Instant Observations: No. 7 Notre Dame dominates USF with 52-0 win

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

Quick impressions of No. 7 Notre Dame's 52-0 victory over South Florida on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium...

"This thing is too damn hard. I'm tired of being a nice guy." — Brian Kelly to his team at halftime as aired by USA Network when addressing the Irish about scoring every time they get the ball and pitching a shutout defensively in the second half. Bold statement, but one the Irish are talented enough and focused enough to back up.

• When Kelly got the shutout he wanted, it was the first for Notre Dame since a 52-0 victory over Bowling Green last October.

• The training wheels definitely are off freshman running back Chris Tyree. How much trust has the kid already earned? On a third-and-three call deep in USF territory, they handed the ball to Tyree, who picked his spots to pick up four yards and a first down. He then ran for six yards to the USF 1. Next play, give it to No. 25 again, who followed tight end Tommy Tremble out of the backfield, waited for Tremble to wipe out a defender, then got to the end zone for Irish score No. 2.

Tyree ran for 65 yards on eight carriers and a touchdown in a little more than a half.

• Less than eight minutes in, it was 14-0 Irish and already obvious that it was going to be a day when Notre Dame could score as much as it wanted and whenever it wanted.

• NBC color analyst Tony Dungy mentioned at the start of Notre Dame's first drive that because of USF's aggressive/chance-taking defense, offensive coordinator Tommy Rees might look to "take some shots" early. Rees then dialed up a 24-yard pitch and catch between Book and Tremble, the first of three-straight passes (and completions) on an opening drive that had the Irish in the end zone on a Book scoring run less than three minutes in.

The aggressiveness was good to see. And needed. It was evident early that the Irish offense would have its share of "chunk" plays — 15 in all. Facing that aggressive a defense was exactly what the Irish offense needed to get moving early. Looked like an entirely different outfit than the one that went three plays and out their first three drives the first week.

• Irish rover Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah was the talk of the first week with a team-high seven tackles against Duke. He finished with one tackle Saturday and was barely mentioned by the TV crew. In a game like that, it's not necessarily bad. Perfect time to get other guys some heavy work.

• So much for that three series of threeand out each time storyline the previous week. First three times Notre Dame had the ball Saturday, it wound up in the end zone while racking up 155 yards.

• Five-star freshman wide receiver Jordan Johnson made his debut in the second half. One of the first plays in, Johnson was flagged for a personal foul — Notre Dame's first penalty of the game — which drew Kelly's displeasure. Kelly talked earlier in the week about Johnson needing to be better with his "traits" to see the  field more. That's not the way to earn more looks.

• Hard to tell what received more love from the broadcast crew — Tremble or the "perfect late-fall weather" on campus. Gotta talk about something in such a lopsided affair.

• Sophomore Buck linebacker Jack Kiser started the week third on the depth chart. He ended it with a team-high eight tackles after making his first career start Saturday. Not a bad week for the native of Royal Center, Ind.

• Backup linebacker Bo Bauer is everywhere on kick coverage teams. If he's not making a tackle, he's the first guy to get to the guy who made a tackle, then celebrate the stop.

• Notre Dame scored on each of its first four drives and needed an average of only 3:29 to do it. Yeah, that's starting fast, all right.

• How much better was the Irish offensive line? First time out against Duke, Notre Dame converted seven of 16 chances on third down. First half against USF, before a lot of mixing and matching liking occurred, the Irish converted their first six opportunities on third down and seven of eight overall. That's making a statement. A strong one.

• No digs necessary at USF offensive coordinator Charlie Weis Jr. For a program that's got a long way to go, the 27-year-old with deep Notre Dame ties may be a solid OC one day. Saturday wasn't it, and nobody really expected it to be. Not against that Irish defense.

• Anybody who wonders why Notre Dame often stresses that its about more about than just football for its players need only watch the halftime feature that aired Saturday on USA Network on Irish defensive end Daelin Hayes. Good player. Better person.

• Kickoff was about 90 minutes out when Notre Dame issued a rather heavy press release. In it, eight players (all listed in the week's two-deep depth chart) were listed as being out for Saturday's game. All but one, safety Kyle Hamilton, were expected to be healthy and ready to go. Hamilton missed time the previous week with an ankle injury.

Official word on why the other seven weren't available was not immediately available, though COVID-19 was a likely factor for some. It's the way of this college football world.

Notre Dame had made it a point to announce early the previous Saturday that every player available to play against Duke had passed coronavirus protocols. The program does not designate what players miss time because of COVID-19.

• The ankle injury likely limited Hamilton's work during the week. He spent the early part of it in a walking boot, and the latter part of it in what Kelly termed "ppt." protocol. That stood for prayers and personal thoughts. Neither apparently worked, though it's unclear that if Saturday's game was against, say top-ranked Clemson, No. 14 might have given it a go.

• None of the eight players who were "unavailable" Saturday really were needed. Well, second-string quarterback Brendon Clark missed an opportunity to get some quality snaps in the second half after the Irish sprinted to a 35-0 lead at intermission.

Freshman Drew Pyne came on in relief of Book late in the third quarter. He looked like the third stringer and went three plays and out in his first two series.

A South Bend Tribune archive photo from Notre Dame football coverage. As part of Notre Dame's COVID-19 safety protocols, photojournalists were not allowed inside Notre Dame Stadium Saturday.