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On Brandon Wimbush’s (in)accuracy and Notre Dame’s plans to adjust to it

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Football fans and reporters alike may not enjoy admitting it, but they often do not know exactly what a specific play’s intentions were. What looks like an overthrow may actually be a misrun route. What appears to be a hopeless halfback dive in the first quarter may in fact be setting up a play-action pass just after halftime. Unless in the film room discussing each snap with the players and coaches, that reality is only guessed at, often from a short-sighted viewpoint.

In the third quarter of Notre Dame’s 52-17 victory over Miami (OH) on Saturday, the purpose to the passing plays was clear: Get junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush some work. The blowout allowed for some leeway.

“It was really delving into some of the playbook for Brandon and some across-the-board reads that we hadn’t really gotten to,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said afterward. “… We got into some of that in the third quarter. Again, it’s an apprenticeship, right? We’re still learning as we go, but he’s making some really good progress.”

Using that prism — one of expecting good reads followed by accurate throws, not necessarily looking for runs for first downs or setting up plays to deploy later on — how do Wimbush’s three third quarter pass attempts look?

The first appears to be thrown as a version of getting rid of the ball with a slight chance of a positive result. Wimbush goes through his reads, considering a throw to senior tight end Nic Weishar (No. 82) along the sideline, but the coverage on Weishar is too tight. If Wimbush had made that choice, the defender looks to be in prime position to jump the throw, a mistake the first-year starter has made a few times this season.

Instead, Wimbush moves to his left to get a better view of that side of the field, then throwing somewhat across his body toward fifth-year receiver Cam Smith. There may be occasions where that is a dangerous throw, but in this instance, Wimbush’s arm strength allows him to still get the pass out in front of Smith, though it falls incomplete.

Wimbush holds the second attempt much too long. Furthermore, he seems to focus on Weishar for the entire play, a thinking strengthened by the subsequent aerial replay. If Wimbush makes the decision he eventually comes to but a few seconds earlier, he could have — should have — had a touchdown. Again, the delayed pass comes so close to being a success only because of Wimbush’s natural arm strength.

The final pass, the simplest one, may be the greatest illustration of Wimbush’s struggles thus far this season. In the previous two moments, his arm strength compensated for his gradual decision-making. At this point in his career, Wimbush taking an extra moment to process a coverage is understandable. His failing to complete a screen pass in stride is not. There is no read. There is no decision to make. It is a throw needing to lead sophomore running back Deon McIntosh forward.

It brings to mind a route to the flat run by junior tight end Alizé Mack in the first quarter. Wimbush could not connect with Mack despite it being a throw with no complications.

These misses cost more than the obvious yards.

Consider North Carolina State’s linebacker Airius Moore or senior defensive end Kentavious Street. Through five games, Moore has two quarterback pressures and three pass breakups including one interception. Street has 3.5 tackles for loss including one sack, another quarterback pressure and two pass breakups.

At the end of October, there will be frequent situations where either Moore or Street has the assignment of at least shading Mack for a few yards off the line of scrimmage. As athletic as Mack is, both are capable of covering him on routes, perhaps with some safety consideration on deep routes.

If the Wolfpack do not respect Wimbush’s ability to complete what should be sure-fire passes to Mack — or to a running back in stride on a screen — the North Carolina State defense may adjust, sending Moore and/or Street on pass rushes. Their ignoring of Mack could lead to a quarterback pressure forcing Wimbush to miss a chance at a deep completion to Chase Claypool on the sideline.

The two-yard out route may have a reasonable ceiling of no more than eight yards, and missing it may not be as dangerous as missing on other throws, but those mistakes diminish the passing game’s potency, nonetheless.

As long as he keeps leading Notre Dame to victories, don’t expect Irish quarterback Brandon Wimbush’s starting job to be in any danger, no matter how inaccurate his passes sometimes may be. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Let’s be clear, none of this will jeopardize Wimbush’s starting gig.

“What’s most important is his ability to lead, first and foremost,” Kelly said Tuesday. “Does he clearly communicate? Does he have the trust of the other 10 players? Is he a great competitor? … If you look at the [Boston College victory] where he wasn’t throwing the ball very well, he found a way to win.”

While Wimbush finds those ways to win, the Irish coaching staff will cater to his strengths.

