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Clutch When It Counts: Irish Rally, Secure First Top 25 Win This Season

By Liam Farrell|Senior Staff Writer|Twitter @LiamFarrell_IT

Via Notre Dame Football


In a game in which Notre Dame gets dominated in the trenches on both sides of the ball, as penalties and miscues highlight the night, Sam Hartman leads the Irish to a 95-yard game winning drive, as the Irish's secure their first Top 25 win of the year. In the first half alone, the Irish racked up 40 yards on 7 penalties, with 6 of the penalties being either offsides or false starts. The Irish were also without star wide receivers Jayden Thomas and Jaden Greathouse, and their absence was felt. The Duke defense played stout defense, holding the Irish to 10 first half points, despite Notre Dame's average starting field position being their own 40-yard line. On the flip side of the ball, the Notre Dame defense fell apart in the 2nd half. Let's take a deeper look at this one from Durham.


Offense

Via Notre Dame Football


Penalties and Miscues. Normally in my instant analysis, it starts with Sam Hartman; however, the pre-snap penalties were something that killed Notre Dame drives. In the first half alone, the Irish should've put up at least 20 points. The pre-snap penalties killed drives, and the false starts put the Irish behind the chains. As it pertains to miscues, there were so many drops by Notre Dame wide receivers. Rico Flores had a big drop right after the Xavier Watts interception. Tobias Merriweather had two drops in big spots for the Irish. If it wasn't for Mitchell Evans, the Irish passing game would be nowhere to be found.


Mitchell Evans. Evans has turned into an absolute animal for this Notre Dame team. With Holden Staes getting much more of the recognition earlier in the year, Evans waited for his moment. Over the past two weeks, Evans has made an immense impact with a couple of circus catches. After being blessed with the talent that is Michael Mayer, Evans has emerged as a true threat for this Irish offense.


Overall Woes. In the middle of the second half, I was just perplexed by this Notre Dame offense. At the beginning of the year, it seemed like the Irish could do and get whatever they wanted on the offensive side of the ball. Tonight, nothing seemed to be working in this slugfest of the game. The run game was nonexistent, receivers were dropping balls, and Hartman had a couple overthrows. It was very uncharacteristic to see the offense struggle in this manner, but when it mattered, Sam Hartman had his Heisman moment and picked up a 4th and 16 to keep the game alive.


Lack of Running Game. The internal pressure by Duke limited much of Notre Dame's rushing attack. In a game where two of your top three targets were out for, the Irish needed to establish a competent running game. There were no holes for Estime or Love to find, and the entire rushing game was met with immediate pressure.


Leaving Points on the Board. The middle 20 yards of the field has been disastrous for Notre Dame this year. It feels like the Irish normally do a good job getting a couple first downs a drive, until they reach near the center of the field. Especially when they have the ball in enemy territory, it feels like the Irish are leaving so many points on the board this entire season.


Defense

Via Notre Dame Football


Pass Rush. This was the first game where the Irish established some sort of pass rush and sacking the quarterback. For back to back weeks, Javonte Jean-Baptiste played a beautiful game, along with Howard Cross disrupting everything in the middle of the defense. Marist Liufau also made an impact with his linebacker blitz.


Secondary. With Al Golden and Notre Dame trying to do everything to limit the run game, the Irish often stacked the box. With this pressure, the Irish cornerbacks and safeties would often be in one-on-one coverage downfield. Besides some gains on the first drive, the Irish secondary did a great job in this solo man coverage.


Al Golden. The playcalling and the scheme was great tonight for Golden and the defense. The Duke offense looked absolutely bamboozled in the first half, as the Irish held them to zero points (with two missed field goals). The faith that Golden and his staff has in his secondary allows the defense to be so diverse with exotic pressures and schemes. In the second half, the Notre Dame linebackers went missing, and were nowhere to be found.


Miscellaneous


Spencer Shrader. I think I've had a segment on Spencer Shrader every single week. The broadcast will talk about the strength of his leg every single pregame, but his inaccuracies are killing the Fighting Irish. He is 5/11 this year, and you have to think when a change is going to be made.


A Top 25 Win. Put all the stigmas around Duke Football aside. Mike Elko is a great coach and is doing great things for their program, but when a common college football fan sees Duke on the schedule, it is penciled in as an easy win. At the end of the day, a Top 25 win under the lights on the road is a quality performance; no matter how bad the Irish played.

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