The Notre Dame Fighting Irish did their job against the Maryland Terrapins, leaving no doubt in a 45-21 victory.
Notre Dame wasn't perfect in this game, but Irish fans should be very satisfied with a 24-point win over Maryland.
From the opening kickoff, it was clear the Terrapins were outmanned. Notre Dame realized this and never took its foot off the throttle, jumping out to an early lead and never allowing Maryland a chance to get back into contention.
For a team that's had a problem with playing down to lesser competition in recent years, this was a refreshing victory.
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The Notre Dame offense was solid in all aspects of this game.
Both Jonas Gray and Cierre Wood were excellent. Gray was especially good, making at least one man miss on seemingly every run. Over the last few weeks, Gray has been Notre Dame’s best offensive player.
The offensive line allowed a few sacks, but Tommy Rees’ indecisiveness deserves most of the blame for those losses.
Rees had an outstanding statistical evening, but for me, he was unimpressive. Rees made decisions quickly but not always correctly.
He always looks to get the ball quickly out to his playmakers, but sometimes he forces the ball to covered receivers. His first-quarter touchdown to Michael Floyd is a great example. Floyd was well covered, and Rees didn’t put the ball in a particularly great location, but Floyd was able to overpower the cornerback and snatch the pass for a touchdown.
The offense is very good with Rees leading the charge, but with a truly great quarterback, the Irish could be explosive.
The Notre Dame defense was extremely sound in its fundamentals. The Irish defenders were always in good position and missed very few tackles.
The one criticism I have is that Notre Dame’s linebackers really struggled in the passing game. Both Manti Te’o and Dan Fox occasionally got lost in space, leaving wide open lanes for Maryland receivers over the middle.
Conversely, the defensive line was outstanding all night. Ethan Johnson was solid in his return, teaming with Louis Nix and and Aaron Lynch to provide consistent pressure on Maryland’s quarterbacks while walling off the running game.
Lo Wood’s touchdown was a great result for the Irish, but it was due more to bad offense than it was to good defense. Danny O’Brien tossed it right into Wood’s lap, but to his credit, Wood made the play and took it to the house.
All in all, the 21 points and 364 yards for Maryland are a bit deceptive, driven more by the pace of the game than by actual success from the Terps' offense. Notre Dame’s defense was excellent tonight.
The special teams have been the weak link for Notre Dame this season, but against the Terrapins, there’s not much to complain about.
Ben Turk, who’s been a favorite punching bag of mine throughout the season, was a revelation against Maryland. He complemented a 58-yard bomb by deadening two punts inside the Maryland 20.
Notre Dame’s punt returners didn’t improve their collective stat line at all, but truthfully, there weren’t many opportunities in the return game for John Goodman or Michael Floyd.
Kyle Brindza could have been better on kickoffs, but the kick coverage team backed him up extremely well.
Add that to David Ruffer’s 52-yard field goal, and it was an outstanding all-around performance for the Irish special teams.
The Notre Dame coaching staff did a great job preparing the Irish for this game. Nothing that Maryland did surprised the Irish. Notre Dame's players were ready on both sides of the ball and showed an understanding of their roles, as well as schemes that the Terps were trying to run.
C.J. Brown gave the Irish a bit of trouble, but by the time he relieved Danny O’Brien, Notre Dame already had the game well in hand.
Bob Diaco continued to use Jamoris Slaughter as a linebacker against sets that featured three wide receivers. Slaughter played well, handling his coverage responsibilities while also remaining stout against the run.
Brian Kelly was finally able to push the tempo on offense, which really seemed to aid the Irish in the running game. It’ll be interesting to see if the pace continues to pick up throughout the rest of the season. It was a hallmark of Kelly’s offense at Cincinnati; the fact that Notre Dame is able to run its offense at such a quick pace could be a signal that Kelly’s schemes are really starting to sink in.
The one question I have is why Andrew Hendrix came in for just two plays in the fourth quarter. I understand that Kelly wants to work Hendrix into the offense, but when the Irish already have the game well in hand, why shouldn’t he have a shot to throw the ball on third down? It’s not a big problem, just a curiosity.
Overall, this was a very nice win for Notre Dame.
The stars came to play, with Jonas Gray, Michael Floyd, Tyler Eifert and Cierre Wood leading the charge on offense. Tommy Rees had a fairly ordinary outing, but he did a nice job of getting the ball out to his playmakers as quickly as possible.
The defense contained Maryland’s offense and didn’t allow any explosive plays.
Much like the Irish victories over Navy and Air Force, this game was an example of Notre Dame easily handling an inferior opponent.
It doesn’t seem like much to get excited about, but in order to truly become a great team, the Irish must routinely obliterate lesser competition. This is a big step in the right direction. There’s no question that Notre Dame has Top 25 talent; dominating in games like this proves that the Irish coaching staff has that talent headed in the right direction.