“We will go with what we need to do to make it work for Brandon until he develops the balance necessary within the offensive scheme of things,” Kelly said. “It’s just a matter of time.

“So it’s just easier for us to adjust to him than him adjust to us, because he’s got all those other traits. … It’s much easier for us to adjust to him and give him the time to continue to grow.”

Editor’s Note: This article began with intentions of speaking only to Wimbush’s passing (in)accuracy, but with Tuesday’s injury news, adding a packaged clip of sophomore quarterback Ian Book at the end seems appropriate.

Book attempted five passes in the fourth quarter, completing the first of his career to freshman Michael Young after a designed rollout made the out route a simple endeavor.

Book’s next attempt bounced off McIntosh’s chest. The color analyst may say Book intended to put the ball on the back half of McIntosh’s chest/shoulders, but if that was the case, it was a mistake. If a play is not designed as a back-shoulder throw, the receiver’s forward momentum will make a catch thrown there always more difficult than necessary. Yes, McIntosh should have caught it, but Book should have offered a better delivery, as well.

Miami covered Book’s third pass, a screen, well. Simple as that.

Then comes the deep completion to junior receiver Chris Finke. Not much can be said about that ball except wow, perfect placement.

Book’s day ended with another ball not thrown where it should have been, but still within the receiver’s reach.

Notre Dame QB Brandon Wimbush “day-to-day” with soft tissue right foot injury

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Junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush injured his foot at some point during Notre Dame’s 52-17 victory over Miami (OH) on Saturday, Irish coach Brian Kelly announced Tuesday. Wimbush will be day-to-day this week in practice, with the severity of the injury largely-unknown at this point.

“We’re not going to push him really hard today,” Kelly said. “We’ll get him probably moving a little bit, throwing … but I’m not in a position where we need to have him practice today. My vision would be more toward getting him out there Wednesday for practice.”

Kelly said the injury occurred during the game but Wimbush did not feel any discomfort until later in the evening. At that point, he cut short his night and headed home, informing the medical staff of the pain at the mandatory Sunday noon check-in.

“Specifically, we don’t know exactly when it happened,” Kelly said. “But it’s pretty common. That’s why we have a check-in at noontime on Sundays. We get a lot of soft tissue injuries that don’t show themselves right after the game and will show themselves later after a period of time.”

Both an MRI and an X-ray came back clean, indicating the right foot issue is entirely in the soft tissue. For now, Wimbush is in a walking boot. Practicing Tuesday will be more of a medical evaluation measure than a football exercise.

“We put him in a walking boot to be really, really conservative in this instance,” Kelly said. “We’re going to take it off today to kind of see what we have. Rob Hunt, our trainer, couldn’t give you a diagnosis really in terms of what it is until we get [Wimbush] moving and flexing.”

To play at North Carolina on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC), Kelly said he would prefer Wimbush get some genuine work in Wednesday, though even that may not be absolutely necessary.

“I’m not in a rush to judge here where he’s going to be,” Kelly said. “We’re still pretty optimistic that he’s going to be able to do something. It’s early in the week for us.”

As much as anything else, a quick recovery will be determined by Wimbush’s comfort level. Obviously, the dual-threat quarterback relies on making sharp cuts to incur much of his damage, especially as he works to develop consistent accuracy. If that is not the case by Friday, it would be very unlikely Wimbush starts against the Tar Heels.

“He’s got to feel comfortable and he’s got to feel 100 percent like he can put his foot in the ground do the things that he can do,” Kelly said. “… He wants to play. He’s a competitor.”

On internet rumors
Given there was no apparent sign of an injury in Saturday’s game and neither Kelly nor Wimbush mentioned one immediately after the game, when sightings of Wimbush in a walking boot hit the internet, rumors swirled the injury occurred while living the college life on a Saturday night. Kelly dismissed those notions.

“I trust what Brandon tells me,” he said. “I have no reason not to trust 100 percent what Brandon tells me.

“He went out and felt his foot was not right, and he went home. That’s what he told me. I believe him. I have no reason not to believe him based upon my relationship with him over the last three years.”

