In the middle of the Irish blowout victory, Notre Dame got the ball back, up 38-0 with four minutes left in the second quarter, starting at their own 11-yard line. It’s not normally a time to be ultra-aggressive. But on the first play of the drive, quarterback Jack Coan dropped back to pass. The graduate transfer found wide receiver Kevin Austin down the sideline for a 51-yard-gain. That was followed up by completions of 18 and 19 yards down to the Georgia Tech 1-yard-line. From there the Irish punched it in, driving 89 yards in 7 plays and tacking on another touchdown for a 45-0 halftime advantage. An additional 10 points in the second half topped off the Irish’s 55-0 blowout of the Yellow Jackets.
Think Brian Kelly didn’t know what he was doing?
“For those of you that like style points…I covered that today” the Irish head coach said after the victory. Kelly went on to drop in a few other of the College Football Committee’s favorite words, mentioning ‘resume’ and ‘game control’ in the postgame press conference.
Kelly knows that Notre Dame is fighting for their playoff lives, and after a third straight Irish blowout win, plus more chaos around college football, there’s a case to be made.
Irish blowout Yellow Jackets
First and foremost, Notre Dame had to take care of business in their home finale. Rooting for chaos only takes you so far when you don’t impress in your own games. However, for the third straight week, Notre Dame was thoroughly impressed. After holding their previous two opponents without touchdowns, the Irish took the next step and pitched a shutout. Two defensive touchdowns and a blocked field goal halted Georgia Tech’s most promising drives.
The Irish blowout started early, as running back Chris Tyree took the opening kickoff 51 yards across midfield. The Irish would settle for a field goal on that opening drive, which was the biggest disappointment of the half.
On the Yellow Jackets’ first possession, Notre Dame viper Isaiah Foskey chased quarterback Jordan Yates out of the pocket. Irish linebacker Jack Kiser followed in pursuit and collected Yates’ attempt to throw the ball away. The interception turned into one of the easiest pick-sixes Kiser will ever have, as the junior took it 42 yards to the house. Up 10-0, Notre Dame used their defense as a sparkplug to continue the rout. On the next four drives, they gave up just 15 total yards. A blistering pass rush that notched six sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss terrorized the Yellow Jackets all day. The Irish raised their season sack total to 36 – the most in the Brian Kelly era. Defensive lineman Howard Cross had two sacks, while Foskey had a strip-sack and two quarterback hurries. Linebacker Bo Bauer had 1.5 TFL while being the team’s leading tackler with nine.
Georgia Tech did have a couple of opportunities to get on the scoreboard, but they failed to do so. After the initial pick-six, Georgia Tech got down to the Notre Dame 30 before the end of the half. However, graduate student Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa broke through the line and blocked the field goal attempt as time expired on the half. On consecutive second-half drives, the Yellow Jackets threatened. They reached the Irish 31 on their first possession of the half, but a 5-yard loss pushed them to a 4th and 12. Facing a 53-yard-field goal – with a kicker that hasn’t made anything beyond 37 yards – the Yellow Jackets punted.
Then, Tagovailoa-Amosa stepped up again. A 54-yard run from Yates had Georgia Tech in position. But Foskey notched the sack, and the ball came loose. Tagovailoa-Amosa grabbed it and rolled to the end zone, with a Kyren Williams-Esque stiff arm and some great blocking from Foskey allowing him to reach the end zone.
“I just went for the ball, and then I was able to block and get Myron a touchdown,” Foskey said, flashing a huge smile when recalling the play.
First-Half Offense Is Plenty
After the field goal, Notre Dame had what they wanted offensively. They scored five consecutive touchdowns to turn the home finale into an Irish blowout.
The first was a methodical nine-play, 65-yard effort. A 16-yard completion to tight end Michael Mayer was the longest play of the drive. The Irish converted a 4th and 2 from just outside the red zone and finished the drive two plays later. Running back Kyren Wiliams notched a nine-yard scoring run.
A flashier second drive needed just four plays to go 69 yards. The Irish ran a creative handoff sweep out of a power formation to convert a 3rd and short. “We’re just trying to be creative and find ways to get those tough yards,” Kelly said of the play call. In the next play, Mayer was left uncovered for a 52-yard touchdown pass.
The third Irish scoring drive saw just about everyone gets involved, with freshmen receivers Lorenzo Styles and Deion Colzie notching receptions, Williams getting a catch, while wide receiver Braden Lenzy got an end-around rush for 12 yards. Freshman running back Logan Diggs powered into the end zone from five yards out to polish off the drive. Diggs would also score on the next possession, taking a short pass from Coan 20 yards to the house. The play developed after another creative play call from Tommy Rees, who was at his best throughout the half.
The second Diggs touchdown and ensuing defensive stop set the stage for the long Austin completion, as Brian Kelly left no doubt.
Notre Dame, ever since their loss to Cincinnati, has been team chaos. And chaos is happening everywhere. The Irish would polish off the 55-0 victory with ease in the second half – it was their biggest win since 1996. There were certainly some style points garnered there. But more importantly, for Notre Dame, two more top-10 teams lost. Michigan State and Oregon, ranked 7th and 3rd in the recent CFP rankings, were blown out of the water on Saturday. This plus the Irish blowout victory sets the stage for Notre Dame to jump to 6th. Then, they sit behind a pair of SEC teams and a pair of Big 10 teams, with at least two of the four guaranteed a loss in the final two weeks.
Notre Dame is playing their best football of the season right now. The defense is giving up 3.0 points per game in their past three contests, and just 11.8 in their past five. The offense is scorching hot – they’ve scored on 75% of their first-half drives in the last five games. They packed on the style points and controlled yet another football game for 60 minutes.
Will it be enough? The Playoff rankings will be released on Tuesday, giving the Irish an idea of where they stand, ahead of their season finale. They play at Stanford next week with an 8 pm EST kickoff.