1 – New starting running back C.J. Prosise has a bit of early-NFL Ricky Watters in his game. That is, Prosise spins out of trouble, in traffic, while churning forward and gaining 2-3 extra yards through contact. Watters had the best spin move of the post, ahem, O.J. Simpson era in the NFL. Prosise looks like a natural performing the maneuver, and it’s not for show.
2 – Top-notch blocking efforts by Irish receivers Chris Brown and Equanimeous St. Brown (plus tight end Durham Smythe on a cut) provided freshman Josh Adams his initial path to pay dirt Saturday night.
Thereafter, Adams scored untouched up the gut thanks to Quenton Nelson at the point, Mike McGlinchey coming down the line, and Nick Martin in space. Of note: St. Brown was in on the play again, blocking on the backside perimeter as the Irish receivers aligned in a stack to show the defense a bubble screen look away from the actual play. Has St. Brown been identified by the staff for his blocking acumen as a true freshman?
3 – I’m of the opinion that the 48-yard post pattern and catch courtesy Texas wide receiver John Burt was the best thing that could have happened to Notre Dame’s refreshingly honest but a bit-too-confident KeiVarae Russell. Russell’s a potentially great senior cornerback who has actually never reached that rarified air to be mentioned with the elite.
A little film room reminder with his position coach, Todd Lyght – who incidentally should be a daily reminder of what a great college cornerback looks like – is going to pay dividends for Russell and the Irish defense in Death Valley and when USC comes calling in October.
4 – Russell was solid otherwise, but it’s relevant to note that Notre Dame’s remaining quartet of players we’ve projected to rank among the top five at their positions nationally played to that status Saturday night. Jaylon Smith and Sheldon Day were dominant defensively, Ronnie Stanley was half-man, half-mountain on the edge, and Will Fuller remains an unstoppable rebel force downfield.
But more important, Cole Luke and Isaac Rochell played to their projections as well. I ranked Rochell No. 6 and Luke No. 8 (Schmidt betwixt) among the Top 10 Irish for 2015. Luke had a pair of coverage wins downfield in a contest that included minimal attempts to dent the Irish deep.
5 – Great to see backup quarterback DeShone Kizer come to the aid of teammate Dexter Williams after the latter received a bit too much after-the-play business from Texas linebacker Breckyn Hager. (Relax dude, you’re down 35.) Kizer immediately got in Hager’s face as he postured over Williams following a big hit.
I wouldn’t have minded if a few of the backup Irish offensive linemen reacted as did Kizer, the quarterback. (They were much more on point when Kizer was leveled one snap later, a personal foul on the Longhorns’ sideline.) Nick Martin will likely explain to the young’ens how to best administer Frontier Justice in the future.
6 – As offered in our post-game notebook, eight Irishmen not named Malik Zaire moved the chains for Kelly’s offense in the first half with a ninth, freshman running back Dexter Williams, turning the trick thereafter. (That’s without the tight ends involved – and they will be.)
Considering the Irish offense has a clear top dog in Fuller, such continued balance is ideal. No defense on the 2015 slate will slow, much less stop Kelly’s crew if it can continue to spread the wealth so seamlessly with Fuller requiring a second dedicated defender more often than not.
7 – Joining captain Matthias Farley on all four Irish run teams (punt/kick coverage and return) was junior slot receiver Torii Hunter plus linebackers Jarrett Grace and Greer Martini. Safety Nicky Baratti, linebacker James Onwualu, and cornerback Devin Butler started on three of the four. Interested to see if Drue Tranquill’s special teams work – I saw him only on kickoff coverage – increases as September progresses. (Tranquill played extensively in the team’s sub packages defensively.)
Standout defenders Jaylon Smith (PR), KeiVarae Russell (PR), Cole Luke (PR) and Max Redfield (kickoff) each appeared on an ST as well.
8 – As an elated Irish team completed its handshakes with their vanquished guests, team leader Joe Schmidt alerted his squad that the Texas band would precede Notre Dame’s playing of the traditional post-game Alma Mater. Why wouldn’t Notre Dame have made an announcement regarding the obviously pre-planned programming to avoid the (otherwise understandable) 3,500-student strong jeer as the Longhorns struck their first chord?
Just goes to show you, if you want something done right, put Joe Schmidt in charge of it.
9 – Neutral-site scheduling quirks are at play, but it’s nonetheless alarming that Notre Dame hasn’t won a true road game since Oct. 26, 2013 in Colorado Springs vs. the 2-10 Air Force Academy. 0-5 with losses at Pittsburgh, Stanford, Florida State, Arizona State, and USC.
Onto Week Two…