On backup quarterback Ian Book

Sophomore quarterback Ian Book threw for 51 yards and rushed for 37 in Saturday’s fourth quarter during Notre Dames’ 52-17 victory over Miami (OH). (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Kelly said the sophomore has received about 40 percent of the snaps in practice throughout both the preseason and the last month. A 60/40 split would be typical for Kelly’s tenure.

“[Book has] gotten a lot of meaningful reps,” Kelly said. “This is not an NFL operation where the starting quarterback gets all the work.”

Book completed his first career passes against the RedHawks, leading the Notre Dame offense in three fourth quarter drives. He completed 3-of-5 passes for 51 yards, including a 48-yard completion to junior receiver Chris Finke. Book added 37 yards on three rushes.

Notre Dame’s Opponents: Georgia, Miami & Navy remain undefeated; one of those to be tested this week

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Three Irish opponents remain undefeated and all three are favored to win again this week. Overall, Notre Dame’s foes went 7-4 last weekend, not counting the Irish victory over Miami (OH), and they are expected to replicate that again.

Temple (2-3): Consider any Owl conference championship hopes dashed. Temple now stands 0-2 in the American Athletic Conference this season thanks to a 20-13 loss to Houston. That score was much more lopsided entering the fourth quarter, when the Owls outscored the Cougars 10-0.

Three interceptions from junior quarterback Logan Marchi make it seven picks in two weeks for Temple’s quarterback. The Owls also had great difficulty on third downs, converting only four of 16 attempts.

A possible win at East Carolina this weekend (12 p.m. ET, ESPNU) will cleanse some of that taste from Temple’s mouth, but it will not do too much as it pertains to longer-termed goals. The spread favors the Owls by 2.5 points with a combined point total over/under of 62, indicating a final score of 32-29.

Georgia (5-0): This space would need much less editing each week if it were kept simpler. Something along the lines of: “The Bulldogs defense stifled [insert opponent here], forcing X turnovers while the Georgia rushing attack powered the offense to a YY-Z victory.”

Georgia freshman quarterback Jake Fromm has not excelled statistically, but he has not lost as a starter and, thus, will likely keep his job even when sophomore Jacob Eason returns to health. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

In this instance, the Bulldogs defense stifled Tennessee, forcing four turnovers and tilting the time of possession toward Georgia’s favor by 10 minutes. The Bulldogs rushing attack powered the offense with 294 yards en route to a 41-0 victory.

Freshman quarterback Jake Fromm completed 7-of-15 for only 84 yards, one touchdown and one interception, but his game management was certainly enough to likely keep sophomore Jacob Eason on the bench even though Eason is nearing health, apparently.

Vanderbilt will be Georgia’s next victim (12 p.m. ET, ESPN). The Bulldogs are 17.5-point road favorites with an over/under of 42, hinting at a 30-13 conclusion.

Boston College (2-3): Freshman quarterback Anthony Brown did not wow — quite the opposite, actually, with 14-of-21 passing for 85 yards and a touchdown — but the Eagles topped Central Michigan 28-8 thanks to 224 rushing yards and three Chippewa turnovers. Those yielded zero points, but they at least cut short Central Michigan drives.

Boston College will face a much stauncher test this week, and a much more motivated opponent, for that matter. Virginia Tech takes to the road following a season-altering loss to Clemson. Favored by 16, the Hokies are expected to win 32-16. (7:15 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Michigan State (3-1): The Spartans took care of business against Iowa, and not a whole lot more can be said. Michigan State topped the Hawkeyes 17-10, led by Brian Lewerke. The junior quarterback completed 18 of 28 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns while adding 42 yards on 12 rushes.

Remember a few weeks ago when Notre Dame ran right through the Spartan defense? That same unit held Iowa to all of 19 rushing yards.

Similar defensive success will be needed at Michigan (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC) to overcome an 11-point underdog status. The over/under of 41 points makes for a 26-15 hypothetical score. This will not be a trendy upset pick this week, and it probably shouldn’t be, but that is something to at least think about before Saturday.

Miami (OH) (2-3): Obviously, the RedHawks lost to the Irish 52-19, unable to contain the Notre Dame rushing attack.

They will likely be able to contain Bowling Green’s entire offense. The Falcons have yet to win a game this season, part of why Miami is favored by more than two touchdowns. Look for a 34-20 final, by the bookmakers projections, though a larger spread seems more likely.

