Williams Lifts Irish Over Duke

Kyren Williams ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns, and added 93 yards on a pair of pass receptions to lead sluggish Notre Dame to a 27-13 victory over Duke in the season opener. Avery Davis caught a 17-yard scoring pass from Ian Book early in the fourth quarter to seal the win, while kicker Jonathan Doerer drilled a pair of field goals in a flawless performance.

The Irish defense dug in and turned away the Blue Devils in critical moments despite giving up ground in the middle of the field. Two of the three scoring chances by Duke ended in field goals as Isaiah Foskey led a relentless pass rush against quarterback Chase Brice. Notre Dame made key stops and recorded sacks when they were needed most to give the offense a chance to overcome a poor first half.

Book was not sharp after the nine month layoff. He threw an interception in the end zone before halftime one play after Williams had taken a screen pass 75 yards to the Duke 11-yard line. Moments later, with the Irish leading by only 7-6, a second interception was negated by an offside penalty against the Blue Devils. This bit of good fortune gave Doerer an opportunity to convert his first field goal of the year from 48 yards as the half ended.

The defense rose to the occasion again in the third period. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah forced a fumble to stop a Duke drive. The Irish responded with a 59-yard scoring drive capped by a 26-yard romp by Williams on a fourth and one play. Unfortunately for Notre Dame, star safety Kyle Hamilton suffered an ankle injury in the scramble for the fumble. He did not return to the field and his status for next week is uncertain.

Duke closed to within 17-13 later in the quarter after capitalizing on good field position. Brice scored the lone Blue Devil touchdown with a gutsy third down dive at the 2:19 mark. Williams and freshman Michael Mayer led the Irish back on the ensuing drive by securing key first downs in an 83-yard march. Davis outfought the Duke defender in the end zone to secure a third down pass and restore the 11-point advantage with 10:58 remaining.

Duke did not threaten after that, as Notre Dame’s defense dominated play. Doerer tacked on another field goal five minutes later, and a lost fumble by Brice on a last-gasp drive was the final straw.

Let’s review the answers to our pregame quesions:

Can Notre Dame’s highly acclaimed offensive line take charge of this contest? Not at all. The line was outplayed for most of the game by the Duke front. Williams was able to break free for some good gains in the second half, but it wasn’t a dominating performance by any means.

Will the Irish defense be able to apply consistent pressure on Brice? Yes. Brice showed toughness and made several good throws, but he was under duress from Foskey and others all afternoon.

Can the young return men spark the Notre Dame special teams? The return game was nothing special, but punter Jay Bramblett’s 14-yard run on a fake punt was the best play by Notre Dame in the first half.

Which freshmen will make an impact when their number is called? Tight end Michael Mayer stood out. He reminds me of Dave Casper (showing my age here). Running back Chris Tyree also flashed his speed on a 25-yard run late in the game.

Will Book display the poise and accuracy expected from a third-year starter? To put it bluntly, Book did not show the accuracy and touch needed to bring this team to the next level. Thankfully, there is time for improvement against the next two opponents.

Can the Irish avoid sloppy tackling and silly penalties after such a disruptive offseason? Notre Dame played better than expected in these areas. One regrettable unsportsmanlike penalty against Shaun Crawford was the only real blemish.

Will Rees stick to the running game, especially if the weather turns bad as forecast? Rees stuck with Williams because the downfield passing game was not working at all. Duke’s game plan was effective and the Irish offensive line struggled more than expected.

Will Kyle Hamilton catch more passes than any Duke receiver? Unfortunately not. Hamilton was a dominant player early in the game and he will be missed if his injury is severe. Fortunately, it has just been reported as a sprain and not a break.

In retrospect it may have been unreasonable to expect a better offensive showing from Rees, Book and the offensive line, but the overall performance still left a lot to be desired. Right now, the best thing I can say is mediocre football is still better than no football at all.

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26 thoughts on “Williams Lifts Irish Over Duke

    • I agree with you on Book. I kept saying it all day long that he had Happy Feet. in year 5, there is no way a starting QB should look like that. The offensive line looked bad, the tackling was horrific. Hopefully these issues will get resolved because it looks like we have an easy next 3 games with Louisville being our next toughest opponent.

  1. JVAN,

    Awful football from the Irish… Tommy Rees is not the answer.. Hated his play-calling.
    This is not a championship team… Not even close..

    OL didn’t show up.. No energy… WR not able to get open..

    BK’s schemes are so predictable just like the last 10 years..

    Just when I thought BK had finally figured it out…….LOL….

  2. The offensive line has consistently underperformed over the past several years, despite having pro caliber lineman. I just don’t get it.

    • The talent on the offensive line is outstanding – maybe the best in the country. Also very well coached. The problem was forcing the run early when Duke was stacked up to defend against it. The difficulties had more to do with Rees’ play calling than anything else. Duke also ran some schemes that they had never used historically. That can happen in the first game of the season. The line performed much better in the second half, once some adjustments were made.

