Davis' Breakthrough Kick-Starts Irish OutburstBy Joanne Norell
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — Avery Davis is listed as a cornerback on the Notre Dame football roster.
It was meant to be the junior’s first season on the defensive side of the ball after joining the Irish as a quarterback and making the switch to running back as a sophomore. A peek at this week’s depth chart shows him slotted behind Shaun Crawford at corner.
But with holes left by injured running back Jafar Armstrong, wide receiver Michael Young and tight end Cole Kmet — all threats in the passing game — Davis spent the week back with the offense, eager to help fill in the gaps.
That team-first mentality paid dividends in Saturday’s 66-14 victory over New Mexico as Davis picked up his first career touchdown and nearly matched his previous career yardage.
In the second quarter, Davis ran a jet sweep 59 yards untouched for the first points of his career, extending the Irish lead to 21-0 and joining four teammates in finding the end zone for the first time. It was one play, but it earned him the game ball.
“I thought Avery Davis’s electric run, who we incidentally gave the game ball to, for him being so humble as a player and unselfish to flip from quarterback to running back to defense and back to the offensive side of the ball and come up big with an electric run — that really got the entire team and the stadium into it,” Dick Corbett Head Football Coach Brian Kelly said.
For Davis himself, it was the culmination of over two years spent filling in wherever he was needed. Once it became clear Armstrong’s injury suffered in the Week One win against Louisville would keep him out of action for the foreseeable future, Davis figured he might get the call to return to offense.
“I anticipated it, and then when (Kelly) asked me, I was just like, ‘I’m ready; whatever I need to do,’” Davis said. “I’ve worked with these guys, I want to be on the field and I know I can make plays.
“I’m glad it didn’t happen any other way. So much went into it and the feeling I got when I finally made it made me feel so proud of myself and accomplished.”
“Avery is a great teammate,” Kelly said when announcing Davis’ flip back to offense during his Monday meeting with the media. “If I was Avery, I would be sick of the head coach, too. He just wants to get on the field. We’re in a need situation. He wasn’t getting a lot of time defensively, so he was anxious about the opportunity and excited about the opportunity of coming on the offensive side of the ball and seeing what he could do to help us.”
With the offseason spent learning the ropes in the defensive backfield, Davis could be forgiven if bits of the offensive playbook had escaped him. There were certainly parts he needed to re-learn — the bye week helped — but the learning curve was minimal.
“He had to learn some of the plays and that but he’s really athletic,” senior quarterback Ian Book said. “You saw that tonight. Someone, you might switch their position, you might think it’s going to be a bigger issue than it was with him. Shows the type of player he is and where he’s at mentally and he’s ready to go. Nothing better than to see him get that run tonight. I’m excited for him and I know he was, too. I like to say he belongs on offense. That’s what we like and we’ll keep him there.”
Though Davis recorded only one touch, his limited role Saturday came by design.
“(His playbook) was bigger than what we featured today,” Kelly said. “We wanted to get him involved a little bit and we didn’t want to show a whole lot today. He’s a smart kid, played high school football at a very good program. Knows the game well. Was able to retain most of our offense.”
Davis’ performance was a highlight among several big plays from further down the Irish depth chart.
Safety Kyle Hamilton and receivers Javon McKinley, C’Bo Flemister and Braden Lenzy also recorded their first career touchdowns. Hamilton’s pick-six in the first quarter came on the first snap of his career at Notre Dame Stadium and opened the scoring for the Irish, while McKinley scored twice, notching catches of 65 and 20 yards. Flemister snagged a 20-yard catch to make it 59-7 early in the fourth quarter, while Lenzy’s 22-yard snag lifted the Irish over the 60-point mark for the first time since 2015.
“It’s a depth a lot of people don’t know about outside of the team, but we know we’ve got it,” Davis said. “It’s an accountability thing across the board and we work together throughout the offseason, so we know we’ve got each other’s backs and if somebody needs to step up, we’ve got confidence we can do it.”