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irish insider

Head to head: New Mexico

| Friday, September 13, 2019

Irish Passing

Senior Chase Claypool was a quiet presence against Louisville, showing his reliability and consistency behind five receptions for 94 yards. Though the Irish won’t need a stellar performance from him against New Mexico, the senior receiver needs to establish himself as a dependable target in preparation for his team’s week four matchup against Georgia. Sophomore Lawrence Keys III also proved to be reliable in week one, and consistency from him would help continue to fill the void left by former Irish receiver Miles Boykin’s departure. Lobo redshirt senior safety Johnny Hernandez led his team in tackles during New Mexico’s week one matchup against Sam Houston State, so his pass break abilities could pose a few problems for the Irish offense. However, a game under Ian Book’s belt, the Notre Dame passing game should be more cohesive and prove to be too much for New Mexico’s secondary. 

EDGE: Notre Dame

 

Irish Rushing 

It hurts Notre Dame to lose junior running back Jafar Armstrong for up to two months due to a groin injury. However, senior Tony Jones Jr. and sophomore Jahmir Smith performed well in his stead. Freshman Kyren Williams can also pose a threat offensively and should get more opportunities with the coaching staff adapting to Armstrong’s absence. New Mexico gave up 217 rushing yards per game last year, and even though they held Sam Houston State to 115 yards rushing in their 2019 opener, Sam Houston primarily exploited the Lobos through the air for 443 yards passing. The Irish offensive line should impose its will whenever the Irish go to the ground game.

EDGE: Notre Dame

 

Irish Offensive Coaching

Although offensive coordinator Chip Long has helped build an impressive strategy since he joined the program in 2017, Notre Dame hasn’t built its success on an Oklahoma-style, firepower offense. Certain personnel changes from last year proved essential — notably the switch to Ian Book at the center of the offense — but the Irish still hover in the middle of the FBS rankings of total offensive production. Against the Cardinals, Notre Dame posted 423 yards, just 40 yards more than their opponent. Even with those concerns, however, Notre Dame’s game should still be too much for the Lobos.

EDGE: Notre Dame

 

Irish Offensive Special Teams

Junior kicker Jonathan Doerer was a perfect five for five on conversions against Louisville, but remains yet to attempt a field goal in game. Punter Jay Bramblett had a solid performance, punting six times and pinning Louisville inside their own 20 twice. The pair will look to continue impressing the coaching staff this weekend. Irish punt returner Chris Finke called for four fair catches and totaled negative two yards returning in an underwhelming performance. No fumbles nor penalties is good, but the Irish punt cover team could do a better job opening up lanes for the senior wide receiver. 

EDGE: Notre Dame

 

New Mexico Passing

In junior quarterback Brandt Hughes’ first start for the Lobos, he recorded 218 yards in their win over Sam Houston State. While their offense in general is nothing to write home about, they have shown some potential to be a threat with deep yardage considering the nearly 19 yards per throw New Mexico averaged in that season opener. This might be their biggest weapon heading into Saturday’s matchup but unfortunately for them they’re met by an extremely steady and experienced Notre Dame secondary featuring captains and seniors Alohi Gilman and Jalen Elliott.

EDGE: Notre Dame

 

New Mexico Rushing

New Mexico’s already weak offense is not getting any help from their run game. After averaging only 153.2 rushing yards per game last season, the Lobos didn’t seem to make significant improvements, totaling only 145 yards on the ground in their win over Sam Houston State. While senior running back Ahmari Davis had a breakout performance two weeks ago, rushing for over 100 yards, they’ll likely face the reality of the absence of former back and leading rusher Tyrone Owens to graduation. Combine that with a lethal defensive line who will be eager to prove themselves after a lackluster performance against Louisville and this one belongs to the Irish.

EDGE: Notre Dame 

 

New Mexico Offensive Coaching

New Mexico is coached by former Irish head coach Bob Davie, who was at the helm of the Irish program from 1997 to 2001. Davie is currently experiencing health complications and will not travel to South Bend, and the team will be coached by offensive line coach and run game coordinator Saga Tuitele. Despite his title, the team passed more than it ran last week in a 39-31 win against Sam Houston State, throwing 40 times and rushing 32 times. They only completed 18 of those passes, so Tuitele may be forced to turn towards his strength and keep the ball on the ground this weekend.

EDGE: Notre Dame

 

New Mexico Offensive Special Teams

Last year, the Lobos attempted only eight field goals, but converted on seven of them. This is redshirt sophomore Andrew Shelley’s second year as the starting kicker, and he’s off to a solid start, having nailed 4-4 field goals in the season opener, with two over 40 yards. Shelley has range, with a career-long field goal of 53 yards coming last season, and he’s consistent. There’s really only so much a defensive special teams unit can do, and this Notre Dame group isn’t known for blocking kicks. If the Lobos get Shelley close enough, the odds are in his favor, but the kicking unit’s success is still a function of the offense getting them within range of the uprights.

EDGE: New Mexico

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