62-7. It feels almost as good to write that out as it did to watch it unfold.
OK, maybe not so much the first 25 minutes of the game, but the final 35 minutes of the game was chock full of fist pumping and high-fiving moments.
In my UMass Game Day Preview, I talked about the need for the Irish to pass the ‘eye test,’ and though I was hoping for, and predicted, a more dominant defensive performance, a 35 point margin of victory, with the starting Irish defense giving up just 20 points, is still pretty impressive any way you dissect it.
Before the rout was on, though, the Fighting Irish had to weather an early back and forth battle with an UMass offense looking every bit up to the task of punching above their weight, and going toe to toe with the Fighting Irish. The reality was that UMass threw a couple of haymakers that landed in those first 25 minutes, but as the game wore on, the huge talent gap between the Irish and the Minutemen became all the more apparent. On the first, an 83 yard TD run by UMass’ Marquis Young, the Irish did themselves no favors with poor tackling, and even worse, simply being out of position on a run that should have been stopped for a minimal gain; even Jaylon Smith, who normally flies to the ball, looked bad on that play, allowing himself to be taken out of the play on a pretty low-key block by a UMass TE. UMass’ last best punch was another trick play pass that caught the Irish defense napping, as Blake Frohnapfel connected with Shakur Nesmith for a 56 yard gain, setting up the Minutemen on the Irish 19 yard line; 4 plays later, with the help of two PI penalties against the Irish, UMass found the end zone again, bringing them to within one point of the Irish. From there, the Irish defense would, for all intents and purposes shut down the Minutemen offense, and the Irish offense would go on to score 42 unanswered points. So, yes, the big plays given up by the defense are definitely of concern, but, the Irish defense wasn’t exactly manhandled, and, in the second half, even as the defensive back-ups were getting into the game, and were seeing significant playing time, the Irish defense more than held their own.
In fact, the back-ups on both sides of the ball got significant playing time, and proved to be, as Irish fans suspected, a very talented group of playmakers, especially on offense. Coach Kelly has talked a good deal about the depth of this team, something he’s been striving to build since he first came to South Bend, and it seems like he’s finally found that depth. Losing a Malik Zaire or Tarean Folston would have seen most teams just looking to survive, but that hasn’t shown itself to be the case with the Fighting Irish. In just two starts for the Irish, Kizer has shown good leadership, downfield vision, and accuracy, and his backup, Wimbush, truly impressed with his own play in the second half against UMass with his own speed and accuracy. Much the same can be said for the running back position, as well, and the trio of Prosise, Adams, and now Williams, look to be more than capable of carrying the load, and exploding for big gains, as well. I mean I have to be honest, I can’t remember the last time the Irish had this much talent on the depth chart, and the fact that they (Wimbush, Adams, Williams, St. Brown, etc.) are already getting significant playing time this early in the season bodes well for the Irish moving forward.
Key Fighting Irish Plays
After a game like the Irish had against UMass, especially on offense, this section could really be its own article, and I had a hard time whittling down my original list of more than a dozen Key Fighting Irish Plays, some good, some bad. But, since I’ve already discussed some of those bad plays above, and because, really, it’s hard to focus on any negatives from this game, I’m going to focus on the good, and there was still more than enough of that to highlight.
1st Quarter – CJ Prosise with a 57 yard run for a TD. That’s his 6th TD on the year, and he now has TD runs of 50+ yards in back to back games.
2nd Quarter – Kizer pass to Will Fuller for a 26 yard TD reception. Fuller has caught a TD in each of the first 4 games, and now has 6 TD receptions on the season.
2nd Quarter – CJ Sanders returns a UMass punt 50 yards for a touchdown. This is Sanders’ first collegiate touch down, and the first punt returned for a touchdown for Notre Dame since Golden Tate returned one 89 yards for a touchdown against Pittsburgh in 2009
3rd Quarter – Dexter Williams reaches the end zone on a nifty 14 yard run. Williams gets his first collegiate TD, and finishes the game with 72 rushing yards and 1 TD on 14 carries.
3rd Quarter – Brandon Winbush takes a designed QB run up the middle, burning past defenders on his way to a 58 yard TD run. Winbush wouldn’t pass much in his relief effort, going 3-5 for just 17 yards, but he did his damage with legs rushing for 92 yards and 1 TD (the first of his collegiate career) on just 4 attempts.
4th Quarter – Josh Adams tears off a 70 yard run for a TD with the help of a great downfield block. Not to be outdone, Adams gets his first collegiate touchdown as well.
Top Fighting Irish Performers
CJ Prosise – After scoring his second touchdown of the game just minutes into the 3rd Quarter, Prosise would get a well deserved rest, and watch the rest of the game from the sideline, but not before rushing for 149 net yards and 2 TDs on 15 carriers. There’s no doubt in my mind that he would have crushed that 200 yard mark for the game if he’d played the entire game.
Josh Adams – Playing behind Prosise in the 1st Half, and sharing carries with Dexter Williams in the 2nd Half, Adams still managed to get both his first 100 yard game, and the first collegiate touchdown against UMass. Adams finished the game with 133 yards and 1 TD on 13 carries.
Sheldon Day – Day is having a terrific season so far, even if a lot of what he brings to the Irish defensive front doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. UMass was just the latest offensive line that found it difficult to block Day one-on-one, and he got his second sack of the season, tying his season long record he set as a freshman. Day had 3 Tackles, 1 Sack, 3 QBHs, and 1 Pass Break-up against UMass.
Game Ball: With the Fighting Irish racking up 457 rushing yards, Coach Kelly gave the game ball to a very deserving Irish offensive line.
Next Up: No. 6 Notre Dame travels to Death Valley to take on No. 12 Clemson.