Instant Observations: No. 2 Notre Dame completes undefeated regular season vs. Syracuse

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

Quick hitters from Saturday's 45-21 victory by second-ranked Notre Dame over Syracuse...

• This one couldn't end fast enough. For a variety of reasons. Just get Notre Dame to 10-0 overall, 9-0 and first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference and get someplace warm. And on to postseason.

• That's a fourth consecutive season of at least 10 wins for Notre Dame. Is head coach Brian Kelly statue-worthy when his tenure ends? No Irish team in school history has won at least 10 games for four straight seasons, which means no Irish coach ever had. Until Saturday. There's your answer.

• Undefeated regular seasons two of the last three years? Think that qualifies as Notre Dame being back, right?

• Next for Notre Dame is the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game in Charlotte on Dec. 19. After that? Anybody's guess, though it might be pretty close to lock status to say the Irish will play in either Pasadena, Calif., or New Orleans on Jan. 1.

• Let's get this out of the way early. Ian Book is 30-3 as the starting Irish quarterback. He's the winningest quarterback in program history. He's undefeated at home. How many saw that coming from a kid originally committed to Washington State? Sure.

• First 26:48 of action for Notre Dame, three points. Then a 3:06 stretch late in the first half, three touchdowns. There's your ball game. As NBC analyst Tony Dungy said, it was an avalanche. Yep.

• The Irish started their third different offensive line in the last three games, but continued to churn out some serious yards. Notre Dame went for 557 yards against Boston College, 478 against North Carolina and then a season high 568 against Syracuse.

• Chris Tyree runs away from everyone from 94 yards out. First time we've seen that burst and breakaway ability from that distance this season. Won't be the last time in Tyree's career.

• That's the way a graduate senior redeems himself. Wide receiver Javon McKinley dropped a sure touchdown on Notre Dame's first drive. He didn't pout or point fingers. By halftime, the Irish were cruising 24-7 thanks to a pair of late McKinley catches and scores.

• Nobody saw this season coming, and nobody saw McKinley coming.

• Sophomore Kyren Williams went from being benched in the 2019 season opener to running for over 1,000 yards in 2020. Nobody saw that coming, either. Williams has 1,011.

• Another week, another clean round of coronavirus testing for Notre Dame. Little has gone right in 2020 for myriad reasons, but the way the Irish have handled pandemic protocols since the late-September spike that caused the Wake Forest game to be postponed and eventually canceled is nothing short of stunning. The Irish have taken this very seriously, which isn't what we can say for some others (and leaders) on campus.  

• Book went 266 pass attempts between interceptions. He threw his first in the home opener against Duke. He tossed his second Saturday in the third quarter. The Saturday pass looked more like the Book of old where he just kind of chucked it up there for his guy to get. He didn't get it.

• How big was that late-second quarter roughing the passer penalty on Syracuse? Instead of three and out and another Irish punt, Notre Dame was awarded an automatic first down. Three plays later, Book ran in from 28 yards out and a 10-7 Irish lead. Kind of a wake-up call for the home team. A big one.

• That first quarter made you want to take a nap. It was 3-0 Irish, who played as sleepy as campus looked from the NBC aerial shots. The Irish looked like they were moving in slow motion.

• No band, no student body, really no energy early at Notre Dame Stadium. That's really the first time this season it was as lethargic as it seemed on television. The Irish needed to bring their own energy, especially after trailing 7-3.

• Official replay reviews ... sigh.

• Not that we're counting or anything, but the Irish return to Notre Dame Stadium in 280 days from Saturday for the 2021 home opener against Toledo on Sept. 11. Pandemic permitting, of course.

• So much for weather concerns with Notre Dame playing its first December home game since 1953. It was 36 degrees and partly cloudy at kickoff. For December in Northern Indiana, that's shorts and sweatshirt weather.

• No Irish senior was expected to be made available for post-game Zoom meetings with the media, so they could spend time with their families. After what they've had to go through since March, they at least should have that. We'll find work-arounds for our stories. Let 'em have their moments.

Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book has completed 69 percent of his passes since beating Clemson in November.