Notre Dame improved to 6-1 on the season Saturday night with a 31-16 victory that simultaneously felt like it could have been a lot closer and a lot further apart. The Trojans cut a 21 point lead to seven before the Irish scored late and ultimately killed the clock on the doorsteps of the endzone. Coming out of the bye, we expected to see a lot of tweaks offensively and we were not disappointed – at least in the tweaks themselves, the execution still left something to be desired.
Kyren Williams is a damn cheat code
It can’t be overstated just how good Kyren Williams is. His stat line from last night wasn’t overly eye-popping – 25 carries, 138 yards, and 2 TDs – but it’s how he gained those 138 yards that was impressive. He just maximizes every run. There were times he looked like he’d be stuffed for a loss or no gain, and he’d turn it into a two, three, or four-yard gain. That doesn’t jump out in a boxscore, but it’s so huge in keeping Notre Dame ahead of the down/distance and preventing negative plays. As a result, USC had just one non-sack TFL last night.
Williams was a weapon in the passing game with six receptions for 42 yards, including a 17-yard pickup on 3rd and 13 that Williams willed himself through the USC defense for. Williams should have been stopped three or four yards short of the first down, but he converted.
Over the first month and a half of the season, the offensive line struggles have skewed Williams’ performance this year, but he was a beast last night. It was Williams’ first 100+ yard rushing outing of the season.
Tommy Rees’s gameplan was good but has limitations
When Brian Kelly said Jack Coan would start, we all wondered if that meant Notre Dame would run tempo offense to start the game since that’s what Coan has been the most effective with his year. Well, they did, and it worked pretty well early despite some missed opportunities.
The gameplan was sound given the personnel Notre Dame is working with, and Coan had a relatively good game. However, the trade-off was a reliance on the short passing game that requires a high level of execution to produce a lot of points. Notre Dame was moving the ball, but missed opportunities left the Irish with a 10-0 lead when they very easily could have been up 21-0 with better execution.