Irish Snapshot: Identity Taking Shape

By Joanne Norell

In the week leading to Notre Dame’s top-25 matchup with Virginia, Dicke Corbett Head Coach Brian Kelly challenged his team to be determined and gritty. The loss the week before at No. 3 Georgia would not define the season. How the Irish responded would.

For a team playing in the week’s best matchup by ranking for the second straight week (based on combined ranking of each team), the Irish could have let the weight of expectations sink them. Instead, they took their coach’s message to heart, parlaying a dominant second-half performance into a convincing 35-20 victory.

The Irish will move back into single-digits in the national rankings this week as they prepare to welcome Bowling Green to town. But before we turn our thoughts to the Falcons, let’s take one last look back at what might be Notre Dame’s most significant match-up until the Irish head to Michigan at the end of October.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish - Official Athletics Website

Big Guys, Big Plays

It’s not often guys like Adetekunbo Ogundeji and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa get to brag about their speed. As defensive linemen, their games are about power and finesse, not 40 times. 

So when both notched long fumble returns Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium, they were forgiven for the good-natured ribbing and outright embellishment when asked about them.

First it was Ogundeji boasting of his superior quickness over Tagovailoa-Amosa on the post-game videoboard show. Then, it was Tagovailoa-Amosa telling the media he’d clocked in at 21 miles per hour on the GPS tracking system.

No, no, no, he was not,” Kelly said to laughter in his post-game press conference. “He can float that with you guys, but he was probably closer to 17 or 18.”

Whatever the case, there’s just something about defensive linemen crossing the goal line. Tagovailoa-Amosa didn’t quite get there, but his 48-yard return of Jamir Jones’ forced fumble early in the third quarter was a delight to behold before he was brought down at the seven-yard line. Ogundeji, however, found the promised land before the quarter was out, scooping a fumble caused by Julian Okwara and trucking 23 yards to give the Irish a two-possession lead.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish - Official Athletics Website

Once More With Feeling

The statistics have been well-recited by now. Eight sacks. Five turnovers. Four rushing yards allowed. Three forced fumbles. One fumble return for a touchdown. Notre Dame’s defense was down-right scary on Saturday. That’s it. That’s the blurb.

Growth on the Ground

Kelly was clear post-Virginia that he didn’t believe the Irish have found an offensive identity, but a rushing unit that had yet to impress showed signs of growth — simply by sheer stick-to-it-iveness. The Irish amassed just 45 rushing yards in the first half Saturday, but finished with 178 — 120 of which came in the fourth quarter — and four touchdowns. It wasn’t crafty or creative, but the offensive line held its own, opened gaps and Tony Jones Jr. and company scampered through them. Jones, for his part, turned in a career day. His 131 yards beat his previous best by 13 yards and his three touchdowns matched his season total from 2018. C’Bo Flemister contributed 27 yards and a score and continued to be a boon for the Irish in short yardage situations.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish - Official Athletics Website

Kmet Can Play, Vol. II

Tight end Cole Kmet’s nine-catch, 108-yard performance against Georgia wasn’t an aberration. He was nearly as effective against the Cavaliers, recording four catches on 65 yards, including a season-high 37-yard snag in the second quarter. His two-game, 13-reception total tied for the fourth-best in program history for a tight end. It’s safe to say that collar bone isn’t bothering him anymore.


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