Photo by Chad Ryan/Fighting Irish Preview

Halftime Observation

Better than advertised, and longing for Kyle. Sam Howell is good, really good. In 2 quarters with his arm : 8-9 for 149 yards, and with his legs: 10-46 (sack adjusted). The Irish did get to him for the one sack, but the suspect NC offensive line, has played pretty well. Jack Coan and company for the Irish scored on 3 of 4 possessions, that is good and that is part of the problem. Only 4 possessions for the Irish, in this game you are going to need to score every time you have the ball. This defense would be better, and ND ahead by at least two scores if Kyle Hamilton was playing. Hamilton for the last two and a half years has been the ultimate security blanket,for Irish fans and for the Irish defense.

Braden Lenzy is out, concussion perhaps? The offense tonight will score plenty of points, but as expected, so will the Tar Heels. This one goes into the last few minutes as a contest unless ND forces Howell into some mistakes. NC gets the ball coming out, ND needs a stop.

Post Game analysis of my Halftime observations

Better late than never. The ND defense did get their ‘stop’ but not until the second NC drive of the half. Coming out of the locker room both teams drove to touchdowns. But on NC’s second drive the Irish “D”, with a little help from a booth review reversal of a ball spot, forced a three and out. ND did score plenty of points in the second half and on the night overall-44- is their single game high so far of the season and it was enough.

With one exception, Sam Howell made very few mistakes, in fact he was superb. The game for all its craziness only had one turnover and the Irish got it. Fittingly, DJ Brown (substituting for Kyle Hamilton) came up with the pick early in the 4th quarter. It was the 12th interception for the Irish on the season. In 2020, the Irish totaled 7 interceptions for the entire season. As for wide receiver Braden Lenzy’s injury, my speculation was correct, Brian Kelly confirmed post game that Lenzy was in concussion protocol.

Notre Dame players celebrate with DJ Brown (2) after Brown intercepted a North Carolina pass in the fourth quarter. Photo by Chad Ryan/Fighting Irish Preview

Now, On to the postgame observations!

All Hail Kyren! That was the rallying cry that introduced the Fighting Irish Preview podcast this week. So after Saturday’s performance went to a new level, even for Kyren, where else can you go with the praise? After all I already immortalized him. Well, here are the facts. Last night Kyren ran for 199 yards on 22 carries, added another 15 yards on 2 catches, and had a 47 yard punt return. He averaged 9.0 yards per carry. Kyren’s 91 yard touchdown run was a masterpiece as he reversed field after running into a wall of tacklers, applied a stiff arm, got around the corner and ran his way into Irish lore. And the context of the play was huge. North Carolina had just trimmed the Irish margin to three points and looked to have ND pinned deep in their own territory. And then the run happened. I’ll let Chad Ryan’s photos take it from there.

Sam Howell is a warrior. How do we know this? Because Brian Kelly post game said so. “What a warrior he is. I got a chance to talk to him after the game and what a class act. And we hit him, and he laid it all on the line. Here is a guy not talking about going to the NFL. He’s talking about playing as hard as he can….He’s pretty special…just a pretty amazing performance.” 24-31 passing for 341 yards 1 TD, 117 yards rushing 1 TD, Howell never stopped pushing right up until the last second of the game. He makes all the throws, he runs big and strong, he displays great leadership. He is going to the NFL, and Notre Dame doesn’t have to play against him again. Amen.

And while praising Sam Howell, was Brian Kelly talking to Kyle Hamilton? Does anyone doubt that Kyle Hamilton is just ever so slightly concerned about top ten NFL draft pick signing money right now? Folks, we are not talking a nice big check that you can buy mom a house with and and a BMW for yourself kind of money. We are talking generational legacy money that that can impact your family for the next however long money is money. The average signing bonus for the top 10 draft picks in last April’s NFL draft was over $28 million. Oh, and those guys also get paid salary to play as well. Remember Jaylon Smith? Any idea how much he lost when he suffered a devastating injury in his last game and fell to the second round and out of the top 5 overall. $10s of millions would be correct.

So do you think Kyle Hamilton has some serious things to think about right now regarding his future? And do you think Brian Kelly at least had Kyle Hamilton in the back of his mind when he was praising NFL bound Sam Howell for being a “warrior”, “playing as hard as he can” and “not talking about going to the NFL” ?

Rumor is rampant that we have seen the last of Kyle Hamilton in Blue and Gold, even if his injury is not season ending. I’m only speculating here of course, but I have a feeling that intentionally or unintentionally, those comments about Sam Howell from BK post game had something to do with what Hamilton is considering right now.

As for me, I’ll understand no matter what Hamilton decides to do.

I asked the Fighting Irish Preview photographer to get some shots of Kyle Hamilton on the sidelines last night. Chad Ryan got some great ones.

The last offensive line update, I hope. This week ends the automatic weekly update on the trials and travails of the Irish offensive line. Against NC they gave up 1 sack and the Irish rushed for 293 yards, that’s really good and the last few games have also produced good or at least acceptable numbers. The offensive line has gone from close to dysfunctional during the first few weeks of the season to where they are now, serviceable and improving. In my notebook I actually wrote down Cain Madden’s name in two places and had stars next to each entry-I’d guess that means the grad transfer guard made some good plays. Maybe we can get back to calling him by his awesome nickname. Remember it? Anyone?

Joe Alt (r) and Andrew Kristofic (L) open a hoe for Logan Diggs (22). Photo by Chad Ryan/Fighting Irish Preview

Quick Hits. Lorenzo Styles, 3 Catches for 74 yards, is going to be a good one, so is running back Logan Diggs… . Considering the scare ND got when it looked like Kyren might be injured, it will be good to get Chris Tyree back to full strength. Expect that next week…. The crazy pre-game light/music shows for the player entrance and between the 3rd and 4th quarter are a lot of fun…. Kyren Williams is fun to interview, confidence, personality plus and a million dollar smile, oh, and he is a really good football player….Jack Coan scored on a 21 yard TD run, and Brian Kelly deadpanned postgame that Coan going in from 21 was more impressive to him then Kyren’s 91 yarder…..a laugh was had by all.

What it all means. With 4 more winnable regular season games to go this year, he Irish now have won 50 games in the last 5 years (50-9 since 2017). That is one of the greatest runs of winning in Notre Dame history. This week they moved up to 8th in the polls with the losses by Ole Miss, Michigan and Iowa. Do they have a shot at the playoffs? Sure, but it is a long one. Of course they will have to win out and need a lot of help. The Irish are long on wins, but short on style points. The fact that ND’s only loss is to the #2 team in the nation should hold some weight. Let see what the playoff committee says Tuesday night and we’ll talk about it next week.

The Irish are 7-1, bring on the Midshipmen.

And that’s a wrap.

By Phil Houk

For 25 years, bringing you the glory of Notre Dame football.

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