Notre Dame’s offense sprinted out of the gate and rolled to a 35-0 halftime lead on the way to a 52-0 romp over the South Florida Bulls. The Irish defense did its part by smothering the USF offense throughout the sun-soaked afternoon. Notre Dame’s special teams got into the act against their error-prone counterparts, scoring one touchdown and setting up another.
The Irish were determined to start quickly this week and wasted no time getting on the scoreboard. Ian Book and Chris Tyree ran for scores on the first two possessions, which sandwiched a three and out by USF. The defense repeated its dominance on the next series before Book added another touchdown as the game eased into the second quarter.
C’Bo Flemister ran it in from 26 yards and Book added a third rushing touchdown to cap the first half scoring after the first of multiple South Florida special teams gaffes. The Bulls’ long snapper launched the ball over his punter’s head once in each half. The second misfire resulted in a blocked punt attempt that Irish freshman Jordan Botelho scooped up for another score.
The first half was abject misery for South Florida. Starting guard Demetris Harris and center Brent Cecil were not able to play, but it would not have mattered. The Bulls had only one first down before halftime, and never found an answer to the suffocating Irish pressure.
Notre Dame fans were especially entertained by the sheer number of young players that saw meaningful action and performed well. This group included linebacker Jack Kiser, cornerback Clarence Lewis, and defensive linemen Alex Ehrensberger, Rylie Mills and Botelho.
The running game also made its own statement. All seven touchdowns came on the ground as four different running backs scored once and Book accounted for three others. The backs were consistently running through tackles and racked up considerable yardage after first contact. The final statistics showed 45 carries for 280 yards.
South Florida managed only 231 yards in total offense despite liberal substitution by Notre Dame. Repeated rotation of quarterbacks Jordan McCloud and Noah Johnson failed to create a credible passing game, and the Irish defensive line won nearly all of the individual battles to stuff the rushing attack. The poor play by the special teams simply added insult to injury.
One would expect to see turnovers in such a lopsided game, but there were none. The Irish backs fumbled twice, but each was recovered by an alert offensive lineman.
Let’s look at the answers to the pregame questions for additional insights.
Can Notre Dame stand up to the frontal assault from USF’s offensive line? The Bulls figured out rather quickly that Notre Dame has better defensive players thanThe Citadel.
Which young Offensive Coordinator will have the better game? Rees kept the Bulls off balance from the start. His use of tight end Tommy Tremble as a lead blocker in the running game was inspired.
Will Lenzy help jump start Notre Dame’s intermediate and long passing game? Lenzy made his presence felt with a 22-yard catch in the first quarter, and looked healthy doing it.
Can the Irish special teams make a meaningful difference in the outcome? Absolutely. Of course, it’s hard to turn down the gifts that South Florida gave them.
Which team will record the most explosive plays? I’d say South Florida. Most of their play calls blew up in their faces.
Will Book bounce back to display the passing accuracy expected from him? I’d give him a C+ for his 12 of 19 performance that covered 143 yards. Bad misses on throws to Javon McKinley over the middle and Joe Wilkins in the end zone were rather ugly.
Which team’s cornerbacks will fare best in man coverage? The Irish were stellar, particularly Lewis who was obviously targeted by USF. Cam Hart and Isaiah Rutherford also held up in the second half to preserve the shutout.
How many Irish fans won’t be able to find the USA network? None of them missed the fun, but South Florida fans wish they hadn’t tuned in.
Notre Dame will go on the road next week to face Wake Forest, where they will be heavy favorites. The biggest concern will be which players make the traveling squad after a rash of COVID-related attrition impacted this week’s lineup. Fortunately, the Irish proved they have waves of quality depth to throw at most teams on the schedule.