Notre Dame got off to a fast start on Saturday night, lost its way briefly in near halftime, then eventually clamped down on an inferior Duke team in front of their home crowd. With no Danny Dimes under center, the Blue Devil passing game struggled all night and continued to give the Irish great field position and plenty of scoring chances. It’s a road win against an ACC opponent before rival Navy comes to town.
Let’s recap Notre Dame’s 7th win of the season.
|Yards Per Play||6.20||3.22|
|10+ Yds Rushing||8||2|
|Defense Stuff Rate||32.7%||13.6%|
This was more like the version of 2018 Ian Book that we were used to seeing last year. He did throw a pair of interceptions but the first was while being hit and the second was a 4th down throw to towards the end zone that popped off a player’s helmet and into the arms of a Duke defender at the 1-yard line. For someone who didn’t throw for 200 yards he was aggressive targeting receivers down field and had pretty decent success. It also helps to throw 4 touchdown passes, too.
Book ripped off a couple long runs and led the offense in rushing, nearly by 3x as much as the next player on the team. A nice 320-yard total yard day for Book should have him feeling a lot better with Navy’s defense coming up. According to ESPN Stats & Info, he is the first player in Notre Dame history to throw for 4 touchdowns and run for 100 yards in a game.
I thought this was right up there as the best game of the year for the offensive line. They gave Book a ton of time and largely held Duke’s stout defensive line in check. The run game was a bit hit and miss, though. Still, the Irish really worked the edges a lot in this game while the line did a good job protecting against the first wave of defenders to give the backs some space in the open field.
I really liked that a lot of bodies were rotated into the backfield.
Jones – 2 of 7 (28.5%)
Armstrong – 2 of 3 (66%)
Book – 5 of 11 (45.4%)
Keys – 2 of 2 (100%)
Jurkovec – 3 of 3 (100%)
Flemister – 4 of 5 (80%)
Smith – 4 of 8 (50%)
Overall, not a great day for the backs in a game where Notre Dame fell just short of 300 yards on the ground. Nominally, the top two guys in Armstrong and Jones were held to 27 yards on 10 carries. They chipped in a little bit in the passing game to combine for 47 yards on 14 touches, for a 3.3 yard average. On another day this would be very worrisome.
Luckily, some explosiveness really helped. Jahmir Smith scampered for a 40-yard gain then picked up 18 yards on 7 other carries, although several were tough successful shorter runs. Flemister and Jurkovec also chipped in some successful garbage time carries late in the game that colored the box score, as well.
Chris Finke was robbed of a 78-yard reception and near touchdown on a poor holding call but returned to his 2018 form with a bunch of big catches (5 for 49 yards) with 2 scores, in addition to 51 punt return yards.
Of course, Chase Claypool was targeted a ton again and finished with 97 yards and a touchdown. He was shaken up during the game after falling hard on his shoulder but appears okay. With Braden Lenzy staying back home due to injury (no update yet) there really wasn’t a whole lot going on for the other receivers.
For the second straight week, Notre Dame faced a really challenged offense that struggled completing even the simplest pass plays.
Duke quarterback Quentin Harris mustered only 102 yards on 28 attempts with only 5 first downs through the air. I’m not sure which throw it would’ve been during the game but our advanced stats guru Michael Bryan messaged at 9:59 PM ET that the Blue Devils finally got their first successful passing down play. That’s truly dreadful.
They weren’t much better on the ground, either. Just 4 rushing first downs for Duke!
Most game previews mentioned that Duke’s defense really need to bother the Irish because their offense wouldn’t be able to keep up otherwise. For most of the night, the Blue Devils were incredibly non-threatening on offense while punting on their first 6 drives and only getting into Irish territory 4 times, and only once in the red zone.
Stuffs vs. Duke
(season stuffs in parentheses)
White – 3.5 (22.5)
Ademilola, Jay – 3 (10.5)
Bracy – 2 (3.5)
JOK – 1.5 (11.5)
MTA – 1.5 (10.5)
Hamilton – 1 (3)
Bilal – 1 (17)
Jones – 1 (8.5)
Gilman – 1 (9)
Oghoufo – 1 (1.5)
Elliott – 1 (2)
Kareem – 0.5 (16)
Okwara – 0.5 (8.5)
Pride – 0.5 (1)
As we look toward the Navy game I was excited to see the defensive backs coming through against Duke with some physicality. You can’t complain with 5.5 stuffs from the corners and safeties, nice job!
Duke recently renovated their stadium and I don’t know if this is new or not but they gave themselves a small tunnel to walk through on to the field. Congratulations, you played yourself. Also, nice job setting the Irish up across town for their locker room. I guess there were probably basketball facilities in the way to build something closer.
The announced attendance was 40,004 which is a sellout. It’s the smallest crowd for a Notre Dame game since the visit to Wake Forest last year. ACC football!
Julian Okwara exited the game with an ankle injury that might be serious enough for him to miss the rest of the season. If so, that would be such a disappointment. Through 9 games, Okwara has 9 solo tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, and 8.5 stuffs. It’s hardly been an assault on the Irish record books.
I have no idea why Duke continued to return kickoffs in this game.
Lacey, Hamilton, Bramblett, Ajavon, and Foskey were the only true freshmen to see the field on Saturday. That’s still just the first 3 listed who have used their year of eligibility.
I’m not sure how much schedule strength plays a part but I bet most would be surprised to learn that the current 2019 team is averaging +1.35 YPP versus +1.28 YPP for last year’s team. Duke’s 3.22 yards per play on offense was the lowest mark against Notre Dame since last year’s Syracuse game. Of the 8 games to feature fewer than 4 YPP for an Irish opponent since 2017, we’ve seen 3 of those over the last 5 games.
This was also the first non-hurricane game where Notre Dame’s opponent was held under 200 yards since the 2015 opener against Texas.
Jafar Armstrong has 59 rushing yards on 28 carries this year. That’s currently 7th on the team in rushing yards behind both quarterbacks and Braden Lenzy.