Get on the Roller Coaster: Stanford Instant Reaction

This is not a conversation I thought we would be having a couple of weeks ago, but Notre Dame is officially in the race after creaming Stanford Saturday 38-17.

Before the game, at least one 18S writer asked the group why he was getting 2017 USC vibes from this game. I confess I was getting them a little bit as well. But I still didn’t expect this. I didn’t expect Ian Book to play basically the same lights-out game he did a week ago, I didn’t expect Dexter Williams to go straight to Pissed-Off Wildebeest Mode in his first game, and I didn’t expect the Irish’s front four to largely dominate the game, especially the fourth quarter. (That Jerry Tillery sequence on Stanford’s final drive was…it was awesome.)

Here are some awesome things:

Ian Book

First and foremost, holy crap, Ian Book. I know this isn’t the same sort of ‘punch you in the mouth’ Stanford defense as the Cardinal sometimes has had, but they’re way better than Wake Forest. Not that Book seemed to notice as he averaged almost 8.5 yards per pass attempt and made just about every big throw he needed to make. Just like last week, he was pretty much on target almost every time he threw the ball. And in case anyone was concerned he couldn’t do the athletic stuff Wimbush can, just show the replay of that TD pass to Chase Claypool on loop. (The flawless two-minute drive leading up to it wasn’t bad either.)

He even capped it off with his flip to Jahmir Smith for a first down in the final minutes, a true “I’m Keith Hernandez” moment if ever there was one. Book was the toast of college football last week, and he will be even more so this week.

Dexter Williams

When Jafar Armstrong was revealed to have a knee infection Friday, the first thought most ND fans had was something along the lines of “Dexter better be ready”. Well, he pretty well answered that question by going 45 yards to the house on his first touch of the season. And while that was the last huge run he broke off, most of the rest of his carries were very effective. He averaged close to eight yards per carry on 21 carries – over half of his 2017 season total. We’d been waiting to see what the Irish running game can be with Williams. It turns out it can go from ‘occasionally effective’ to ‘legitimate weapon’.

We don’t know how long Armstrong will be out, but Williams and Jones with a dash of Avery Davis should be a solid group, and when Jafar returns, the Irish will boast a very, very good RB trio, probably as good as they’ve had since the 1990s.

The defensive line

Holy magical mother of Betsy, that front four. Tillery’s four sacks were the most by an Irish player since 2005. (I’m assuming Victor Abiamiri?) Khalid Kareem got to K.J. Costello several times, even hobbled by an ankle injury. Julian Okwara is a straight-up homing missile on some plays. The D-line was also directly responsible for three different coulda-been INTs. Costello will need an ice bath like no other.

It’s been no secret that the lack of a difference-making front four has been an Achilles heel just about every year other than 2012 since probably the Justin Tuck era. ND has a difference-making front four right now, and they just proved it by MANBALLing the crap out of the most MANBALL team there is west of Tuscaloosa.

Here’s a number:

Also, Stanford ran 51 plays to those 55 rushing attempts (88 plays overall).

The schedule going forward

No ND fan is dumb enough to count chickens before they’re hatched anymore. We’ve seen the movie before, especially in the Kelly era. That being said, it’s hard to ask for a much more navigable slate the rest of the way.

If ND beats Virginia Tech next week (and that’s ‘if’, not ‘when’; the one thing this team hasn’t done yet is win in a tough road environment like Blacksburg at night), you’re looking at a schedule that includes a pretty good Syracuse team, a USC squad that might have it put together to some extent by November (and both of those games are away) and a bunch of teams ND has no business losing to.

The bad news there is that ND may not be able to afford a loss. The good news is there may not be a team left capable of delivering that loss unless the Irish screw it up (and yes, we know they can).

The only bad news: Alex Bars. It didn’t look good. Get well soon, big man. Hope Trevor Ruhland is up to the task.

A playoff bid might hang in the balance, after all.

