There are so many questions about Notre Dame football as 2017 ends and 2018 begins. But for today, at least, you can answer them all with “Doesn’t Matter, 10 Wins”. Because Miles Boykin made a ludicrous, insane, wild play to score the winning TD and the Irish held on to win, 21-17, delivering a 10-win season.
It’s similar to an idea we had at our old site when the Irish would start undefeated. Signs of trouble would surface, but at least at first, you could just reply “DM;4-0”, or whatever ND’s record was. Today, it’s DM;10W.
That’s a good thing for today, because there’s a lot to discuss over the next 8 months until the Irish take on Michigan to open 2018:
What the heck are we doing at QB?
That’s, naturally, the lead question, because Ian Book took over for Brandon Wimbush for good in the second quarter of play. Book’s overall numbers were very good: 14/19, 164 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT. They were boosted a bit by Boykin’s heroics, of course.
The problem for ND is that Book cannot be the starting QB next year. The ceiling is very low on him, and all you need to see to know it is Book’s horrible red-zone interception in the 3rd quarter that kept the Irish from taking the lead. He’s the kind of backup you want, but he’s not a good enough thrower to make up for his lack of raw athleticism, and vice versa.
Wimbush, meanwhile, started off with a gorgeous throw to Equanimeous St. Brown, but that turned out to be the highlight of his day. He didn’t have any truly head-scratchingly poor throws, but was off target enough several times to turn possible completions into incompletions.
I don’t know if all of this means Brandon Wimbush starts again, or if highly-touted freshman Phil Jurkovec takes the reins. Coach Brian Kelly already has floated the idea of a QB competition with Jurkovec, and that isn’t something he often does with true freshmen. You have to think it wouldn’t be much of an issue if Kelly was all that high on Wimbush. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Phil takes the first snap in South Bend.
Offense continues to be weird
Dexter Williams had two carries in the game, both in the fourth quarter, and one went for 31 yards, the longest run by a non-SEC foe against LSU this year. I just don’t understand what is going on there, and I haven’t all year. Should he get 20 carries a game? No. Should he get seven or eight? The answer seems to clearly be yes.
Josh Adams had 15 carries, but it sure didn’t seem like it. His 44 yards left him eight yards shy of what would’ve been the most anticlimactic single-season record breaker in history. Tony Jones, who’s had his moments, had one single carry, for no yards.
Book ran read-option plays to the edge a few times, and really none of them worked. (Did he really expect to score on the Wimbush-ish read option from the 7-yard line late in the game?) Then again, he also had a couple of big runs on draws. ND averaged nearly five yards per carry, yet the Irish seemed to be bottled up most of the game. Maybe you just chalk it up to a strange game. The offense clearly has some work to do. Maybe if key players stop shoplifting or otherwise being suspended next year, the offense will flow a bit better.
Another good defensive game
If ND gets some safety talent in the building next year, the Irish defense could be great. They were good today, and the only flaw was that Danny Etling got away with several dead ducks off his back foot for some reason, shades of UVA’s Matt Johns two years ago. Despite being put in terrible situations time after time by the offense in the first half, the Irish D pitched a shutout (with aid from LSU’s field goal kickers). If you ask me, that was the single key to the game; when ND’s offense couldn’t get out of its own way early on, the D picked up the slack. The Irish gave up 399 yards to the LSU offense, but that, in my opinion, belies how well they played.
Elko gets high marks for the way he handled the D all year. It should be fun to see what he is able to do in year 2.
Thanks for kicking it, Coach O
Is there any ND fan in the world that wanted LSU to go for it on 4th and goal from the one-inch line with two minutes to play? LSU’s worst-case scenario was basically ND getting the ball at the one-inch line with a backup QB. Talk about #kicktowin. Oh, and the guy named Derrius Guice, who was trucking ND dudes all day…his chances of getting in the end zone seemed pretty good.
So from all of us, Ed Orgeron, thank you. Thank you for kicking the field goal.
There were any number of reasons ND could’ve folded today, not least of which the strange QB shuffle Kelly once again engaged in. But the Irish have shown themselves to be, on many occasions in the last 8 seasons, a mentally tough squad. The play has often been inconsistent, but the effort usually is there. I suppose there is something to be said for that, and the ND coaches deserve credit for keeping their players’ heads in the game when it would be easy enough for that not to be the case.
ND won today. It’s true. Who knows what 2018 will bring. But the Irish won 10 games. It’s not the goal. Far from it. But it’s something.
(Photo credit: South Bend Tribune)