Instant Observations: Notre Dame cranks up the offense in life without Hamilton

Eric Hansen
ND Insider

Bottom Line

Life without All-America safety Kyle Hamilton can’t end soon enough for No. 11 Notre Dame.

Fortunately for the Irish, he couldn’t play for North Carolina either.

Facing the most prolific and balanced offensive attack the Irish have seen this season (19th nationally in scoring, 15th in total offense), Notre Dame turned to its offense to carry the day and keep it on track for a New Year’s Six postseason berth with a 44-34 victory over the Tar Heels (4-4).

ND running back Kyren Williams’ 91-yard TD run was part of a career day (199 yards on 22 carries for the junior as the Irish hit season highs in total yards (523) and rushing yards (293).

The Irish defense struggled mightily, though, against junior QB Sam Howell (90 rushing yards, 341 passing yards) but got a big third-down stop early in the fourth quarter, and Hamilton’s understudy got an interception to set up an Irish field goal with 11:52 left in the game.

It was the 22nd straight win for Notre Dame in regular-season ACC games, its 39th straight when it scores 30 or more points and 38th successive win over unranked teams — the longest active streak in the FBS.

Hamilton suffered a knee injury Oct. 23 in a 31-16 Irish victory over USC. There is no timetable for his return.

Big Picture

The Irish should move back into the top 10 in both major polls for the first time since its Oct. 2 loss to Cincinnati. And on Tuesday night, Notre Dame will get to see what the College Football Playoff selection committee thinks of its 7-1 season to date when the first CFP rankings are unveiled.

Questions Answered

Apparently, quarterback Jack Coan can run — at least every once in a while. The grad senior scored on a 21-yard scramble, which is four yards short of his career long set in 2019 while playing for Wisconsin. … The Irish offensive line continues to answer questions about whether it could evolve.

Questions Lingering

Can the Irish defense survive until Hamilton rejoins the lineup.

My Game Balls Go To

Offense: Running back Kyren Williams with 199 yards on 22 carries and a 91-yard TD.

Defense: Defensive end Isaiah Foskey with seven tackles and a half a sack.

The Road Ahead

Notre Dame hosts Navy (2-6) next Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium (3:30 p.m. EDT). The Midshipmen edged Tulsa, 20-17, Friday night without completing a single pass attempt.