North Carolina (1-4): The Tar Heels’ season has officially gotten away from them. A loss to Georgia Tech was expected. A 33-7 defeat was not. North Carolina has yet to beat an FBS-level opponent aside from Old Dominion.

The Tar Heels gave up 403 rushing yards and were outgained 456 yards to 247. Just how thorough was the Yellow Jackets’ game control? They had possession for 38:35.

Speaking of dangerous rushing attacks, here comes Notre Dame’s at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC. As of Tuesday morning, the Irish are favored by 16 points with an over/under of 64.5. By those numbers, file away a 40-24 prediction. Then remember the Irish defense has yet to allow 20 points this season and realize that alone could lead to a larger margin of victory.

USC junior quarterback Sam Darnold’s fumble on the Trojans final drive sealed the 30-27 loss. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

USC (4-1): The Trojans fell at Washington State on Friday, 30-27. The night saw junior quarterback Sam Darnold set a new career-low in passing yards, failing to reach the previous mark set against Notre Dame in 2016. Darnold finished 15-of-29 for 164 yards against the Cougars while USC’s defense allowed 462 total yards. That offensive success may have best shown itself in Washington State’s 8-of-18 third down conversions and 35:27 of possession.

Darnold can look to boost his statistics this weekend as the Trojans host Oregon State (4 p.m. ET, Pac 12 Network). USC is not favored by five touchdowns, rather only 34 points with an over/under of 61. The thought of a 47-14 rout may be alluring to coach Clay Helton’s team, but any spread that large against a Power Five opponent should be viewed with skepticism.

North Carolina State (4-1): A 33-25 win over Syracuse may not speak of a promising future to come for the Wolfpack, but that score was skewed by the Orange notching a touchdown and a two-point conversion with fewer than five minutes remaining.

North Carolina State gained 206 yards through the air along with its 256 on the ground, the latter quite a number when compared to Syracuse’s 59 rushing yards. To continue the time of possession theme this week, the Wolfpack had control of the ball for 36:29.

Now comes a second major test of the season — the first being a win over Florida State. Louisville visits the Wolfpack on Thursday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN). As four-point underdogs, expect North Carolina State to come out on the high side of a 34-31 projected final.

Wake Forest (4-1): The Demon Deacons’ dream season fell apart with less than a minute remaining against Florida State. A 40-yard touchdown pass gave the Seminoles a 26-19 win, despite Wake Forest senior quarterback John Wolford completing 24 of 34 passes for 271 yards.

The Demon Deacons’ shortcoming came in the ground game, taking 34 rushes for only 96 yards, a 2.8 yards per carry average. They just could not quite put Florida State away.

On one hand, another opportunity arrives quickly. On the other, that opportunity is even more difficult. Wake Forest heads to No. 2 Clemson (12 p.m. ET, ESPN2) as three-touchdown underdogs. The over/under of 47 projects to a 34-13 final.

Miami (FL) (3-0): A season interrupted by Hurricane Irma gained momentum with a 31-6 victory at Duke on Friday. Only leading 17-6 entering the fourth quarter, Miami never let the Blue Devils make it too much of a close contest.

Duke attempted 42 passes, gaining only 166 yards. Its longest completions were for 28 and 27 yards, no other passes exceeding 20 yards.

For a better litmus test, the Hurricanes head to Florida State this weekend (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). Despite it being a road game in a very hostile environment, Miami is favored by 3.5 points with an over/under of 48. A 26-23 final would be closer than probably should be expected.

Junior quarterback Zach Abey has led Navy to a 5-0 start to the season, next to be challenged by Air Force.. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Navy (4-0): For a little bit Saturday, the Midshipmen looked ready to toss aside an undefeated season, falling behind Tulsa 14-0. Then, they merely scored 31 unanswered points to cruise to a 31-21 victory led by junior quarterback Zach Abey’s 36 rushes for 185 yards and three touchdowns. Malcolm Perry and Chris High also played pivotal roles in the rushing game (10 carries for 104 yards and a score; 13 rushes for 89 yards, respectively) as Navy gained a total of 421 yards on the ground.

Navy is going to Navy, it seems.

Now, it hosts Air Force (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network), favored by 7.5 points. The Midshipmen should come out ahead 30-22 by the metrics cited so often here.

