With a scoring system roughly as complicated as the one used in dressage and an excitement level usually reserved for the Purdue game, the Notre Dame Football Blue-Gold Game is of interest mainly to see what progress, if any, was made over the Spring practices and how The Shirt looks in the stands. It’s also a reasonable facsimile of college football, so if you’re not careful and you suspend reality just enough, it can be a fair amount of fun to watch. This year’s April Classic was no different in those regards. What we can make of it, though, remains to be seen.
I would posit that one way to make something out of the game is to compare what we last saw on the field with what the Blue-Gold offered. The last “real” game of Fighting Irish football was New Year’s Day, when The Irish served up a bowl of “Rotten Citrus” to the LSU Tigers. It was a game as exciting as a hangover, except for the very end, when Ian Book came off the shelf to replace a frazzled Brandon Wimbush and win the game on a ridiculous 58-yard hookup with Miles Boykin.
Wimbush looked a lot better yesterday than he did before Book sank LSU. Still the “1A” QB per head coach Brian Kelly, Brandon finished the Blue-Gold Game with 19 completions on 33 attempts and one interception for a total of 341 passing yards. He threw two touchdowns and showed off improved mechanics, although his interception was a bad throw that never should have left his hand. He was sacked once, but defining a sack in the context of Blue-Gold rules is about as easier as wrestling a spider monkey.
Ian Book, still the “1B” QB, continued his solid reliability. He went 17 for 30 with zero interceptions and one touchdown. Avery Davis, who under normal circumstances would be QB3, demonstrated that he is the Swiss Army knife of The Irish offense. He can run (30 yards on 11 carries), catch (24 yards on two receptions), and throw (2-2-26). If there’s a better rotation of QBs in college football, you can let me know in the comments.
I cannot say whether the following point speaks to this year’s game plan, to injuries, or what, but in 2017, Notre Dame’s QBs threw the ball to 9 different receivers. Yesterday, they reached 13. Miles Boykin and Chase Claypool turned in solid performances and a circus-catch each, but the number of involved players this year is a positive going into the summer. If there’s going to be a problem with The Irish in 2018 (stop it), it’s not going to be with the offense.
Unless you talk about the O-line. The O-line is going to be new(-ish) and we’ll be missing Big Q’s pancakes like a fat kid outside a locked IHOP. The line isn’t set and there were a number of false starts yesterday, but hey, those could just have been individual homages to Mike McFlinchy. Regardless, the backs didn’t seem to mind, with Dexter Williams ripping off a 72 yard almost touchdown. The defense “sacked” the QB eight times. In his post-game remarks, Coach Kelly noted that the defense was gassed by the number of plays run — by my count, 126.
The 2018 Blue-Gold Game ends the business of preseason football and lets us think about playoff basketball or baseball or perhaps football recruiting — Notre Dame picked up the commitments of Howard Cross, Ajavon Litchfield and John Olmstead this weekend. Whatever you make of the Blue-Gold Game itself, we have lots of tea leaves to read as we head into the summer. Beat Michigan.