Irish resort to a bit of trickery - Albuquerque Journal

Irish resort to a bit of trickery

Notre Dame safety Jalen Elliott, left, breaks up a pass intended for New Mexico tight end Marcus Williams during the first half of a 66-14 victory for the seventh-ranked Irish. The Lobos (1-1) host intrastate rival New Mexico State this Saturday.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — After No. 7 Notre Dame handed New Mexico a 66-14 defeat Saturday, Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly knew to award the game ball to Avery Davis.

Kelly said he appreciated Davis’ humility throughout his time at Notre Dame, which began as a quarterback, then running back, then defensive back and then a return this season to running back. But Kelly also honored Davis because his big play ignited the Irish — and in turn revealed glaring weaknesses in the Lobos’ defense.

Notre Dame used a bit of a trick play to loosen up UNM’s defense, which turned in an impressive first quarter, shutting out the Irish offense because Notre Dame scored on a pick-six.

Davis came across the center after the snap on a misdirection-type, jet-sweep play that sprung him loose for a 59-yard touchdown “reception,” after quarterback Ian Book shoveled it to him.

The 1-1 Lobos, as they did several times against Sam Houston State in the season opener, looked lost.

Davis’ touchdown gave Notre Dame (2-0) a 21-0 lead. It was a one-play drive that gave way to back-to-back two-play drives, ending with Irish receivers Javon McKinley and Chase Claypool scoring on long TD plays. The receivers scored within 91 seconds of each other to put Notre Dame up 35-0.

McKinley broke six tackles on his way to a 65-yard touchdown. Claypool scored on a 37-yard reception as he was wide open in the middle.

“There was some good plays made, there were bad plays made, but there was a lot of room for improvement,” said senior middle linebacker Alex Hart, who had four tackles, two for losses, and a sack. “We gotta learn from the mistakes and refocus on New Mexico State.”

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Aside from Notre Dame’s defensive touchdown, UNM played an impressive first quarter.

Hart recorded his big sack on the opening drive to help force the Irish to punt.

The Lobos’ offense actually responded well after giving up the pick-six.

Quarterback Sheriron Jones directed the Lobos to three first downs and a 39-yard drive that ended with Tyson Dyer’s 40-yard punt to the Notre Dame 4-yard-line.

Then the UNM defense allowed just one first down before Hart came up with a tackle for a 4-yard loss that helped force another punt.

“The guys played so hard,” Jones said. “They fought out there. They never flinched. We talked all week last week about, ‘don’t flinch, don’t flinch.’ We didn’t go out there and flinch. We played until the whistle blew.”

WHAT WENT WRONG: The Lobos failed to grab any type of momentum during the first quarter when there were opportunities to do so.

After their solid first quarter, they endured a nightmarish second quarter that saw the Irish pull away with complete control of the game.

Missed tackles, and perhaps overly aggressive defensive pursuits, led to allowing 591 total yards of offense.

The UNM offense lacked consistency. Jones showed flashes, but also struggled with three interceptions.

NOTABLE: The frustration mounted for New Mexico State, which struggled on offense and dropped to 0-3 after a 31-10 loss to coach Rocky Long and San Diego State. The Aggies have had a rough start, which has included a demanding schedule.

HE SAID IT: “Our thoughts are with coach (Bob) Davie. Sounds like he’s making a great recovery. I know that he’s disappointed that he couldn’t make the trip here. But he certainly has a team that’s going to compete and play hard in the Mountain West.”

—Brian Kelly

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