Stanford (3-2): [Insert Bryce Love praise here.] Aside from the Cardinal junior running back, though, it was something of an underwhelming performance despite it ending in a 34-24 victory against Arizona State. Stanford gave up 214 rushing yards on 46 carries, a 4.7 Sun Devils average.

Life will get a bit more difficult for the Cardinal and Love will have his altitude fitness tested at Utah (10:15 p.m. ET, FS1). Favored by just less than a touchdown with an over/under of 55, Stanford is expected to prevail 31-24.

Questions for the Week: Stepherson vs. the depth chart; Notre Dame’s rush vs. North Carolina’s lack of D

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Each week, these questions have led off with an acknowledgement of Notre Dame’s various ankle concerns. This week, that may not be as necessary. Irish coach Brian Kelly was confident both Saturday night and Sunday afternoon junior running backs Josh Adams and Dexter Williams would be fully healthy for kickoff at North Carolina despite each nursing sprains currently.

Instead of that recurring bit, let’s turn to what could become another one.

Will Kevin Stepherson move up the depth chart?
The sophomore receiver did not show anything this Saturday to force this issue just yet, but his success as a freshman makes it a possibility, if not this week, then at some point in October.

Currently, Stepherson is not listed on Notre Dame’s two-deep. In order to move up at boundary receiver, where he will most likely see time, Stepherson would need to surpass fifth-year senior Cam Smith or, more plausibly, either freshman Michael Young or junior C.J. Sanders.

More practically, sophomore Chase Claypool has emerged at the boundary position, no matter what the depth chart may read. With that logic, Stepherson’s best odds may come when viewing the Irish receivers as a position-less whole. Claypool and junior Equanimeous St. Brown have established themselves as the top two. After that, everything remains in flux.

“We feel a little bit more comfortable on the perimeter with Claypool and [St. Brown],” Kelly said after Notre Dame’s 52-17 victory over Miami (OH) on Saturday. “We’re still a work in progress with some of the other receivers. … We’re still evolving. We’re getting closer, but no, I’m not ready to tell you that we’re solid in our first three guys yet.”

If Stepherson continues to drop passes as he did with the second ball thrown his way in this weekend’s first quarter, then cracking that top three is a far-fetched thought. Double that point when remembering junior receiver Chris Finke’s diving grab of an Ian Book pass in the fourth quarter. Finke has consistently shown strong hands, part of why he is an option to be the established No. 3 receiver.

How high will the spread rise before kickoff at North Carolina?
Technically speaking, the Irish opened as 14.5-point favorites over the Tar Heels, but that number quickly jumped to 17 points, where it currently stands. (On that note, a strict definition of “opened” is the very first number bookmakers release. Some, yours truly included, prefer a working definition of where the spread lands after the initial action, typically a more precise figure to have in mind through the week.)

Even if it has been fourth-stringer sophomore running back Deon McIntosh, the Notre Dame running game has rarely been slowed this season, and not at all in the last three weeks. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

North Carolina gave up 403 rushing yards to Georgia Tech this weekend, further lowering a poor rush defense’s rank to No. 112 at 221.8 yards per game. Even if removing the option’s success Saturday, the Tar Heels have allowed 176.5 rushing yards per game. That would rank No. 89 in the country. To give that some context, the RedHawks rate No. 76 currently, giving up 161.6 rushing yards per game. (Removing Notre Dame’s 303 rushing yards, Miami jumps to No. 33 at 118.75 yards per game.)

North Carolina is allowing 33 points per game. Its only win came against FCS-level Old Dominion, 53-23. If keeping to Football Bowl Subdivision teams, the Tar Heels are winless and giving up 38 points per game, repeatedly getting gashed on the ground.

The Irish, meanwhile, have allowed only 18.2 points per game. And you may have heard, Notre Dame showcases an above average running game, rushing for the country’s seventh-most yards per game with 301.4.

Will North Carolina State prove correct those bullish on the Wolfpack?
No. 17 Louisville heads to No. 24 North Carolina State on Thursday (8 p.m. ET on ESPN). After falling 35-28 to South Carolina in the season opener, the Wolfpack have reeled off four wins. In beating Florida State and Syracuse the last two weeks, North Carolina State did not pull away at all — both were one-possession wins — but the Wolfpack controlled each of those contests.

