Instant Observations: No. 2 Notre Dame powers past No. 25 North Carolina, 31-17

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

Quick hitters from Friday's afternoon affair between No. 2 Notre Dame and No. 25 North Carolina...

• Make that 9-0 overall, 8-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Take that and run with it, right to Raleigh-Durham International and the charter flight home.

• That second half defensive effort from Notre Dame will keep coordinator Clark Lea a short-timer around South Bend.

• Yeah, a 97-yard scoring drive (longest of the season) by the Irish that chewed up more than five minutes to take the lead midway through the third quarter will do.

• Almost as big was the three and out the Irish defense tossed on the ensuing possession.

• Even LeBron James checked in on this one. The King offered on Twitter that the game was "damn good." OK, then. James does know his football.

• Notre Dame looked like a team in need of a bye week after the Nov. 13 win at Boston College. With the way the Irish played much of Saturday, compared to how they were playing previously, maybe a bye wasn't so needed. Would've liked to see this team keep rolling, especially on offense.

• That included quarterback Ian Book, who was really good the previous two games against Clemson and Boston College. He looked way too uncomfortable Saturday in a lot of phases. But that flip to Michael Mayer on third down early in the fourth quarter? Whoa. That takes some ... skill.

• Anyone figure out what happened to the Irish wide receivers? Outside of Javon McKinley, a group that looked to be so in sync with Book looked like to strangers to all involved the first half.

• Book's down-the-middle strike to McKinley for 53 yards might've been his most determined/sure/confident throw of the day.

• Wide receiver Ben Skowronek, who does nothing but catch touchdown passes in road games, made his biggest impact as a runner, taking a reverse eight yards for the go-ahead score in the third quarter.

• Such a luxury for the Irish to go to their fourth-string tight end in George Takacs to get a first down there at game's end. Talk about an embarrassment of riches in that position room.

• It looked early that the first to 50 might win this one after the offenses combined for 28 points — two scores each — in the opening quarter.

• Turning every which way and going backward and forward after a bad snap, Book really did make something out of nothing in that first quarter scoring pass to Kyren Williams. That's a fifth-year quarterback for you.

• A shaky Irish defense most of the first half was pushed back further on its heels late in the second quarter when safety Kyle Hamilton was disqualified after a targeting tackle on Josh Downs. If there's one guy this defense can't lose, it's Hamilton.

• Back on its heels the first two drives might be too kind for the Irish defense, which allowed 135 total yards and 14 points.

• Linebacker Marist Liufau played early like he was making up for lost time, and opportunity. Think Jack Kiser against South Florida. Liufau was around everything and often got there in a hurry. 

• Saturday was the first Notre Dame game this season worked by color analyst Kirk Herbstreit on ABC, but he had it pegged early, saying of the Irish tight ends, "they just bully people." Pretty much. 

• How did it go early for Notre Dame with two starters on the offensive line out with injury? Three plays and out with a total of (-11) yards the first possession. Seven plays and 50 yards later, North Carolina was in the end zone. Not the start you want, or need, on the road.

• Tackling was an issue early for the Irish defense, which looked like it hadn't played in two weeks that first Tar Heel drive. Really, they looked that way the entire first half.

• Hard to believe Saturday was first time Hall of Famer Mack Brown coached a game against Notre Dame. That's, just, weird.

• Notre Dame had no players miss Friday's game because of COVID-19 issues (standard note these days) and nobody fall from the two-deep depth chart released earlier in the week because of injury.

Notre Dame's George Takacs (85) gets past North Carolina's Tyrone Hopper (42) picking up 13 yards on a pass completion to set up Notre Dame's final score Friday in its 31-17 victory over North Carolina.