Notre Dame football faced off against Vanderbilt this Saturday. Both teams were undefeated heading into the week three game. After jumping out to a 16 point lead, the Irish held on to win 22-17.
The Irish received the opening kickoff and marched straight down the field. Tony Jones Jr. got the start at running back and had four carries for 41 yards. The Ian book red zone package stalled in a goal-to-goal situation, and Notre Dame had to settle for a field goal.
Vanderbilt had to start their first drive inside their own ten yard line after a holding call on the kickoff return. The Commodores were able to move the ball to about midfield before being forced to punt.
Ian book took another snap on third and short on the ensuing drive. He converted the first down on a play action pass to Brock Wright. Jones Jr. added another 16 rushing yards and 24 receiving yards. The drive was capped off with a 12 yard rushing touchdown by Brandon Wimbush, and the Irish jumped out to a ten-point lead before the end of the first quarter.
The Irish defense was swarming on the next few Vanderbilt possessions – forcing three straight punts. Notre Dame was not able to capitalize, though, as Tyler Newsome came on for his first two punts of the game.
Tony Jones Jr. continued to eat up yards on the ground. Helping the Irish take another trip to the red zone. However, the Notre Dame offense was unable to punch it in. Justin Yoon kicked his second field goal of the day to give the Irish a 13-0 lead.
The Vanderbilt offense followed that up by putting together their best drive of the half. Quarterback Kyle Shurmur completed a pass to Donaven Tennyson within the five yard line and then Alohi Gilman made the defensive play of the game. The Notre Dame safety ripped the ball out of Tennyson’s hands and chaos ensued. The ball ended up in the endzone, where it was recovered by Julian Love for a touchback.
The Irish offense turned that turnover into points. They moved the ball past midfield and set up Justin Yoon for a 46-yard field goal attempt. Yoon improved to 3/3 on the game and the Irish extended their lead to 16.
Kyle Shurmur and the Commodores executed an excellent two minute offense. They quickly moved down the field and were able to kick a field goal as time expired. The score going into halftime was 16-3.
The Vanderbilt offense took their first possession of the second half into Notre Dame territory. The Irish defense forced a negative play on second down to set up a third and long followed by a 43-yard field goal attempt. The kick sailed wide left and the Notre Dame offense took over.
After a Notre Dame punt, the Vanderbilt offense was putting together a nice drive before Kyle Shurmur threw an interception on a deep ball in the end zone. Troy Pride intercepted the pass and tried to return it out of the endzone, but he was immediately taken down at the one yard line. Backed up in their own end, Notre Dame went three and out.
After a good punt return, the Commodores offense started their drive in Notre Dame territory. They did not miss a beat. They marched right back down the field. Running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn scored on a three-yard run – cutting the Irish lead to six points.
The Notre Dame offense came out in the fourth quarter with a sense of urgency. They had a couple chunk plays and converted on a short-yardage fourth down within the five yard line. Backup quarterback Ian Book came into the game and connected with tight end Nic Weishar for a touchdown. Notre Dame elected to go for two, and Book’s pass to Miles Boykin was incomplete – keeping the score at 22-10.
The Vanderbilt offense continued to hum in the second half. They quickly moved down the field, and Shurmur hit his tight end Jared Pinkney for an 18-yard touchdown to cut the Irish lead to five.
Wide receiver Michael Young returned the ensuing kickoff into Vanderbilt territory. Tony Jones Jr. eclipsed 100 yards rushing as the Notre Dame offense moved into the red zone. The Commodores came up with a big stop to force a field goal. Justin Yoon’s attempt was wide right, and the score remained 22-17.
Vanderbilt, driving to take the lead, faced a fourth down in Notre Dame territory. Cornerback Donte Vaughn was called for pass interference to keep the Commodore drive alive. On the following set of downs, Vanderbilt faced yet another fourth down. This time, wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb dropped a pass, and the Commodores turned it over on downs.
Notre Dame was unable to make a first down to ice the game, and they were forced to punt with 12 seconds left on the clock. The special teams play of the day was one of the last plays of the day as senior captain Tyler Newsome booted a 60 yard punt to pin Vanderbilt back near their own end zone with five seconds left in the game. The Commodores completed a pass and some laterals before a fumble was recovered by Julian Love to end the game.
Notre Dame football has avoided catastrophe two weeks in a row. They have managed to eke out wins over inferior opponents in games at home where they were favored by double-digits. Some call it luck. Some think it’s a harbinger of bad things to come later in the season. We will learn soon enough as the Irish take their first road trip of the season next week. They travel to Winston-Salem to take on Wake Forest next Saturday.