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A closer look at Notre Dame football, which hosts USF on Saturday

The Fighting Irish have won 19 consecutive games at Notre Dame Stadium.
Veteran Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book, who had a modest 2020 debut against Duke (19-for-31, 263 yards, one TD, one INT), leads the Fighting Irish against USF on Saturday. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)
Veteran Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book, who had a modest 2020 debut against Duke (19-for-31, 263 yards, one TD, one INT), leads the Fighting Irish against USF on Saturday. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File) [ PHELAN M. EBENHACK | AP ]
Published Sep. 15, 2020
Updated Sep. 15, 2020

A look at No. 7 Notre Dame, which hosts USF on Saturday in South Bend:

Nickame: Fighting Irish

2020 record: 1-0 (defeated Duke, 27-13, on Saturday)

2019 record: 11-2 (defeated Iowa State, 33-9, in Camping World Bowl)

Coach: Brian Kelly (11th season at Notre Dame, 93-37; 17th season overall in Division I-A, 146-59)

The offensive breakdown: Like many of their Power Five peers, the Irish opened their season resembling a team that had their spring (one practice) and summer disrupted by the pandemic. In Saturday’s 27-13 win against Duke, the Irish went three-and-out on their first three possessions, and needed a fake punt to prolong the fourth. In his 24th career start, quarterback Ian Book — surrounded by a mostly new batch of skill players — didn’t complete a pass to a receiver until the first half’s final minute. When the Irish finally began clicking, 5-foot-9, 195-pound sophomore Kyren Williams emerged as the workhorse. In his first career start, Williams ran for 112 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns, and had two catches for 93 yards (including a 75-yarder). This weekend, don’t be shocked to see Williams run power behind a veteran line that graded second-highest in the country for the weekend, according to advanced-metrics site pff.com.

The defensive breakdown: Notre Dame held a foe to 21 or fewer points for the 19th time in 27 games under coordinator Clark Lea. Linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, a 215-pound All-American candidate, had nine tackles, a sack and forced fumble. Up front, Lea employed eight different lineman (four ends, four tackles), all of whom logged double-digit snaps. That kind of depth allowed the Irish to sustain an effective pass rush with their base look. The back end suffered a significant blow when safety Kyle Hamilton — the secondary’s catalyst — exited in the second half with a lower leg injury. Hamilton, who had seven tackles before leaving, is in a walking boot until Wednesday and is day to day, Kelly told reporters Monday.

Odds & ends: While co-offensive coordinator at Clemson, Jeff Scott helped lead the Tigers to wins against the Irish in 2015 (24-22) and in the ’18 College Football Playoff semifinals (30-3). ... Notre Dame enters with a 19-game home win streak, its third-longest since the stadium opened in 1930. ... Irish punter Jay Bramblett averaged 43.8 yards on six attempts against Duke, including punts of 53, 52 and 45 yards. ... The Irish roster includes senior offensive lineman Dillan Gibbons (Clearwater Central Catholic).

Audible: “Defensively, they have a ton of depth. I believe they played 11 defensive linemen in this last game, and you couldn’t tell the difference between the first group and the third group. Just overall defensively, they’re big, fast and violent players for sure.” — Scott