Instant Observations: Retro approach helps Notre Dame pass road test at Duke

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

Bottom Line

The team that Notre Dame head football coach Brian Kelly envisioned back in August — one that ruled the running game on both sides of the ball — showed up Saturday night at Duke ... with a twist.

A big part of ND’s rushing resurgence in a 38-7 Irish victory was a forgotten element of the Notre Dame offense that had been so successful with QB Everett Golson, Malik Zaire, DeShone Kizer and Brandon Wimbush — designed quarterback runs.

Saturday night, current Irish QB took his turn at the retro approach and may have reinvented himself in the process with a career-high 139 rushing yards to go along with 181 and four touchdowns through the air against the Blue Devils (4-5).

Big Picture

CFP No. 15 Notre Dame (7-2) keeps a possible Cotton Bowl bid in play and is probably one win away from locking down a Camping World Bowl berth as an alternative if the Irish can’t climb high enough in the College Football Playoff rankings to land in the New Year’s Six.

Questions Answered

Notre Dame’s Michigan hangover didn’t extend to a third week. … Book showed poise and another dimension in his game, even though his pass-efficiency rating (132.5) was tamped down by two interceptions. … The Irish defense regression against the run against Michigan is looking more like an outlier than a trend.

Questions Lingering

Is running back Jafar Armstrong going to become a more prominent part of the offense, as was expected before an early-season injury? Can the new right side of the offensive line sustain its respectable start?

My Game Balls Go To

Offense: Chris Finke: The grad senior wide receiver came alive with five catches for 49 yards and two TDs and a 46-yard punt return that set up another score.

Defense: Rover Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah had six tackles, with 1.5 tacklea for loss and two pass breakups, to help set the tone with the Irish defense forcing three three-and-outs on Duke’s first four possessions. The Blue Devils were outrushed 288-95 and outgained 469-197.

The Road Ahead

The Irish host 24th-ranked Navy (7-1) next Saturday. The Mids had an open date this Saturday.

Notre Dame’s Ian Book (12) runs next to Duke’s Michael Carter II (26) and Koby Quansah (49) during the Notre Dame-Duke NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019, at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, NC.