It certainly was an eventful Saturday in Charlottesville, Va. Notre Dame came away with an exciting, last-second victory but in the process lost their starting quarterback for the season.
After beating Texas so handily and watching Virginia lose to UCLA a week ago, the Cavaliers were not given much of a chance against the Irish. A quick 12-0 Irish lead seemed to indicate that the game would go according to plan.
Then things went squirrely.
Here are five thoughts following the win over Virginia.
1. DeShone Kizer, come on down
It all falls on the sophomore from Toledo. It doesn’t matter how little he has played or how few reps he has had in practice since he’s been at Notre Dame. That no longer matters. The job is his. Reserve Brandon Wimbush has immense talent, but the true freshman does not have Kizer’s knowledge of the offense at this time. Kizer may be able to throw and run, but how the team responds to his leadership is the most important variable going forward.
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2. Issues in the secondary
There were problems all over the defense, but we’ll start on the back end. Cole Luke is a good player, but he had a rough day. Devin Butler struggled as well. It wasn’t KeiVarae Russell’s finest hour either. Virginia’s Canaan Severin torched the trio of corners for 11 catches and 153 yards. At safety, Max Redfield has a hand injury and it may have affected his play, especially his tackling which was poor. There were also several passes that UVA quarterback Matt Johns threw up for grabs that resulted in ‘Hoos receptions. It wasn’t a good performance by the secondary and they certainly weren’t helped by….
3. The lack of a pass rush
The lackluster secondary play and the mediocre pass rush worked hand in hand. When the Irish did cover the Virginia receivers, Johns had time to wait for someone to come free. When the Irish did pressure the passer, Johns heaved the ball up and a Virginia receiver (most of the time Severin) would make a play over an Irish defensive back. Defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder likes to send extra attackers, so if they don’t make life hard on the quarterback there will be space for opposing receivers. For the most part on Saturday, Virginia was able to handle the ND blitz packages.
4. Tough yardage problems
The Irish were 0 for 10 on third down conversions. That is terrible, but when you look even deeper it’s even worse. Twice they failed to convert on third and one. They also turned the ball over on downs after facing a second and two situation, and committed a delay of game penalty on 3rd and six. After failing to convert, Justin Yoon missed a field goal. It wasn’t like Notre Dame was constantly in third and long. They just couldn’t pick up the tough yards when they needed to. Finishing drives was a huge problem for the Irish too, as they settled for two field goals, missed another, and turned the ball over on downs once.
5. C.J. Prosise is a more than capable running back
The most frustrating part of the short yardage failures was that the offensive line and running back C.J. Prosise worked so well together the rest of the day. Prosise ran effectively between the tackles and looked like a natural at the position. He had 17 carries for 155 yards and a score. Josh Adams had just three carries and Dexter Williams did not have any, so it appears that Prosise will be the bell-cow back. Against Virginia, he certainly looked the part.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.