplined route running.

    35 Responses to “Irish Smother Hapless Heels”

    1. AlumniDawg97 says:

      Another game, another 300+ on the ground. But John you are absolutely right-the defense was the story.

      Get healthy Irish and get ready for Troy!

    2. bocceman2 says:

      Tighten up the secondary! Sam Darnold is no joke! St Brown get some stick ’em! Otherwise nice game by Book, RB’s, O and D line and LB’s!

    3. irishhawk50 says:

      Sloppy win by the Irish. Book so-so. Receivers didn’t help. Secondary poor. Time to send Todd Lyght packing. Great player not so good a coach.

      The easy part of the schedule is over. Hard to see ND better than 3-3 here on out. Hope I’m wrong.

    4. theSpringZone says:

      I know it was UNC, but I thought we looked good. That left side of the offensive line is a powerhouse!

    5. theSpringZone says:

      Does anyone else like it when we line up in the “I” formation like I do? I know it didn’t net us much yardage today, but there’s something about seeing it that reminds me of old school ND football.

    6. Pat Mckeever '89 says:

      Hope Nyles Morgan is healthy

    7. What I really like about this game is that despite not stylish and sloppy at times, we still won by 23 points, on the road against a team left with nothing to lose, with Ian Book no less (who IMHO is a better overall QB than Wimbush but his inexperience showed)!

      That ground game keeps churning and the defense was great. The next 2 will test the Irish mettle and really show us if this is a top 10 team. Go Irish!

      • irishrifle says:

        Hate to disagree, but Book is not a better overall QB than Wimbush. Not even close. I do think, however, he is an able back-up, and will clean up his mistakes over time.

    8. Terry McManus says:

      They get better every week.

      Once again they beat up on an inferior opponent and once again the defense played better as the game wore on, thanks to their superior physical fitness, a radical change from last season.

      2 weeks off and then the 2nd big test.

    9. 5-1, but who knows just how good this team is?

      A win over USC, says they finally have arrived

      However, NC State, Stanford and especially Miami will tell the tale.

    10. Mr Vannie sir? Are you on board? Or are you just waiting for the USC game?

      • John Vannie says:

        History tells us we need to wait until we play quality opponents with similar talent. Kelly has lost to most of these teams during his tenure. Remember the 2015 season? He beat all of the patsies and lost to everyone that mattered.

        This year he is 0-1 in this category. USC, NC State, Miami and Stanford will be the benchmark games in the second half of the season.

        • Tim Cerce says:

          Michigan State may not quite be at ND’s talent level, but they are apparently a decent team, as evidenced by their victory in the Big House last night. And we whipped them pretty good (score-wise, if not in the yardage comparison). So that’s one respectable win this season. But I agree that the record against the four teams you mentioned will tell the tale of this season.

    11. Ryan Williams says:

      Anybody else concerned that a first time starter threw the ball 25 times in the first half? My dad and I were just talking about how Winbush Kelly can’t keep him health running him 30 times a game. The quantity deems ass backward.

    12. Austinirish says:

      If you can run the ball and play defense, you should be in every game and win more than your share. Huge improvement from last year and actually from most of Kelly’s tenure.

    13. Frank Dunn says:

      NC should have been repeatedly flagged for unnecesssry ineptness. Kept waiting for PA announcement that stadium would refund tickets for anyone remaining at start of 4thQ. Based on empty seats, few dollars would have been paid out. Appears Tar Heel coaching is as worthless as the classes their athletes have their mentors take for them.

      Irish deserve credit for taking game seriously rather than going to team buses early to avoid injuries. Kelly and coaching staff also deserve applause for having Ian Book so prepared for his first start. Book’s only issue is lack of height, which roll outs and his quickness can compensate for. Now ND has to heal and prepare its running attack for SC. Go Irish, beat SC and move to # 12 in 2 weeks.

    14. Felt like we were pass happy. This game would have been over at halftime if we would have stuck to the run. Assuming D. Williams was hurt and Adams was rested after halftime.

    15. Still look sloppy in areas but it is a progression I guess. Should have scored a couple red zone TDS instead of squandering them. But that is typically all of BK’s teams, they never really take full advantage.
      D looks good but needs to continue to improve.
      If and when we beat Troy then we ll worry about the others we should be in good shape!
      As for BK blowing his stack….lay off ….. If Meyer or Sabbon was the coach you….guys would be saying he s motivating the kid….stop handling these kids with pillow hands they are on scholarship!!!!

      • John Vannie says:

        Oh, I don’t mind a little yelling from a head coach in the heat of battle. It’s throwing them under the bus after a loss and blaming everyone else that bothers me about Kelly.

      • Avon Domer says:

        Regarding Red Zone ineptness, going into the UNC game, Notre Dame was ranked No. 1 in the country (or close to it) in red zone efficiency, I believe kicking only two field goals with the rest being touchdowns. ND ended last season ranked 72nd in Red Zone efficiency, so it appears we’ve seen some improvement in this area.

    16. DB’s, look for the ball !!! Missing a chance for interception will cost IRISH big game in 2017.

      • Totally agree. Halfway through the end zone and Watkins won’t turn around to look for the ball. When does he think it might be coming?

