April 22, 2017
Gold defeated Blue 27-14 at Notre Dame’s annual Blue-Gold Spring Game in South Bend, Indiana, on Saturday afternoon as fans got a first glimpse at Brian Kelly‘s squad in advance of the 2017 season.
The Blue (first-team) offense was at the center of attention all afternoon long, and it wasn’t hard to see why.
With DeShone Kizer on his way to the NFL and the quarterback position in flux in South Bend, Brandon Wimbush (19-of-27, 260 yards, two interceptions) has afforded a chance to flash his starting-caliber chops—and he did just that even though the Blue squad didn’t pile up points.
Working alongside a mammoth receiving corps that boasts the likes of Alize Mack and Equanimeous St. Brown, the redshirt sophomore looked poised in the pocket as he ripped passes up the seam and along the boundary.
One of those big connections came on Notre Dame’s first drive, when Mack made a juggling catch in traffic with a defender draped all over him, according to the South Bend Tribune‘s Mike Vorel:
“There’s not a throw he can’t make,” offensive coordinator Chip Long said of Wimbush on Friday, according to the Indianapolis Star‘s Laken Litman. “His velocity, way it comes out of his hands is tremendous.”
Wimbush also impressed with his wheels. Although he wasn’t allowed to be tackled since he was wearing a red non-contact jersey, Wimbush did flash an ability to break ankles in the open field and weave through defenders.
He also broke through and found pay dirt midway through the fourth quarter with a plunge into the end zone, as the team’s Twitter account documented at field level:
Thanks to those impressive bursts, Irish Illustrated’s Pete Sampson noted Wimbush should be a candidate to rip off long touchdown runs this season:
Speaking of Notre Dame’s rushing attack, the three-headed monster featuring Josh Adams, Tony Jones Jr. and Dexter Williams looks like it could be a nightmare for opposing defenses this season.
Adams, in particular, looked rather robust running between the tackles when he put Blue on the board early with a bruising touchdown run to cap off the game’s first drive, as NBCSN documented on Twitter:
Not to be outdone, Williams scampered 38 yards for Gold to help tie the score at seven early in the first quarter, via the program’s official Twitter account:
Deon McIntosh also got in on the action with a short-yardage score of his own, per Notre Dame’s Twitter account:
On defense, safety Drue Tranquill stood out as one of the unit’s standout performers as he flourished in defensive coordinator Mike Elko’s new scheme.
According to Sampson and Litman, Tranquill played a more versatile role as he rolled around from level to level along the Irish defense:
There was also a heavy focus on Notre Dame’s pass rush a year after it produced a meager 14 sacks in 12 games.
And while the production may not be sustainable, the Fighting Irish front seven produced more than half that total in the first half alone, per Sampson:
Those numbers have to be taken with a major grain of salt, but this much is clear: Elko’s arrival should inject the Fighting Irish defense with the energy and physicality it needs to emerge as a force before long.
For now, Notre Dame will head back to the practice field and seek to build on Saturday’s effort as they attempt to wipe away memories of a dismal 4-8 finish in 2016 with a strong 2017 campaign.
Speaking of which, the Fighting Irish are scheduled to open their regular season Saturday, Sept. 2, at Notre Dame Stadium against the Temple Owls.
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