Notre Dame just put together their third 10-win season in a row. Along the way were many memorable plays and players. Let's look back at the past three months of Notre Dame football as we hand out the 2019 awards.
Offensive MVP: Ian Book, QB
In comparison to last year, Book's completion percentage, yards per attempt, and quarterback rating have dipped a bit. But he had thrown for 33 touchdowns against just six interceptions, along with 516 rushing yards (second on the team). Moreover, he played his best football down the stretch. Leading wide receiver Chase Claypool has had a great season, but the MVP was the guy throwing Claypool the ball.
Defensive MVP: Clark Lea, Defensive Coordinator
There were two games where the Irish defense struggled to figure things out. USC moved the ball well in the second half and obviously Michigan had their way with Notre Dame all night long. In every other game, the Irish defense showed up thanks to the guy calling the shots. In several contests, opponents scored early but by the second quarter, Lea had made adjustments that put the Irish in lockdown mode. Khalid Kareem is probably the defense's best player, but the most important person on the unit has been Lea.
Best Freshman: Kyle Hamilton, S
A member of 247Sports' Freshman All-American team, Hamilton leads the Irish with four interceptions and six pass breakups. With Jalen Elliott moving on and Alohi Gilman probably leaving as well, Hamilton will play an even bigger role next season.
Best Play(s) of the Season: Chase Claypool's two catches on game-winning drive vs. Virginia Tech
Notre Dame trailed the Hokies 20-14 and faced a 2nd-and-8 on the Virginia Tech 46 with 1:14 left. Claypool made a sideline grab where somehow he was able to tap his right foot inbounds before the left foot landed outside the field of play. The result was a first down and three plays later, on 4th-and-10, Book again connected with Claypool on a 25-yard completion to keep the drive alive. Book would later run the ball in for the Irish victory.
Best Performance by a Player: Tony Jones Jr. vs. USC
Running back production has not been a strength for Notre Dame in 2019. But it was on Oct. 12. As a team, the Irish ran for 308 yards with Jones accounting for 176 of them (on 25 carries).
Best Game (Team Performance): Rout of Navy
The Midshipmen came into the game sitting at No. 23 in the College Football Playoff rankings. But the Irish forced four turnovers and dominated Navy in a 52-20 win that was actually more decisive than even the score indicates.
Defining Moment: Drive to beat Virginia Tech
The Irish had fallen in Ann Arbor the week before and things looked bleak. Virginia Tech led 20-14 and the Irish had the ball at their own 13-yard line with 3:22 left in the game. Notre Dame hadn't scored in the second half and was 87 yards away from a potential game-winning touchdown. Eighteen plays and 2:53 later, the Irish were on their way to a 21-20 victory that began an unbeaten November.
Biggest Surprise: Jonathan Doerer, PK
A huge question mark coming into the season, Doerer enters the bowl game 13 of 16 on field goal attempts. He made three huge field goals from 40 yards and beyond in the 30-27 win over USC. Following Justin Yoon, Notre Dame's all-time leading scorer, wasn't going to be easy, but it has not taken Doerer long to become a true weapon for the Irish this season.
Biggest Disappointment: Getting blown out by Michigan
Still holding on to College Football Playoff hopes, the Irish failed in every aspect at the Big House. With a week off going into this pivotal game, losing 45-14 to that Wolverine team was a complete embarrassment.
Senior That Will be Missed the Most: Chase Claypool, WR
Notre Dame has some talented young receivers on the roster. But when a big play needed to be made, Claypool was usually there. Plus, he was a major factor on special teams as well.
Player to Watch in 2019: Ade Ogundeji, DE
Over the past two years, Ogundeji has been successful as a reserve along the Irish defensive line. In 2020, Khalid Kareem and Julian Okwara will no longer be around and Ogundeji should be a major factor up front.
Offseason Storyline: Offensive coaching staff
Chip Long is out as offensive coordinator. There has been speculation that Tom Rees, former Notre Dame signal-caller and current Irish quarterbacks coach, will take over. No matter who the new coordinator is, it will be interesting to see how the Notre Dame offense responds to a new voice.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.