(Photo credit: Indianapolis Star)

By |2018-09-29T23:45:22+00:00September 29th, 2018|Football|25 Comments

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gambit1077irish_bandit_10Clay Cossé fka MouthIrishTexanjuicebox Recent comment authors
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MikeyB
MikeyB

What Book is doing with basically 1 receiver who was able to generate separation is really impressive. Boykin did a great job of using his body to create space, and Book knew exactly when to throw to him or tuck and run. If Claypool/Mack/any other receiver can get open more consistently, it’s going to be tough to slow this offense down.

Man Dex looked incredible. I’ve always thought of him solely as a big play back, but I don’t think he had a single run for less than 2 yards tonight. That’s Josh Adams-esque. If he’s going to be running through arm tackles in addition to the home runs, he’s gonna be an absolute monster.

Great to see the D Line get home today. Tillery was a bad bad man tonight.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

Maybe game tape shows a different story but seemed like they were basically sacrificing Claypool as a decoy and avoiding Paulson Adebo’s side of the field whenever possible. Thus Boykin got a lot of looks on the other side.

Also seemed like they were running mostly vertical routes instead of crossing patterns, which would highlight Claypool’s skills and where a lot of his catches have resulted from. Perhaps next week with VT’s scheme they bring that back and look to spread it around more.

Either way, encouraging that Boykin did so well. He’s not explosive but is a big body with sure hands and the ball was delivered for him all night long based on the coverage. A lot of people here don’t seem to be high on Boykin but he is very reliable and obviously that’s a great trait to have for a still fairly green QB in game action to lean on.

Also to the point on Dex, I feel like he could have done everything Adams did last year if given the opportunity. Williams has the skills just maybe not the trust and chances to do be in that role (perhaps for good reason). I don’t mean that as a knock on Adams who was a very special college RB, but Williams in terms of pure tools and abilities has to be right there with him, IMO. Certainly Williams’ yards/carry behind that line last year speaks to the fact he could have been a monster too. And he was a monster tonight.

8FP
8FP

Winning in that fashion is nothing short of edifying. Zero complaints. Fantastic performance all around.

Coyote1985
Coyote1985

Very satisfying win. The only thing that has me concerned were all the injuries. I couldn’t hear the sound for the game. Were they bad?

HolyCrossHog
HolyCrossHog

DDub … with extreme prejudice!

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

Yo. That game was good.

KLM2
KLM2

My goodness how can you not be impressed with Ian Book? I never thought I would be glad that Book is in over Wimbush but we are a different animal with him starting. 9 total touchdowns with zero turnovers. Its only two games but you can see the swagger he brings this team. Speaking of swagger how about the play of Tillery and Dexter tonight? Both were flat out monsters tonight. 4 sacks, are you kidding? I am not use to seeing a dynamic DT for Notre Dame that can get constant pressure on opposing QB. Can’t get to excited with Va Tech coming up and its going to be a night game. Blacksburg at night is suppose to be mythical. At least thats what I have been hearing tonight. The Hokies looked outstanding today versus Duke. Bud Foster will have his team ready. Can’t wait!!!

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

Agreed. It was a comment here earlier in the week that Tillery was included as a late pick in an early first round mock draft. He certainly will be in all of them moving forward (and possibly a lot higher) given how much the NFL craves interior pressure. Undeniable that with this dominant performance 99 made himself A LOT of money tonight. Stanford simply couldn’t block Tillery no matter what gap he was lined up in or what direction he was stunting. He’s seemingly been in the backfield all season long anyways. But pretty much in April when Tillery gets drafted, surely almost every highlight they are gonna use will come from tonight. It’s a beautiful thing.

I think Coney made a couple pass breakups and got his first INT too, as well as the usual million tackles he always gets. Coney put a lot of great tape out there against a quality opponent that the NFL scouts are going to have to be impressed with and I’m guessing boosted his stock too.

This game for those two players should be Exhibit A on re-recruiting guys to come back for their senior seasons.

IllinIrish20
IllinIrish20

Who remembers when Tillery was recruited as an OT and he was like “nah, I wanna play defense.”? Boy, he’s a smart cookie

juicebox
juicebox

Even in HS he was awesome with his hands. I remember watching his tape and thinking his hand use reminded me of Vince Wilfork.

