The Fighting Irish may have gotten off to a slow start against North Carolina, failing to reach the end zone in the first quarter for the first time all season, but the Irish still rolled through the Tar Heels for their fourth straight twenty-plus point win to wrap up the first half of the season.
With Brandon Wimbush sidelined with a lingering ankle issue, sophomore Ian Book got his first start under center for the Irish, and, despite a few mistakes, he played fairly well for the Irish. The flow of the game definitely felt off for the Irish offense in the opening quarter, and in stretches throughout the game, as well, but that was to be expected with Book getting his first start. The running game continues to be a dominating factor for the Irish offense, regardless of who is under center, and the game against North Carolina was no different, with Josh Adams ripping off his second 73 yard touchdown run of the season, and Deon McIntosh rushing for two touchdowns in relief of Adams. And, enough can’t be said about the Irish defense which continues to make big plays, and has now, through just six games, matched last season’s turnover total with 14 takeaways. So, while this may have been a low-key blowout win for the Irish, the fact that they continue to outmatch the teams that they’re supposed to outmatch, and continue to improve week in and week out, is a good sign for this team, as the Irish, following a bye week, head into the grueling final stretch of their schedule where they’re set to face five Top 25 ranked teams in the final six games of the season.
Key Fighting Irish Plays
2nd Quarter – Ian Book 6 yard TD pass to Cameron Smith. Book completes 4 of 6 passes on the drive, and caps off a 15 play 80 yard drive with a 6 yard touchdown pass to Smith that gives the Irish a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter.
2nd Quarter – Josh Adams 73 yard TD run. Adams finds a hole off the right side of the line, and after making one defender miss, he outraces several Tar Heel defenders to give the Irish a 14-0 lead.
2nd Quarter – Ian Book deep pass intercepted by Myles Dorn at the ND 47 yard line. With the Irish on their own 3 yard line, Book threw a little too deep to a double-covered Finke, and was picked off. The Tar Heels took advantage of Book’s mistake, and just 6 plays later, they were in the end zone to cut the Irish lead to 14-7.
2nd Quarter – Jordan Brown rush for a loss of 1 yard, Safety by Jay Hayes. Jay Hayes gets credited with the Safety, but both he and Tillery stuffed Brown several yards deep in the end zone for the sack, and a 16-7 lead in the closing seconds of the 2nd Quarter.
3rd Quarter – Chazz Surratt pass intercepted by Julian Okwara. The Irish come out with a big play on defense to start the 3rd Quarter, when Okwara breaks free into the backfield and gets his hands up in the face of Surratt, tipping the ball to himself for the interception. The Irish would take advantage of the interception with a Justin Yoon field goal to extend the Irish lead to 19-7.
3rd Quarter – Deon McIntosh 35 yard TD run. With Adams’ work done for the day, McIntosh goes to work himself, and on his second series in the game takes the handoff straight up the middle of the line, sprinting past several defenders on his way to a 35 yard TD run, giving the Irish a 26-7 lead.
4th Quarter – Deon McIntosh 24 yard TD run. Just two drives later, McIntosh takes the handoff and bounces off the pile and angling toward the sideline, he slips under a defender to reach the end zone to cap off Notre Dame’s scoring for the day. The Irish would go on to win by a final score of 33-10.
Top Fighting Irish Performers
No national attention, no problem, Josh Adams will just have to continue to rip off long touchdown runs until he gets the attention he deserves, and I think we’re all good with that. Adams has five carries of 60 or more yards so far this season, with four of those going for touchdowns; two of his touchdown runs have gone for 73 yards, one against Miami (OH), and another against North Carolina. Adams only played one series in the second half before being given the rest of the game off, and still rushed for 118 yards and 1 TD on just 13 carries, taking his season totals to 776 rushing yards and 5 TDs.
With the Williams and Jones sidelined with minor injuries over the last two games, McIntosh is being given a chance to shine when Adams heads to the sideline, and he’s not disappointing. With touchdown runs of 35 and 24 yards against North Carolina, McIntosh now has 4 TDs on the season, all in the last three games. He finished the game against the Tar Heels with 124 yards and 2 TDs on just 12 carries in less than a half’s worth of work.
This Irish defense is turning into something very special, and Tranquill is playing a big part in establishing this new identity for the Irish defense. Not only was he the leading tackler against North Carolina, with 7 total tackles (6 solo, 1 assisted), but he came up with essentially the game ending forced fumble and recovery late in the 4th Quarter. The reason this play stands out to me is that it shows that, even with the game well in hand, this Irish defense continues to play with determination until the final whistle blows, and it’s making a huge difference on the season. Tranquil is now the 4th leading tackler on the team with 34 (17 solo, 17 assisted), and has 4.5 TFL (T-1st), 1 Sack, 1 INT, 1 FF, and 2 FR (T-1st) on the season.
Next Up: The Fighting Irish have a bye this week, and then take on the USC Trojans in South Bend on October 21st at 7:30 pm (4:30 PST).