(Photo by Charles Brock/Icon Sportswire)

Notre Dame football 2022, Who are you?

Play defense and run the football.

Against Cal, after 156 yards rushing and racking up six sacks on defense, it was a faint echo. By the third quarter this past Saturday against North Carolina, it was a big screen, surround sound, high-def extravaganza, crystal clear to anyone who watched. 

Notre Dame Football 2022 has an identity.

At the 4:08 mark of the third of the third quarter, the Irish started a drive at their own 25. 12 plays later, 11 of them runs, the Irish found the end zone. In the process they burned six minutes off the clock and broke the Tar Heels will.

The offensive line, from Joe Alt to Jarret Patterson, Zeke Correll, Josh Lugg and Blake Fisher, imposed their will on a shell-shocked North Carolina defensive front.   

Maybe this Harry Hiestand guy knows what he is doing after all.

On that backbreaking drive, Audric Estime pounded his way to 42 yards on five carries, Logan Diggs chipped in a carry for nine yards and Chris Tyree 11 yards on four carries including the TD from one yard out.  On the day Estime ran for 134, Tyree 80 and Diggs 50. Estime averaged 7.9 yards per carry, overall, the Irish notched 5.6 yards per carry. 

It was this drive that seemingly broke whatever will the Tar Heel defense had left.  Not a good group to begin with, things devolved into finger pointing and personal fouls as the Irish ate the Tar Heel’s lunch.  

If a powerful running attack is the essence of the Fighting Irish 2022 identity, a complimentary passing game with a mantra of “Doctor do no harm” is also becoming part of the picture.  For the second straight week, Pyne kept the passing game clean with no interceptions, and a 70% completion percentage.

And, ND’s identity as a physical, grind it out team on offense, carries over nicely to the defense.  

The Irish defense is now performing nearly as well as billed in the preseason. Against Carolina they notched three sacks, seven tackles for loss and held a high-flying offense to 368 yards, 179 under their average and to 32 points, 19 fewer than their average. Perhaps even more impressive, North Carolina managed just 66 yards on the ground.  Far below their 237 yards per game average. 

Certainly, the Irish performance last Saturday was not perfect. Particularly in light of the Tar Heel’s porous defense. At the same time the prowess of NC’s offense is undeniable.

With teams the caliber of Clemson, USC and BYU, lurking on the Irish schedule, more improvement will be necessary for the Irish to complete their turn around from an 0-2 start. 

But an identity for the Irish 2022 is now in focus, and it is a formula for winning football games.

So, who are you?

Play defense and run the football.  

And that is a formula that can win football games.

ByPhil Houk

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

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