Notre Dame Football: Grading the offensive position groups vs. USF

(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Notre Dame football recovered after a sluggish offensive start against Duke to dominate the USF Bulls 52-0 on Saturday.

After a frustrating opener against Duke, Notre Dame’s offense got right in a major way against USF. That’s, of course, what they were supposed to do. USF is not a good team, who is in the beginning stages of a rebuild. Still, their defense was a strength last season, and they did look good against The Citadel.

However, it was clear from the opening drive that USF was simply not strong enough, fast enough, or simply talented enough to play with Notre Dame, on either side of the ball. From top to bottom the offense looked more comfortable. Ian Book made the game look easy, and the Irish blew USF off the ball all day long.

So, how did the offensive position groups grade out, after taking care of business against a team they were expected to take care of business against?


Grade: B

Ian Book took care of a lot of the issues that he struggled with against Duke. He had happy feet against Duke, as if he was expecting to need to scramble. Against USF, he was much calmer in the pocket. He went through his progressions without trying to run around. That helped his accuracy immensely.

For the most part, Book was methodical through the air. He was able to pick and choose who he wanted to throw to, and moved the ball up and down the field with ease. Now, he never did manage to find the endzone through the air, but Book did run the ball in 3 times in the 1st half.

SOUTH BEND, INDIANA – SEPTEMBER 14: Ian Book #12 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish looks to pass the football against the New Mexico Lobos at Notre Dame Stadium on September 14, 2019 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
SOUTH BEND, INDIANA – SEPTEMBER 14: Ian Book #12 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish looks to pass the football against the New Mexico Lobos at Notre Dame Stadium on September 14, 2019 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /

If there was a place to critique Book it would be that the offense still wasn’t explosive in the passing game. That isn’t to say that the passing game was ineffective. It just lacked that ability to blow the top off the defense that opens up the field for an offense. He also had occasional accuracy issues, where he missed passes that he needs to make. Those were few and far between, though.

Book finished the day 12/19 for 143 yards, with no touchdowns or interceptions. He also ran for 3 touchdowns on the ground, but for only 9 yards.

Backup quarterback Drew Pyne saw his first action in college, going 1/2 for 5 yards.

Running Backs

Grade: A-

If last week was the Kyren Willaims show, this week was a show of depth and force at the running back position. Three running backs had at least 60 yards rushing, while C’Bo Flemister led the team with 127 yards rushing on just 13 carries. That’s 9.8 yards per touch. Chris Tyree and Kyren Williams had 65 and 62 yards respectively.

While Book had 3 rushing touchdowns, the running back room found pay dirt 3 times themselves. Flemister, Tyree, and Jafar Armstrong all made their way into the endzone, though Armstrong only had 7 yards on 7 carries.

The running back room had a handful of questions between themselves. However, no one stood out as a target out of the backfield. Meanwhile, Tommy Tremble spent a lot of time in kind of hybrid fullback role, where he dominated as a lead blocker all afternoon long.

Where did they struggle? Kyren Williams did fumble the ball, and even though Notre Dame recovered the mistake, it’s never acceptable to put the ball on the ground.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Grade: C

It’s starting to seem like it might be a long year for the wide receivers. Between the entire group of wide receivers and tight ends, they caught a total of 9 passes against USF. That’s in a game where Notre Dame scored 52 points. That lack of production from the receiving targets almost doesn’t seem possible in a blowout like what Notre Dame put on USF.

It’s just so clear there’s no one guy who can dominate opponents the way that Myles Boykin, Chase Claypool, Golden Tate, Will Fuller, or Michael Floyd. Without an obvious target, who can get open no matter what the coverage is, Book has struggled to find receivers downfield.

The receivers and ends did block very well for those running backs. That’s the type of good, selfless, play you need out of receivers. The issue is that’s most of what they did as a group throughout the game.

Michael Mayer did flash his size and strength again, but a flash is all he was able to give. He’ll grow into a great tight end one day, but he’s not fully dominating defenses just yet. It was also nice to get Braden Lenzy back from his mysterious absence, and he had a solid game for himself.

Offensive Line

Grade: A

For how frustrating the offensive line was last week, they were just as dominant this week. It was finally how the offensive line was supposes to engulf a weaker opponent.

The spent the game blowing USF off the ball, busting holes open for the bevy of running backs who took full advantage. They did so early and often, setting the tone for Notre Dame. As the game went on, they stayed strong, but the USF defensive line seemed to fall apart, not wanting to get hit anymore.

At the same time that they dominated USF in the running game, the offensive line didn’t give up anything in the passing game. Book didn’t feel pressure, need to scramble, and he was able to work his way through his reads all day long. This dominance helped Book excel, and was distinctly different from the tone of the passing game against Duke.

Next. The play that changed everything against USF. dark

All in all, the offensive line was next to perfect against USF.