That season-opening defeat could be written off as an anomaly, a slow start, knocking off the rust. Beating the Cardinals would strengthen that argument and establish N.C. St. as the only challenger to Clemson in the ACC’s Atlantic Division.

Will Wake Forest fold after a loss?
The Demon Deacons caught most off-guard with a 4-0 start. They lost to Florida State this weekend, but by no means is a 26-19 defeat to the Seminoles something to hang their heads about.

Losing by a touchdown this weekend would be one of the more surprising results of the year, in a good way as it pertains to Wake Forest. It heads to No. 2 Clemson (12 p.m. ET, Saturday, ESPN2). The Tigers have yet to truly be challenged yet this year, no matter what the scoreboard might reflect from their 14-6 win vs. Auburn on Sept. 9. It is not that Clemson has not played tough teams. It has. They just have not been a challenge.

Wake Forest likely will not be, either. (The current spread favors the Tigers by a slim three touchdowns.) If the Demon Deacons are competitive, though, that would establish them as a bona fide foe, despite preseason expectations.

Will the Yankees ease by the Twins?

Notre Dame director of media relations, Mike Bertsch, right — a devout Cleveland Indians fan. Irish coach Brian Kelly, left — a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan … October could get interesting. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Yes, that is a baseball question, but it will tie to Irish football without too much effort. The American League Wild Card game is Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN in Yankee Stadium. How does it relate to Notre Dame football? The winner will face the Cleveland Indians, directly impacting the mood of Irish director of media relations Michael Bertsch. Whoever wins that series could face the Boston Red Sox, Kelly’s preferred nine.

Monday Morning Leftovers: Notre Dame’s defensive depth and youth bodes well for the future

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Despite featuring a rout settled by the end of the first quarter, this weekend produced some thoughts which did not quite fit into the immediate coverage of Notre Dame’s 52-17 victory over Miami (OH). Wait, that’s the whole point of this weekly piece. Funny the way that works.

The sophomore defensive ends keep coming.
The spring and preseason buzz focused on Daelin Hayes, justifiably so. Hayes has totaled 12 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, one sack and two fumbles recovered already this season. His athleticism has shown through time and time again, but he is not alone as an up-and-coming sophomore defensive end.

First came Julian Okwara, earning some notice in the season’s initial third with five tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble in the first four weeks. He did not have an extensive chance to add to those numbers this weekend, because the Irish coaching staff turned to the reserves earlier than usual. Even Hayes notched only one tackle, though it was two yards into the RedHawks backfield.

“We were able to get up big and so a lot of our developmental guys were able to get reps and that really shows the direction of our program,” junior defensive tackle Jerry Tillery said. “I’m so excited watching guys who have been through it all with us get in and get reps.”

Irish sophomore defensive end Khalid Kareem (53) has emerged as a genuine option in the Notre Dame rotation at the position, providing unexpected depth at what was supposedly a weak spot entering the season. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

In this instance, the reserve who made the most of his reps was Khalid Kareem, making two tackles, including an eight-yard sack toward the end of the third quarter.

“Khalid is really emerging in so many ways,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “Physically in the weight room, his numbers are off the charts in terms of what he’s been doing. He’s just physically coming into his own. Very trustworthy in terms of what he’s doing day-to-day with [defensive line coach Mike Elston]. He’s earned his playing time.”

Kareem looked every bit the part of a Division I pass-rusher. With seniors Andrew Trumbetti and Jay Hayes (no relation) still large factors in the defensive end rotation, Kareem’s chances this season may be limited to blowouts and occasional pass-specific situations. Entering the season, though, the idea of a rotation so deep a viable contributor would see only sporadic chances would have been a concept completely foreign to Irish expectations.

Te’von Coney may “break out” next season, but don’t be fooled. It has already happened.
Junior linebacker Te’von Coney made only four tackles against Miami, three coming in the first half.

Watching the first few RedHawks drives, this scribe made a note of Coney’s performance, entirely expecting to include a mention of Coney’s evening in postgame coverage. The final stats sheet, however, showed him tied for fifth in tackles Saturday. Two of those ahead of him are the two senior linebackers with whom Coney both splits time and exchanges the season lead in tackles on a week-to-week basis.

