Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 23, 2017

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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26 OCT. 23, 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED 2017 TEAM HAS TURNED THE CORNER After Notre Dame dropped its sec- ond game of the season, a 20-19 home loss to Georgia, the main question thrown in the direction of head coach Brian Kelly was how would this team be different from the 4-8 squad from a season ago, or the past teams that were unable to consistently whip the inferior opponents on their schedule? How would it bounce back from yet another late-game defeat? After Notre Dame's 33-10 win at North Carolina the answer is obvi- ous: The 2017 Notre Dame football team is dramatically different. "I knew that we were in a different place with our football team in terms of their total preparation in all ar- eas," Kelly said following the team's victory over the Tar Heels. "You can never predict how a game is going to unfold. Things can happen. "I've been in this long enough to know. I was confident in the football team and its preparation, and felt we really had a good shot to win the games that we play. I wasn't forecast- ing anything other than I felt good about my football team." Team captain and fifth-year senior left tackle Mike McGlinchey saw the change as well, and believed it started at the top, but the confidence perme- ates through the entire program. "I think it's a mixture of experi- ence across the board of the peo- ple we have on our football team and the people we have in place leading our football team," he ex- plained. "It's been a great change from strength and conditioning co- ordinators to offensive coordinators to defensive coordinators to special teams coordinators." McGlinchey sees the difference ev- ery day in practice. "I know from my offensive side of the ball that we have the best coor- dinator in America leading us. He puts a lot of trust in his players and will stick to what we do," he said of first-year coordinator Chip Long. "We work on and rep the things constantly. There's so much attention to detail, and there's so much that we go over that it really makes it hard for de- fenses to throw something new at us." What Notre Dame is good at offen- sively is running the football. The of- fense rushed for 341 yards against the Tar Heels despite playing with their backup quarterback and half the game with the fourth-string running back. "We stick to what we're good at," McGlinchey continued. "We call plays that play to our strengths, and offensively we've just been able to keep grinding it out. Conditioning wise, we feel great, execution wise we feel great and we've just got to keep rolling." Notre Dame had its first bit of ad- versity since losing to Georgia head- ing into this matchup. Junior quarter- back Brandon Wimbush injured his foot in the previous week's 52-17 vic- tory over Miami (Ohio). Notre Dame had to turn to sophomore Ian Book, whose five career pass attempts came in mop-up duty. During the game it lost three more players to injury — junior running back Josh Adams, freshman defen- sive tackle Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa and senior right guard Alex Bars. None of that affected a Notre Dame football team that overcame a sloppy offensive performance in the first quarter to take a 16-7 halftime lead before putting the Tar Heels away in the second half. "It speaks to the character of our team," senior rover Drue Tranquill said following the win. "It speaks to our coaching staff and what they were able to do this offseason in terms of our development mentally. … "Our guys were relentless. They really are. We're relentless as a group, and we really felt like we had an op- portunity to come out today and display a dominating performance, specifically on the defensive side of the ball. I think we took strides to- ward that." DEFENSE GETS IT DONE With the offense scuffling in the early going, the Irish defense took control and shut down North Carolina, hold- ing the Tar Heels to 10 points and just 265 yards of total offense. Notre Dame finished the game with five tackles for loss, seven passes broken up, two sacks and 11 quarterback hurries. Several different defensive players impacted the game, but arguably the biggest play came in the third quarter when sophomore defensive end Julian Okwara — a native of North Caro- NORTH CAROLINA GAME NOTES BY BRYAN DRISKELL Sophomore defensive end Julian Okwara recorded three of Notre Dame's season-high 11 quarterback hurries and also notched his first career interception. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA MISCELLANEOUS NOTES • With the win, Notre Dame improved to 21‑8 against team's currently in the Atlantic Coast Conference during Kelly's tenure. • Fifth‑year senior wide receiver Cameron Smith, a graduate transfer from Arizona State, hauled in a six‑yard touchdown reception early in the second quarter. It marked his first scoring reception at Notre Dame (he had six with the Sun Devils from 2014‑16), and it was sophomore quarterback Ian Book's first career touchdown pass. • Freshman running back C.J. Holmes saw his first action of the season. He carried the ball eight times for 32 yards and started on the punt return, punt coverage and kickoff teams.

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