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Adams: Some more takeaways for ND Football after another bye week

| Monday, October 5, 2020

I’m not even going to explain why I am writing this at this point. You probably already know.

If not, all you need to know is Kentucky football lost yet another heartbreaker this weekend because they shot themselves in the foot over and over again. With Notre Dame taking yet another week off of college football, I think there a few more things to take away with regard to the Irish football program and their fans. So let’s get to it.

1. Build Clark Lea a statue

Kentucky has had an outstanding defense in the two years before this one. Having the No. 7 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft in Josh Allen helped, and the defensive line has maintained decently high levels of play into this year.

The linebackers were consistently good, and although they lack depth, they are still solid this season. However, to paraphrase Shakespeare: the fault, dear Observer readers, is not in our stars, but in Kentucky’s secondary.

Kentucky media and fans, myself included, were so blindsided by the outstanding run game and consistent rise in the football program that the amount of poor-weather games last season was overlooked. Wet conditions against the likes of Missouri, Georgia and others, as well as a lack of quality quarterbacks, made the lives of defensive backs far easier.

Compound that with an abbreviated offseason and consequent lack of practice tackling because of COVID-19, and you’ve got a unit that’s been torched back-to-back games.

Meanwhile, up in South Bend, defensive coordinator Clark Lea is showing just how ridiculous it was that he was not one of 41 assistant coaches nominated for the 2019 Broyles Award, given annually to the best assistant coach in college football.

Granted, Notre Dame has faced the likes of Duke and South Florida in their first two games, but they’ve handled them as they should.

The Irish gave up just 75 rushing yards to the Blue Devils, and while they allowed 259 through the air, it only translated to 13 points. Also, bow down to the man for the way he coaches his players to make plays on the ball.

I’m not just talking about defensive backs avoiding pass interferences. I’m talking about senior linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and graduate student defensive end Ade Ogundeji forcing turnovers at key moments against Duke. Kentucky can’t force a turnover right now, but that’s commonplace for a Notre Dame team that finished third in the FBS in turnover margin last season. That’ll keep you in any game when teams have to at least keep that in the back of their minds.

So yeah, gratitude to Lea.

2. Build a smaller statue for Jon Doerer

Did you see the end of that Kentucky game? If you were fortunate enough not to, here’s the biggie: their kicker missed a point after touchdown (PAT) attempt in overtime, so all Ole Miss had to do was make their PAT after scoring a touchdown, which they did.

It’s an unbelievable shift from a time when Kentucky could always count on special team production, and now they might as well go for two after every score because it’s so unreliable.

Meanwhile, up in South Bend, senior Jonathan Doerer took over for the school’s all-time leading scorer in Justin Yoon — after there were talks of a preferred walk-on nearly beating him out — and he’s become a revelation.

Doerer was perfect on PATs last season, and take it from me, that should never be taken for granted from a college kicker. You’d think Kentucky could find some Joe Shmoe in the regular student body, throw some pads and cleats on him and he’d at least be able to make a chippie from the three-yard line. But I digress.

Photo courtesy of Notre Dame Athletics
Irish junior running back C’Bo Flemister tries to break a tackle during Notre Dame’s 52-0 win over South Florida on Sept. 19 at Notre Dame Stadium.

3. Notre Dame’s schedule is… meh

Let’s shift away from Kentucky for once, shall we? Instead, here’s a look at how ND’s opponents fared this past weekend.

Florida State was trailing FCS opponent Jacksonville State 21-14 at home at halftime before pulling out a 41-24 win. Pittsburgh just shot themselves in the foot Kentucky-level with an open drop on a two-point conversion attempt as they lost the game by one on the ensuing drive.

Boston College beat Duke handily in their opener, but then squeaked by Texas State by three points the next week. UNC barely scraped by that same Boston College team this weekend thanks to an intercepted two-point conversion returned for two in a 26-22 win.

Right now, outside of Clemson and Notre Dame, Miami is looking like the best team in the ACC, and the Irish don’t play them. Pitt might be in that discussion, but their offense continues to be meandering at best, their defensive backs keep getting pass interference penalties and their O-line was getting about as much push against the Wolfpack as Notre Dame’s got against Georgia last year. And that NC State team that beat them got trounced by Virginia Tech 45-24.

Up to this point I’ve been taking a very glass-half-full approach to Notre Dame. But I point out this scheduling info a) partly to show the “Notre Dame should join a conference” people that the Irish don’t really have anything to prove against anyone except Clemson, but b) mainly to say that there should still be high expectations.

If the Irish lose to anyone in the regular season except for the Tigers — unless UNC starts looking a lot better than they have against Syracuse and Boston College — it should be viewed as extremely disappointing. Louisville’s defense is nonexistent, Wake Forest is run of the mill and Georgia Tech and Syracuse are Georgia Tech and Syracuse, respectively.

4. I should have been at Lambeau Field covering Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin on Saturday

This is more of a personal disappointment — but then isn’t most of this?

Yes, not only was it Mean Girls Day Saturday, but Oct. 3 was the day Notre Dame was supposed to face Wisconsin in their annual Shamrock Series game, slated for the Green Bay Packers’ venue this season.

That didn’t happen because of various pandemic related things that I won’t get into, but it is disappointing to think it’s been two straight weeks without Irish football when I could have been soaking in the juices from an NFL press box as they duked it out with the Badgers.

*Heavy sigh*

Hopefully with Notre Dame football returning I’ll have something to distract me from Kentucky. Then I can spare all you lovely people from these in vain attempts at catharsis. Wake me up when that day comes.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Hayden Adams

Hayden is the former sports editor of The Observer. When he's not working toward his four majors (physics and film, television & theatre) and three minors (journalism, ethics & democracy), you can probably find him hopelessly trying to save his beloved Zahm House from being wiped out. He plans to attend law school at a TBD location after graduation.

Contact Hayden