Nyles Morgan made seven tackles Saturday, raising his total through five games to 41 to lead Notre Dame. Greer Martini had five takedowns, now with 34 on the year. Coney’s four this weekend brought his tally to 36, including two tackles for loss and one sack.

Coney catching the eye early yet not necessarily getting the statistical shine goes to show how much of an effect he is having overall. With both Morgan and Martini in their final season of eligibility, next year likely will be referred to as Coney’s “breakout season.” That will be too easy of a description, and short-sighted, at that. He has already broken out, even if only in shared playing time.

Chuck Martin’s return to Notre Dame did not go as the Miami coach may have hoped on the field, but he was pleased with everything off the field surrounding both programs. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Chuck Martin on Campus Crossroads
The former Irish assistant took the head coaching job at Miami long before any construction began at Notre Dame Stadium. His return to campus thus not only included reunions with friends all around — he specifically mentioned seeing 40 ushers he used to interact with daily or weekly — but also a look at a venue with some pretty thorough changes.

“I love what they did with the renovations,” Martin said. “I hadn’t been in it until yesterday. Totally different.

“They obviously hit a home run. Inside, outside, the whole deal. That part is cool.”

Continuing the Justin Yoon record watch
The junior kicker went 1-of-2 on field goal attempts Saturday. If Yoon makes three of his next seven attempts, he will set the Irish record for career percentage. Seven more attempts will be needed, no matter if he sends his next three kicks through the uprights, to officially reach the record’s minimum of 50 attempts.

Small, but unusual, gesture from Kelly to McGraw
Between the first and second quarters Saturday, Notre Dame recognized women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw for her induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. McGraw and her team took the field toward one of the end zones.

Kelly left the Irish sideline to spend a moment congratulating McGraw in person. It was a small thing that would go largely unnoticed, but it is also unexpected to see any football coach tend to something non-football in the middle of a game.

Georgia’s defense is good at the football thing.
Per the SEC Network’s Cole Cubelic, the Bulldogs have forced 26 three-and-outs this season, second-most in the country.

Seven of those came against Notre Dame. An eighth does not count toward that total, but it was in fact more impressive. That would be the final Irish drive of that 20-19 loss, when Georgia forced a Brandon Wimbush fumble on the third play of the drive, a different version of a three-and-out, if you will.

Bryce Love is also good at the football thing.
The Stanford junior running back ran for more than 1,000 yards before it came time to turn on Green Day’s fall anthem.

Sure, it was a quirk of the calendar that allowed Love’s first grand to come within September, but to run for 1,088 yards in five games is absurd, no matter what month or months those games come in.

UPDATE: Fighting Amish tossed a question into the comments regarding Love’s running rampant.

“I know Bryce Love has been racking up the yards but I haven’t seen anything overly impressive. I’m not saying that he isn’t a talented back but … is there any way of checking how he did in the two losses vs. how good those defenses rank nationally against the run?”

Yes, yes there is a way. It just takes some time spent with Stanford’s box scores and the NCAA statistics page.

Against Rice, Love gained 180 yards on 13 carries. The Owls rank No. 35 in the country in rush defense, giving up 122.2 yards per game. If removing the Stanford game, Rice has given up 81 yards per game, which would be No. 7 in the country.
USC — 160 yards on 17 carries — No. 67 rush defense with 147.2 yards allowed per game. Removing the Stanford game, the Trojans defense has given up 141.5 yards per game, which would be No. 62 in the country.
San Diego State — 184 yards on 13 carries — No. 47 rush defense with 131.0 yards allowed per game. Removing Stanford, the Aztecs have given up 120.25 yards per game, which would be No. 33 in the country.
UCLA —263 yards on 30 carries — No. 125 rush defense with 284.2 yards allowed per game. Removing Stanford, the Bruins have given up 254 yards per game, which would be No. 122.
Arizona State — 301 yards on 25 carries —No. 96 rush defense with 190.9 yards allowed per game. Removing Stanford, the Sun Devils have given up 155.5 yards per game, which would be No. 74 in the country.

Fighting Amish included, “Everyone scores big points on Rice and UCLA. Has he even played a legit defense?”

No one else runs against Rice, and San Diego State and Arizona State have average to better-than-average defenses. Love is doing this against genuine competition as often as not.