Notre Dame is ranked 16th after last Saturday’s win in Chapel Hill. Our Irish came into the game looking to do one thing: win. And they did.
The Irish won quite handily, actually, but it certainly didn’t seem that way for anyone who was watching the game. Ian Book was under center for the first time in an away game with inclement weather. That alone was reason enough for this game to be much closer on the scoreboard, but it wasn’t, thanks to a defensive effort against a depleted Tarheel offense, that kept the ball with our offense for most of the game.
Upon further review, what did we learn about what happened and where we are as a team right now?
There’s a good amount of syncing that has to take place in our passing game before we become a balanced offense. This is Wimbush’s offense, and for him to be able to sling it around with any confidence, he and his receivers are going to need to gel a bit more. The timing continues to be an issue on routes, and it doesn’t matter who is under center. To that end, I believe that we need to move around our receiving corps a bit more, and even employ the likes of Dexter Williams at times in a role that would get him on the field more often, maybe in a slot receiver role.
Something has to change if Notre Dame is to achieve the balance that any offense strives for. However, if the Irish continue to run the ball as we have the first six games of the season, they will still win the easy games. The problem will occur when facing the likes of USC, Miami, and Stanford. Being one dimensional against any team is a risky proposition. Being one dimensional against those foes could spell disaster.
As for our rushing attack, the Irish continue to run the ball hard and often behind one who should clearly be a Heisman candidate at this juncture, Josh Adams. Williams was out with an ankle, and although he played, Tony Jones didn’t impress. Who did impress, though, is Deon McIntosh (127 yds and 2 TD’s). He ran hard, showed great quickness and vision, and I think we’re going to see a lot more of him after this game that earned him the game ball.
Let’s face it, North Carolina was not a good team. They played with a shell of their original roster due to injuries. In fact, their number one receiver is a converted QB. He had great speed, but didn’t run such great routes. As for their run game, let’s just say that they showed flashes from time to time, but our defensive line was simply too much for their offensive line. It’s no secret by now that we have a very good defense: A defense that, against a team like UNC, can stop you pretty much at will.
One might ask, why not do it then? Or, how did they even score ten points then? The Irish played a very vanilla defense that capitalized on their mistakes. Anything more sets up a defense to take some risks that they don’t need to take, especially when the offense has so many weapons. That and the fact that the Irish play USC in a couple weeks is good enough reason to do what we had to do, what we were capable of doing, and get the hell out of Dodge with a victory. A wise man once wrote, “Sometimes you have to work smart, not hard”. I think we did both, and it showed with how much our offense was on the field.
Offensive Player of the Game
I, too, am giving this to Deon McIntosh. He truly was a bright spot in a game that was, at times, a bit tough to watch. In all actuality, it was sloppy from time to time, and not just because of the downpours. Deon ran the ball hard. He showcased every part of the skill set for which he was recruited. I’ll look forward to seeing a lot more of him, hopefully sooner than later.
Defensive Player of the Game
Shaun Crawford is that guy for me. Yes, Okwara had a fantastic play on his interception after batting the ball up, but Crawford was all over the place, all day, again. This has become such an expectation for him that he’s picked up the nickname, the Golden Mongoose from one social media outlet. I happen to agree, and although he didn’t have an interception, he’s a difference maker. He’s also a morale adjuster. If you’re on the field with him, you can’t help but be a ball hawking, roll call to the ball, defense.