The Notre Dame football team kicked off its 2020 season with a 27-13 victory over Duke. We recap what was an up-and-down win for the Irish.
The Notre Dame football team began its 2020 campaign with a 27-13 victory against the Duke Blue Devils on Saturday. While Notre Dame emerged from South Bend with the victory, the game was much closer than the 38-7 Irish road win over the Blue Devils last season.
The Duke team looked vastly improved over the team that Notre Dame faced off against last season, accounting for part of the reason for the closer game. However, offensive inconsistency on the part of Notre Dame was also to blame.
Duke would get the initial score in the game when they drove down the field and kicker Charlie Ham connected on a 29-yard field goal attempt to put the Dukies up 3-0. The field goal would be the only scoring in the first quarter, as the Notre Dame defense would be stagnant, going three-and-out on their first three drives. However, the Irish defense would remain stout against the Blue Devils, holding them to a field goal and two punts in the first quarter.
The second quarter would start out much better for the Notre Dame football team. After facing what looked like it was going to be their fourth consecutive three and out, Irish head coach Brian Kelly showed major fortitude by calling for a fake punt on 4th-and-8. Notre Dame punter Jay Bramblett was able to scramble for 14 yards on the play and pick up the much needed first down for the Irish.
The gutsy call by Kelly, whose contract the Irish announced had been extended through 2024, seemed to provide a spark for what had been a non-existent offense to that point. Following a 17-yard pass to freshman tight end Michael Mayer and a 20-yard pass to running back Jafar Armstrong, newly minted starting running back, Kyren Williams would cap off the drive with a touchdown on a goalline rush.
The rest of the half would be fairly uneventful for both teams. Duke and Notre Dame would both go three-and-out on their next drives. Duke would add three more points on a 30-yard field goal from Ham to bring the score to 7-6.
On the next possession, Ian Book would connect on a 75-yard pass play to Williams, only to give the ball back on the next play with an interception. The Irish would force Duke to punt and would drive down to allow Jonathan Doerer to kick a 48-yard field goal as time expired in the first half to extend the Notre Dame lead to 10-6.
The Notre Dame football team would receive the ball in to start the second half. However, their first drive of the half would stall out after a quick 10-yard first-down run by Williams, they would be forced to punt three plays later.
However, the Irish would get the ball back two plays later when Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah would force a fumble by Duke running back Deon Jackson. Unfortunately, superstar safety Kyle Hamilton would get his leg rolled up on the play and would not return to the game.
Notre Dame would capitalize on the turnover, thanks in large part to a Kyren Williams 12-yard rush on the first play of the drive and his 26-yard touchdown run to cap off the drive. The touchdown and subsequent extra point put the Irish up 17-6.
Both teams would be forced to punt on their ensuing drives before Duke was able to drive 39-yards on six plays and quarterback Chase Brice was able to punch it in the end zone with a two-yard run to narrow Notre Dame’s lead to 17-13.
Notre Dame Football: Recapping the 27-13 Irish win over Duke
The Irish would respond by going on a 15 play drive for 83 yards that was again led by Williams who had a 14-yard run play and an 18-yard reception before Ian Book capped off the drive with a 17-yard touchdown pass to the versatile Avery Davis to put Notre Dame up 24-13.
Duke would be forced to go three-and-out on their next drive. However, on the following drive for the Irish, freshman phenoms, tight end Michael Mayer and running back Chris Tyree would take over the drive. Mayer would catch a 14-yard pass and Tyree would have a 25-yard run, giving Notre Dame football fans a glimpse at the bright future of these two young studs. The drive would finish with a Doerer 34-yard field goal.
On the ensuing Blue Devil Drive, the Irish would get a strip-sack of Brice from Owusu-Koramoah for his second forced fumble of the day. Notre Dame would recover the fumble with 2:51 remaining and would effectively run out the clock to finish the game with a 27-13 victory over Duke.
The offense didn’t seem to find a lot of consistency in the passing game. Some of that may have been due to the fact that they were missing their top three wide receivers. Kevin Austin remains out with a foot injury, Braden Lenzy missed the game with a hamstring injury, and Ben Skowronek left early with a hamstring injury. As a result, Avery Davis, Joe Wilkins, and Lawrence Keys III, the receivers who stepped in for the injured trio, accounted for only seven receptions in the game.
As a result, the Irish had to rely heavily on the running game, where Williams led with 112 yards, Tyree chipped in 20 yards, Jahmir Smith added 15 yards, and Jafar Armstrong added five yards. C’Bo Flemister, who many considered to be the favorite to be the lead back for the Irish this season, did not receive a carry in the game.
Ian Book relied heavily on his running backs and tight ends in the passing game. Kyren Williams led the way with 93 yards receiving, Mayer and Tommy Tremble each had 38 yards, and Jafar Armstrong had 20 receiving yards. Running backs and tight ends accounted for all but 74 of the 263 receiving yards by the Irish in the afternoon. While it was enough to secure the win, they will undoubtedly need more production from the wide receiver position moving forward.
The Notre Dame defense, which was excellent last season, remained stout in their first game of 2020. It was no surprise the defensive effort was led by Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Kyle Hamilton. Owusu-Koramoah had nine total tackles, two forced fumbles, two tackles for a loss, and a sack on the afternoon. Meanwhile, Hamilton chipped in seven tackles, a pass deflection, and a quarterback hurry before exiting the game early with a leg injury.
The special teams unit was also a strength for the Notre Dame football team on Saturday. Jay Bramblett, in addition to his huge 14-yard run on fourth down, had six punts on the day averaging a solid 43.8 yards per punt, often pinning Duke deep in its own territory. Meanwhile, Jonathan Doerer went 2-2 on field-goal attempts and 3-3 in extra-point attempts.
While the Irish had a number of bright spots in the game, they definitely have some areas of concern to work on before heading into their game next week with the University of South Florida. However, Notre Dame football fans have to be fairly pleased with the effort that they saw in their first game of the year. Given the performances by many of their young players, the future appears to be bright for the Irish.