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

I’m going to be at the VaTech game, and I cannot wait.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

A note that has stuck in my memory was in the lead up to the WF game, Eric put a comment in an article that went something like if Book was a B- passer he would help the team so much and be worthy enough to supplant Wimbush. My reaction was if Book was a B- passer he should have been the starter from the get-go.

Maybe (for good reason) the off-season focus was all about how to get a W over Michigan while using a great running QB to best combat their excellent defense. And, as the US Army taught us- if it’s stupid and it works, it’s not stupid. And, to be fair, it did work.

But wow, Book has played 2 incredible games. To Eric’s point, Book isn’t a B- passer, he’s been an A while operating the offense. About all his throws have been totally sharp. 24 for 33 and even that had a few drops. 4 TD throws. No turnovers. So many impeccable decisions to run while also keeping eyes down field. It’s completely changed this offense’s capabilities and they’re racking up mega yards and points even without explosive skill players (though Dex says hey, I am…And he is).

It’s a great time to be a Fighting Irish fan!

IrishTexan
IrishTexan

Agreed completely. 72.7% completion percentage, with 2 drops and 2 throwaways. He’s been incredibly accurate

gambit1077
gambit1077

The receivers are helping Book out too. Against Stanford Kmet won that jump ball on fourth down and Weishar pulled in that third down RZ pass for a TD that was a bit wild.

Clay Cossé fka Mouth
Clay Cossé fka Mouth

“And, as the US Army taught us- if it’s stupid and it works, it’s not stupid. And, to be fair, it did work.”

This is low key one of my favorite lines in the history of Notre Dame football commentating actually probably my favorite.

More Noise
More Noise

Woo hoo! Worth the flight from Paris! Nice reaction Andy and agree with all of Hook Orpic’s observations.
Re: my hobby horse, the crowd is definitely on the upswing — DID YOU SEE WE CAUSED AN ILLEGAL PROCEDURE AT A KEY MOMENT??? Been a long time coming; much credit to the video board guru, Mike Bonner; there is surely a phenomenon of learned good behavior, and from wht some of you said about the Michigan game, that continues. Not just the noise level, but it is getting savvier (i.e., earlier prior to the snap). OK< the band still needs to fine tune exactly how it can best contribute, but that's a nit right now.

The injuries are disconcerting; Tony Jones was never the same last year if one recalls. I am most anxious to have one of you sharp analysts tell us if Dexter Williams' pass blocking has improved?

Finally — having been at the prior three Stanford games — how truly sweet it is!!

Clay Cossé fka Mouth
Clay Cossé fka Mouth

Damn glad you picked that game to come back for bud!!! Glad you had a treat. And it sounds like the crowd noise was the piece de resistance!

More Noise
More Noise

Mais oui!

IllinIrish20
IllinIrish20

I was also at the game and going to comment about the use of the scoreboard to generate noise and how that contributed to a false start by Stanford. The whole sequence of showing historic moments when the crowd made a difference and having it IMMEDIATELY followed by a loud crowd and a false start, I think, has to leave an impression on people. Positive reinforcement and whatnot.

Either way, I thought the crowd was pretty into it (even though I still think other stadiums get significantly louder, based on design) and I was really happy to hear that the students have added an actual chant to the Celtic Chant. I have no idea what they were saying, but saying something makes a huge difference for that particular song.

Thank you for banging the more noise drum for so long, More Noise. I’ve only been to games post-Holtz, but I can see the crowd moving in a positive direction.

More Noise
More Noise

Thanks for the reply, and the observations. Concur, including on how the Celtic Chant has now added… a chant. Now if the drum major can just figure out to cycle the CC in a minute early, helping get the crowd incited to then make more noise, instead of just prior to the snap when it actually kills the noise, then we would be really humming.

juicebox
juicebox

It felt like I was vicariously punching Shaw in his super punchable face. Thank you, team.

I can’t wait for the article with the efficiency numbers on this game!

Clay Cossé fka Mouth
Clay Cossé fka Mouth

We need a gif of shaw burying his face in his play sheet after we went up 38-17. This needs to happen.

More Noise
More Noise

Can we can we please?