Instant Observations: Rusty but ready No. 5 Notre Dame returns with 42-26 victory
A quick look at Saturday's game between No. 5 Notre Dame (3-0; 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) and Florida State (1-3; 0-3)...
• No, he didn't put up silly passing (201 yards) or competition (16) or efficiency numbers (157.9). Again. No, he really didn't take the top off the defense with deep balls. Again. But Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book won. Again. He's now 23-3 as a starter. The last time he didn't open a game as the starter was the 2018 home finale against Florida State. Take him for what he is, because you'll probably miss that consistency when he's gone.
• Book's late first half touchdown pass to Braden Lenzy tied him for third in program history with Jimmy Clausen (60). It also brought Book within one of the guy who's in second place, offensive coordinator Tommy Rees.
• If it felt like Notre Dame scored every time it had the ball, that's pretty accurate. Following the early fumble on the first series, the Irish scored touchdowns on six of their next eight possessions. Just give the offense the ball, and let them do work. They did work.
• Raise your hand if you expected these teams to combine for 55 points and nearly 600 yards of offense all in the first half. Sure you did.
• Freshman tight end Michael Mayer's first career touchdown on Notre Dame's second drive was the first for the position group this season. With Mayer and Tommy Tremble, there's no shortage of game-breaking potential at the spot.
• Sophomore safety Kyle Hamilton was back in the starting lineup doing what he does. Making plays. After missing the USF game with an ankle injury, Hamilton returned with to tie for the team-high with eight tackles. He makes a big difference back there.
• Mismatch games like these often swing on turnovers, and Florida State needed all of 50 seconds before grabbing that momentum, falling on a Kyren Williams fumble at the Irish 32. Three plays later, it was 3-0 Seminoles. Couldn't have asked for a worse start for the home team after so much time off.
• Williams made up for the fumble next time he touched the ball. He went 65 yards to get deep into FSU territory at the 10. It was the longest run of his career. Previous long? A mere 26 yards. Williams returned on the third drive to race 46 yards for a score. Two carries for over 100 yards negate a fumble? Against this team, on this night, yup.
• Good to see Notre Dame stay with Williams, even after the fumble and even after the big runs. No other Irish back earned a carry through the first five Irish drives before C'Bo Flemister was thrown a carry bone and picked up three yards. By that time, Williams already had rushed for 130 yards and two scores on nine carries.
• Williams had run for 200 career yards coming in, then tallied 185 on Saturday. Not a bad night. Or a career. More to come, though.
• First Irish play of the game was a Book rollout and pass to Brock Wright, who made his first catch of the year. It gained three yards. Prior to that, Irish tight ends had a combined 13 catches coming in. Wright was heralded in preseason as a guy who could be trusted to make the right play at the right time. He was a forgotten guy the first two weeks.
• Notre Dame came into Saturday having fumbled only twice —with neither lost — the first two games. The Irish then coughed it up twice in the first 9:09. Both miscues led to FSU points — a field goal and a touchdown. It was 14-10 when it should've been more like 24-0. It also gave the Seminoles some serious swagger that they could compete. Then they did.
• The 17 points allowed in the first quarter were more than the Irish allowed in each of the first two games combined. Notre Dame looked early like a top-five team, and also looked like a team that hadn't played in three weeks. Florida State gashed the Irish defense for 142 yards in the opening 15 minutes.
• Notre Dame announced 90 minutes before kickoff that only two players would be sidelined Saturday because of COVID-19 — defensive tackle Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa and Jack Kiser. Tagovailoa-Amosa still was listed as the starter on the pre-game flip card distributed to the media Last time Notre Dame played Sept. 19 against USF, Kiser earned the game ball with a game-high eight tackles.
The Irish had seven players out for USF because of COVID-19, none in the season opener against Duke.
• About 90 minutes before kickoff, the Notre Dame Stadium videoboard played a 20-minute retrospective on the 1993 Game of the Century between Florida State and Notre Dame. The weather that day was similar to Saturday — unseasonably warm, a little windy. Saturday held nowhere near the hype, for obvious reasons. Truth to be told, some of the highlights still produced chills so many years later. It was a special game, a special week, a special season.
• Temperature at kickoff was 67 degrees. Don't think that's going to be the case next month for Notre Dame's second and final home night game of the season. Who's that one against again? Oh, yeah, that's right, top-ranked Clemson, which rolled past No. 7 Miami (Fla.) on Saturday.
• The announced crowd of 10,409 was the largest of the season at Notre Dame Stadium, which seats 77,622. The Irish drew 10,097 for Duke, 10,085 for USF. Capacity is limited to around 15,000 this season. Likely only Clemson will draw close to that number.