    17. A true road victory is rare with Kelly so good for the Irish. They win in the road against a very bad team. The Irish were very sloppy. They can’t beat good teams with this play. Forget USC and Miami, NC state will crush us if we remain sloppy. Take away J Adams big run and the first half running game was abysmal against a bad team. Once again special teams show horrific punt returning preparation with multiple penalties. The punter landed on punt inside the 5 and we do great and get a safety. On his other opportunities to pin the tar heals deep the vall went in the end zone in close games when special teams matter in scared stud with any product associated with Brian Kelly.
      CBK has two weeks to prepare for SC. Let’s hope the QB and D Williams get healthy quick. Don’t think we can win without both playing well in addition to Adams.
      Anyone remember the last time CBK had two weeks to prepare for SC? Tons of team dissention and a completely unprepared ND squad got blown out so bad the game was over on the first quarter. I hope our arrogant and at best mediocre coach has learned something

    18. I was very critical of McGlinchey and Nelson after the loss to Georgia. Since that game, both of them have played up to their reputation – whether it be against inferior opponents or not – and they, along with Sam Mustipher, are showing some signs of the nastiness fans haven’t seen in awhile. Great job gentlemen! That attitude will be paramount if the Irish hope to win against USC, Miami, NC State and Stanford. Could not be happier with the “team” mentality shown by the defense; it appears Coach Elko has the guys truly believing in themselves – love the gang tackling, the wrap ups to ensure no major yards after catches, and the QB pressures. Keep working hard, keep developing, keep winning!
      And God help the “fans” who sell their tickets to any remaining home games…the sea of red vs Goergia was an embarrassment to the true fans, team, and university. True fans don’t bash the players and coaches especially then turn around and sell coveted tickets to make a buck. For those upcoming games the stadium needs to be rocking like the Big House, like the Horseshoe, like Doak Campbell…get inside their heads and make it loud!
      Go Irish

    19. What in the world is wrong with Equanimeous St.Brown? He appears to lack a desire to get some of the balls thrown his way. He’s got the ability to be a stud . . .

    20. Not the prettiest win, but a solid road victory with the second string quarterback. Mike Elko is looking like a home run hire. If team continues to improve they could finish with 9-10 wins.

      • AlumniDawg97 says:

        Sure hope so ND88. As mentioned above, the coming weeks after the bye will give these Irish plenty of chances to prove their legitimacy. At the halfway point, I have already enjoyed this season more than ALL of last season! GO IRISH BEAT TROJANS!!!

    21. Next few games will show what they have. Georgia and Michigan State both look decent, which is promising in that the loss was to a good team (by one point) and won the other. Still, there are many head scratching moments. Offside’s penalties to start. Kelly still throwing in a rain storms. Rookie QBs throwing 30+ times a game. Rushing for 300+ yards, and yet are in spread offense in red zone. Running hurry up when up by 16. Going for it on fourth down on the 50 yard line. Don’t mind being aggressive, but really need to play smart. Oh yeah, give me 11 Shawn Crawfords any day.

      • Avon Domer says:

        Just a thought, but I can’t help but wonder if one of the reasons we’re throwing so much is to give the running backs a bit of a break. Our top RBs have all been banged up and missed some playing time, so perhaps Kelly is trying to protect them and get our QBs more experience managing the passing game in preparation for the more difficult portion of the schedule that starts Oct. 21 vs. USC.

    22. A good win over a bad team and I’ll take it, as last year (and some other years) that was anything but a guarantee. With a back up QB too. Defense Dominated! But i too am itching to see us full strength go up against some big boys. I know we lost to Georgia by 1 point but damn Georgia is good this year and looks legit top 5. If that is any sort of indication we will be just as, if not more, competitive with every team that remains on the schedule. Incidentally Michigan St whom we creamed at their own stadium beat a top ten Michigan on the road. Our strength of schedule is pretty sound. Here’s hoping we live up! Go Irish!

    23. IrishGreen says:

      Any win on the road with your back up QB is a good win! I like the aggressiveness of the defense and think our D coordinator is maximizing his talent which is great to see. Remember the corners aren’t that good and will be exposed at times. As for Ian Book, I wasn’t nearly as impressed as others on here. I thought he looked pretty bad overall. More then his INT’s, he failed to put the ball in the end zone despite the defense creating TO’s and dominating most of the game. Overall great to win and give Wimbush almost 3 weeks of rest.

    24. I hope they beat SC but if they lose look out they have a very tough schedule – no easy games like NC. Adams is good but he is no workhorse he is always hurt.

    25. Atlantadomer says:

      Notes from 8 rows back behind the lads on the 50 in Chapel Hill.
      1. A very, very large ND contingent on hand for the game. 30-40% Irish fans.
      2. We dominated both lines of scrimmage, it wasn’t close. The only critique I have of the O-Line was you just can’t jump off-sides with a backup QB making his first start. He needs all the help he can get.
      3. After the first three series, Book settled in. Kelly and Rees did a good job of getting him to visualize what was happening and the O-Line started really mashing them and opening holes for the backs.
      4. The rain got ND fired up and UNC really didn’t want to be there at that point.
      5. If Book has to come in again, watch out – he’s going to be good. He was just late on a few of his throws that resulted in incompletions. Film room and practice will clean that up. You can’t simulate game speed… now he knows what it’s like.
      6. We could have hung 50 on them – but the “grind out” at the end was really impressive and we may need it against NC State or Miami.
      7. MVP – the strength and conditioning coach. When I say it was humid and warm for October, that would be an understatement. But these kids were just as punishing on the line in the 4th as they were in the 1st. Seriously, halfway through the 3rd, the UNC kids wanted to be anywhere but on that field.

      Let’s beat USC and then the Wolfpack, who has it cooking right now. Don’t worry about da U, Mark Richt is gonna Mark Richt at some point. It may as well be against us. Go IRISH!!!

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