Speedy Lenzy Breaks LooseBy Joanne Norell
When it comes to footraces, not many will beat Notre Dame sophomore receiver Braden Lenzy.
Case in point: Lenzy’s 51-yard sprint to the end zone in Saturday’s intersectional rivalry game against Southern Cal. On a reverse pitch 10 minutes into the second quarter, Lenzy turned the corner and turned on the afterburners, leaving the entire Trojan defense in his wake.
The score put the Irish up 14-3 and went as Notre Dame’s longest rushing play of the season. It helped build an early cushion that was tested by USC in the second half of Saturday’s 30-27 victory. Perhaps more importantly, it showed just how critical speed like his can be for the Irish offense.
“I knew going into the game if I got that opportunity it would be a great play for us,” Lenzy said. “I was just happy they gave me the opportunity to run and I got great blocks by the O-line and a great fake by Ian (Book) and Tony (Jones Jr.). … I saw (Trojan defensive lineman Christian Rector) and my first thought was not to lose yards and just try to get anything, but then when I got close, I shuffled my feet and saw that he stopped, so I just ran around him and it was daylight.”
In April, Lenzy — whose Twitter handle is, fittingly, @blspeedy21 — tweeted that he’d recorded 4.40 time in the 40-yard dash. The only teammate to best him? Senior cornerback and former Irish track standout Troy Pride Jr., who clocked a 4.38.
Well they don’t call him @blspeedy21 for nothing.
A little pre-Halloween trickery leads to a 51-yard Irish touchdown late in the second quarter 🎃
#9 ND 14 | USC 3
4:38 Q2 | NBC pic.twitter.com/8X2Qh0cCuI
— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) October 13, 2019
The Irish have long been maligned for the absence of that kind of speed on their offense. Recent former standouts Will Fuller and Josh Adams have provided exceptions to that rule, but it’s true the offensive depth chart lacks Lenzy-level speed.
A four-star prospect, Lenzy used a redshirt year as a freshman in order to develop his strength. By the end of spring ball, the Irish were starting to see the fruits of that labor as his increased physicality earned the attention of Dick Corbett Head Football Coach Brian Kelly, who praised his toughness.
Lenzy got his first taste of game action against New Mexico when he caught two passes for 74 yards, including a 52-yard snag to go with his 22-yard touchdown. After missing the Georgia game with an injury, he also saw the field against Bowling Green last week.
So, this opportunity? On this stage? Against a heated rival? Lenzy aptly described the experience as going from zero to 60.
“We’re trying to find roles for Braden and breaking him into our lineup,” Kelly said. “As you can see he’s got great speed. … We had set (that play) up accordingly, and I thought the timing was outstanding. (John and Bobbie Arlotta Family Offensive Coordinator) Chip (Long) called it, hit it at the right time.”
Lenzy’s score against the Trojans officially went as a rushing touchdown, adding another dimension to the team’s offense. The Irish racked up 308 yards on the ground (the most since defeating Florida State in 2018), an effort that included Jones’ fourth 100-yard performance of the season. Jones finished with a career-best 176 yards on the night, besting his previous high-water mark by 45. Book added 49 yards and a touchdown of his own.
“I think (my speed) helps us to space everything out,” Lenzy said. “A lot of time people assume that speed helps just that one person, but I think it allows everyone else on the offense to get open. That’s what Notre Dame football means — you don’t just want people to help (themselves), but everyone around them and I think that’s what I can do for this team.”