Buch of the Irish (Halftime observation) Mistakes, penalties and sacks, and then Coan was sent to the bench. But it wasn’t Drew Pyne to the rescue rather Tyler Buchner came in at the 10 minute mark of the second quarter. At that point, behind 10-0 the Irish had amassed a TOTAL of 27 yards of offense to Virginia Tech’s 122 yards. Buchner turned things around with two drives , a lot of fancy running and a nice pass upfield to Kevin Austin and before you knew it the Irish had a lead at14-10. The Hokies defensively looked like they didn’t know what had hit them. How could they have been so unprepared for Buchner’s game? They had two weeks to get ready! Hated to give up that last minute drive to a FG for the Hokies, and I hate the fact that Tech gets the ball to start the 2nd half. None the less, If you had told me 45 minutes ago that the Irish would have a half time lead, I wouldn’t have believed it. In the second half I expect Virginia Tech will come out with adjustments to deal with Buchner’s strengths, and this thing will be tight. Notre Dame’s defense is going to need to step up and maybe force a turnover or two.
Post game observations:
Turnover Tariq Tariq Bracy has been the target of frequent vitrol on social media, and in fact he has not been a guy who has exactly maxed out his potential. So at the 6:23 mark of the third quarter it was great to see his blanket coverage on a sideline route that resulted in a strong arm interception of Braxton Burmeister’s pass. Suddenly the Irish were in business at the Hokie 29. Four plays later Kyren Williams was in the end zone, and the Irish retook the lead. ND now has 10 interceptions on the year. Last year they totaled 7. Marcus Freeman was hired in the offseason to increase the playmaking capabilities of the Irish defense, so far, so good.
Oh Kyren, My Kyren! after going for 1125 total yards and 5.3 yards per carry in 2020, so far in 2021 Kyren Williams has been mostly bottled up averaging a measly 3.8 yards per carry. But there are reasons for it, that may have something to do with 4 of last years offensive lineman moving on to the NFL. Kyren still has it though as he proved on a brilliant 10 yard run to the end zone after Bracy’s interception. Williams took advantage of a two back set and some counter action combined with a nice crease created by Josh Lugg and Cain Madden and then did the rest by cutting twice and breaking three tackles. Tremendous balance and instincts. On the day Kyren had 74 yards on 19 carries and also had 5 catches for 26 and including another TD, not great by 2020 standards, but it was his most complete performance of 2021 and bodes well for the second half of the season.
Alt Assault The offensive line turned in their best performance on the year. They gave up 2 sacks and the Irish rushed for 173 yards. According to Brian Kelly post game, they did it at least in part by getting bigger on the left side. Taking most of the snaps at left guard in place of Zeke Correll was Andrew Kristofic. Kristofic is 6-5 305, he has replaced Correll at 6-3 285. Freshman Joe Alt became the 4th starting left tackle on the season, and is big. As in 6-8, 306. When the Irish opened camp in early August and the media was first invited in to watch, I remember my eyes went almost straight to Alt, he is a mountain and he has an NFL pedigree. His father John Alt was a pro bowl left tackle and played 13 seasons for the Kansas City Chiefs. At one time he even protected Jon Montana’s blindside. The upside of the offensive line’s struggles this year is that young players are getting game experience which should pay off over the next few seasons. As for 2021, this offensive line just might stabilize and turn into a respectable unit yet.
Doerer’s Day As Brian Kelly and officials were frantically trying to get to the bottom of some laser light in the stands being used to distract ND, (really Virginia Tech?) Jonathan Doerer stood by calmly waiting to attempt a 48 yard FG to put the Irish in the lead with :13 seconds remaining. Finally according to BK post game, Doerer had had enough. “My gosh. I don’t know if he’s got blood in his veins. I was nervous on the sideline. I was trying to get the guy to stop with the laser. Finally, Jon said, ‘Coach, let’s just kick.’ ” And kick he did, right down the middle.
Coan, Cool and Collected The Irish fell behind 29-21 after Tyler Buchner’s 2nd interception, and Buchner was done, having rolled his ankle on the same play. Reenter Jack Coan with 4:04 on the clock. Coan proceeded to lead two scoring drives good for 11 total points, He went 7-9 for 93 yards he also showed mobility on the critical 2 point conversion pass caught by Kevin Austin. Wow, he CAN escape the pocket, when he gets a little protection.
Considering Coan’s superb performance in the waning minutes Saturday after having being relegated to the bench in the 2nd quarter, I have little idea what the Notre Dame quarterback looks like moving forward. And apparently Brian Kelly is trying to figure it out as well. Post game when asked what he thought he honestly replied, “We’re stringing this together the best we can.” Suffice to between Coan and Buchner he has two quarterbacks with very different skillsets. Oh, and remember Drew Pyne?
Enjoy the bye week, next up the Men of Troy.