Despite being an early 2 pt favorite for their Week 3 match-up, Notre Dame found themselves a rare 2.5 point home underdog against Georgia Tech heading into Saturday’s game.
Nationally, sports talking people piled on, picking Georgia Tech to not just cover the spread, but to leave South Bend with a decisive win, some predicting as much as a 14 point victory for the Yellow Jackets. Notre Dame had too many injuries, they said. The Irish were struggling on defense, and Paul Johnson’s Yellow Jackets, powered by an explosive triple-threat-option run game would be too much for the Irish to handle, they said. Now, to be fair, Notre Dame has had a number of key injuries already, and, Notre Dame’s defense did struggle against unranked Virginia. And, yes, Georgia Tech’s triple-threat-option running attack has dominated early this season, against Alcorn State and Tulane. Still, it seemed like a slight, disrespectful, even, as the normally reserved Will Fuller would put it when speaking to the media the day before the game.
Now, in all honesty, I’ve never been a big believer in ‘bulletin board material’ having an impact on the course of a game in its entirety. Great athletes are great because they have an internal desire to win. Great teams win through hard work, preparation, great coaching, and execution. Period. And yet, after watching how the Irish defense stepped up against Georgia Tech, I don’t know that I can be all that quick to entirely dismiss the notion that ‘bulletin board material’ can be a motivating factor.
Regardless, the Irish seemed to have a well polished game plan in effect, on both the offense and defense, and they controlled this game from start to (nearly) finish. I say from start to (nearly) finish because, much to all of our annoyance, with Notre Dame up 30-7, and the game well in hand, the Irish gave up two “garbage time” touchdowns to Georgia Tech in the last-minute of the game, giving the appearance that the game was much closer than it was. Fortunately, for the Irish, and my blood pressure, Georgia Tech’s garbage time points were more of an annoyance than anything, and I never really felt that Georgia Tech would be able to pull out the win, which is saying quite a bit about where this season’s team is, all things considered.
It wasn’t a perfect game by any stretch of the imagination, especially on offense, as Notre Dame committed their first two turnovers of the season, and false starts on the offensive line continue to kill drives, but it was a solid first start by DeShone Kizer, and Will Fuller and CJ Prosise continue to add to their highlight reels. On defense, Joe Schmidt re-emerged from two sub-par outings to lead the team in tackles, as he, Sheldon Day, Jaylon Smith, Isaac Rochell, and really, the entire defensive unit put on a clinic on how to stop a triple-threat option attack. It was a really solid effort by the Irish and from a fan perspective a very exciting game to watch. Really, the only “downer” moment of the entire game was seeing Drue Tranquill go down to a fluke injury celebrating a pass break-up in the end zone. Speaking of which, NBC, please take note that it’s absolutely unnecessary to go close in on a kid that’s just suffered a major injury, so close that we could all hear him howling in pain; no one wants to see that, and, quite frankly, Tranquill deserved more respect in that moment of pain than shown to him by Notre Dame’s “network.”
Key Fighting Irish Plays:
– 1st Quarter – DeShone Kizer pass to Will Fuller for a 46 yard TD. Fuller now has a TD reception of 45 yards or more in each of the first three games this season.
– 2nd Quarter – DeShone Kizer interception in the back of the end zone. Four plays later, Georgia Tech evened up the score at 7-7 on a 5 yard run by Patrick Skov.
– 2nd Quarter – Justin Yoon misses PAT. Somewhat concerning as Yoon has now missed two field goals, and now a PAT, through 3 games.
– 3rd Quarter – Matthias Farley, filling in for the injured Drue Tranquill, forces the fumble by Georgia Tech QB, Justin Thomas.
– 4th Quarter – CJ Prosise tears off a 91 yard run for a TD putting the Irish up 30 – 7. Prosise’s 91 yard TD run was Notre Dame’s longest rushing TD since 1949.
Will Fuller. Coming into the game against Georgia Tech, Fuller already had 266 yards receiving and 4 TDs on just 12 receptions (not to mention what he accomplished last season), so his skill set isn’t, or at least it shouldn’t be, unknown at this point. And yet, Fuller managed to beat the man-on-man coverage offered up by Georgia Tech’s defense for a 46 yard TD on Notre Dame’s second drive of the game. Fuller would finish the game with 131 yards receiving and 1 TD on 6 receptions. At some point defenses will have to start double covering Fuller, though with his speed, even that’s not a guarantee to slow him down all that much.
CJ Prosise. A week after getting his first 100 yard game, Prosise came just short of having the first 200 yard game of his collegiate career with 198 net rushing yards. Prosise finished the game with 198 yards rushing and 3 TDs on 22 carries; Prosise’s 91 yard TD run in the 4th Quarter was the longest Notre Dame rushing touchdown since 1949. You can heap mountains of praise on this kid, and I have, and I still don’t think it’s adequate to convey exactly what Prosise brings to this team. With only six months at the running back position under his belt, Prosise is leading the charge for the Irish who have now rushed for 682 yards in its first 3 games, the most rushing yards for the Irish through the first three games of a season since 1996, the year they were led by Autry Denson, Notre Dame’s current RB Coach, who rushed for over 1100 yards in that year. Through three games, Prosise has 451 rushing yards and 4 TDs.
Joe Schmidt. He’d been somewhat absent the first two games, and especially against Virginia, but against Georgia Tech Schmidt returned to form. A constant presence in the Notre Dame’s run-stop defense, Schmidt lead the team in tackles with 10 (8 solo tackles), including 2 TFL, 1 sack, and 1 QB Hurry.
Drue Tranquill. This kid was having himself a day until a freak injury knocked him out of the game as the Half came to a close. Playing from the Safety position, Tranquill was putting his stamp on the game with 4 solo tackles, including 2 TFL, one of which came on 3rd down of Georgia Tech’s opening drive. Tranquill’s injury would be revealed to be a torn ACL in his right knee, and for the second year in a row now, the sophomore is lost for the season.
Game Ball: Drue Tranquill.
Next Up: No. 6 ranked Notre Dame faces unranked Massachusetts, at Notre Dame Stadium.