Wow, does it feel nice to be wrong. The Irish are in the midst of a late-season surge, dispatching a good Navy team and, so far, the #narrative about November swoons with equal ease. They’re doing right by the fanbase by winning at Notre Dame Stadium at a genuinely historic rate. And hey, we got a ranked win (although that was such a thorough dismantling the Middies are guaranteed to resoundingly fall out of the top 25)!
Since we’re only a few weeks removed from questioning where team leadership would come from, and whether this team had whatever intangibles necessary to pull themselves out of the depths explored in Ann Arbor, it’s absolutely mandatory to commend everyone involved for turning this season around as emphatically as possible, even and especially after losing two captains. Ian Book is leading by example. So is Chase Claypool. So is Khalid Kareem. Hell, so is Kyle Hamilton.
If last year’s super sub performance floated the idea of Drew White as a triple option barricade, yesterday confirmed it — his 10 tackles were double the next closest individual total. Everything went wrong for the uncharacteristically sloppy Midshipmen offense, but it’s not like it was all unforced errors. Kareem terrorized Malcolm Perry and really set the tone for what this game would be. Shouts to Paul Moala for one of the coolest individual defensive plays we’ll see all year.
The offensive line has bounced back from losing its starting right side just about as well as one could hope, and boy are we all glad that Trevor Ruhland stuck around for one more chance to make an impact in an Irish uniform. The offense genuinely did not need to establish the run yesterday, but the clean pockets the big men provided Book were a huge reason the Irish offense put up a 300 yard first half against a defense that was giving up 310 per game. The biggest reason was simply Chase Claypool being the best player on the field by a Grand Canyon-sized margin. He looks like Michael Floyd in his prime right now, which is no small praise, and could have easily broken the single-game school touchdown record if the defense hadn’t cooperated by keeping that lead so comfortable throughout.
Speaking of which, is Ian Book suddenly playing better than ever? His pocket presence has improved immensely, and pretty much every throw downfield was delivered right on target. Braden Lenzy doing his best Will Fuller impression genuinely made my heart flutter, and ratcheted up my expectations for his ND career in one fell swoop. Lawrence Keys toe-tapping on one of Book’s most impressive throws all day was also a delight.
I hate to qualify every win by saying that it doesn’t forgive the Michigan loss — duh, it doesn’t, so what — so I think we can afford to let that stay unspoken for the rest of the year. My advice is to simply enjoy a team that’s suddenly looking great and making Saturdays fun. Two more precious opportunities left. We can all agree that Boston College deserves the same kind of beatdown (realistically, worse) that Notre Dame just gifted to Navy. Beat Eagles.
Photo via Matt Cashore