  3. Game was obviously closer than most predicted. ND tackling was poor in the beginning but the rust quickly came off. Game plan was OK, execution was lacking. Offensive line not impressive. Book was not impressive, passable. Give some credit to Duke’s game plan. Lou Holtz always said the most improvement was between game one and two. I hope so.

  4. One game at a time…….a win is a win is a win…….1 and 0…….Go Irish beat USF…..any word on why Braden Lenzy did not play today…..

    • I remember Dave Casper as the best tight end I’ve ever watched, college and pro. See some game films of him as a Raider running over tacklers and it’s hard to think otherwise.

      • ConjarUpTheMiddle says:

        Seriously? Some of you have the stones to criticize our lads during this pandemic!?

        We should all heap praise on the whole team for taking the field under Covid 19 conditions. A little rust in game one is expected. Ingratitude by the fans after so much courage by our players is unexpected and unreasonable. Remember, no one knows what the results of high impact will be during Covid 19.

        The thought of possibly no Irish football this season was extremely depressing. Even when the US Army sent me to Thule, Greenland, I at least got to listen to the games on the Armed Forces Radio Network!

  5. Irish fans need to recognize that Ian Book is a very good college QB, but will never be a great QB. Doesn’t have the talent or the consistency to get to the next level. And he continues to make the same mistakes – running for losses instead of throwing the ball away, rushing his throws resulting in incompletions on what should have been easy completions, forcing passes that are simply not there, resulting in interceptions, not identifying the open receiver, etc.

    • Very good? It’s amazing the amount of games they’ve won despite Book. I just don’t know how someone who’s played as long as he has keeps making the same high school mistakes.

  6. The players couldn’t figure out whether they were at a social justice rally or football game. Brian Kelly had all kinds of excuses for the lackluster play against an outmanned and overmatched opponent but I don’t know if we should buy them. Time will tell.

    As others have said this is the year that everything was supposed to come together for the O-Line in year three of the Quinn era. But the O-line filled with 4 & 5 star recruits got outplayed by 1 & 2 star recruits much of the day.

    Meanwhile, Clemson somehow managed to play lights out against Wake Forest.

  7. Scott Fitzgerald says:

    Braden Lenzy has a hamstring issue but will provide deep separation when he’s better!!!

    Austin will dominate and become Claypool #2 when he recovers from injury…hope it’s before Clemson.

    Young WR group had some issues getting separation and need to find open spots when plays break down.
    Joe Wilkins Jr., Mayer, Tommy Tremble had nice days and Avery Davis has found his position.

    Clark Lea made the best fantastic adjustments as usual

    Notre Dame WILL battle towards the playoffs! GREAT to have Irish Football to look forward to!!!

    GO IRISH

  8. Ah September again. Means most weeks Ian Book will find a way to prevail on his way to another 10 win season and all time winningest ND QB while folks complain about his play

    • You’ve got some low expectation if you’re happy with the 10 wins and absolutely getting the sh*t beat out of you by teams that realize all you need to do to beat ND is stack 9 in the box with Book at QB.

      • Who cares about my (or your) expectations? I’m just a fan. One thing I do know is that the administration is OK with it. They just signed his coach to a 4 year extension

  9. Only been watching and listening to ND football for about the last 70 years, so maybe i’m missing something, but that was a good football team I watched beat a well coached team. Thoroughly enjoyed the game, though I was a bit nervous during the 1st quarter. As for the rust, come on it was a warm up game. GO IRISH!

  10. Westfield Domer says:

    It’s obvious that Book really misses his trusted buddies Chase Claypool, Cole Kmet and Chris Finke. Hopefully, in time he will find the same comfort level with the receivers he’s working with now. Despite that, he was often inaccurate and lacked touch on short passes, and that has to improve. I was disappointed that the offensive line only showed some level of consistency late in the game after Duke’s defenders wore down. Williams, Mayer, Foskey and Bramblett were all outstanding and demonstrated that Kelly and Co. have recruited some young and impressive playmakers. Hopefully we’ll see more young playmakers emerge as the season moves along.

  11. Brian Kelly just got extended, if he were at Bama or Ohio State he would have been long fired. Look at what he has done here a few irrelevant bowl game wins and that’s it. You can’t still be turning a program around in year eleven.

  12. 34-6 in our last 40 games and 1-0 to start the year, in a crazy Covid world where the players did not have a full prep off season. Not a 40 point blowout but a win is a win. All the haters should just relax. Go Irish!

  13. Kelly has an 11-year history of turning confident quarterbacks into Happy Feet quarterbacks who see ghosts blitzing them. The more years in the program, the happier the feet.

  14. I’m certainly not making any bold proclamations about Book being horrible after 1 start. I was actually more disappointed in the O-Line who was far from the dominant unit they were hyped up to be. Book is a solid college QB- that’s it. He’s not overly athletic, doesn’t have a great arm and sometimes lacks the poise needed to stand in the pocket and deliver. Why does any Irish fan expect greatness from him just because he’s older?

    Duke may not be a powerhouse but they are a tough opener because they have a top coach and a gritty group. Overall, winning by a few TD’s without their top 2 WR’s was far from a disaster. Let’s build upon this and use the next 2 weeks to iron out the wrinkles before the competition increases in October.

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