By Omar Ureña
Like the legendary four horsemen of the 1924 Notre Dame team led by Knute Rockne, personified by Harry Stuhldreher, Don Miller, Jim Crowley, and Elmer Layden, this 2020 the four new horsemen emerged on the gridiron to face the University of South Florida Bulls, the powerful running backs who sped through Notre Dame Stadium are C’Bo Flemister, Chris Tyree, Kyren Williams and Jafar Armstrong. The fifth rider was Captain Ian Book who opened the score with a 4-yard run down the right side, in the second quarter Ian Book again entered the end zone, this time in a one-yard dive through the middle, with the extra points by Jonathan Doerer the score was 14-0 in favor of the No. 7 seed. Unlike the first week against Duke, the first two quarters of Notre Dame’s offense against South Florida were impressive, tackle Robert Hainsey and the rest of the Fighting Irish offensive line looked flawless against a Bulls defense that was being beaten down by offensive coordinator Tommy Rees’s system.
The Irish defense came out on fire from the start, each one of the brave players were close to the ball, they gave no respite to the Bulls who found no rhythm and experienced stage fright even though there were only 10,085 people in the iconic stadium. Rookie defensive tackle Alexander Ehrensberger was furious, battling his adrenaline pumping because every play he gave it all. South Florida quarterback Jahmar Armstrong knew it would be a long fall afternoon in South Bend.
Notre Dame’s offense entered the field once again. Irish freshman running back Chris Tyree scored his first touchdown carrying the ball on a one-yard run. In the second quarter C’Bo Flemister ran for 26 yards to make the score 28-0. Notre Dame’s offense was executing a glorious bullfight episode, the Irish were playing perfectly. At halftime, coach Kelly reminded his players that they were going for the shutout. At the start of the second half it seemed as if the Toros offense had experienced fear in the tunnel on their way to the bull ring. For Notre Dame the special teams came out with a thirst for glory, Osita Ekwonu blocked a punt and the ball was recovered by the freshman from Hawaii, Jordan Botelho, to score his first touchdown wearing the Notre Dame jersey. The score was 35-0.
Alexander Ehrensberger made his first Irish sack in the third quarter, Isaiah Foskey, M. Tagovailoa-Amosa and Adetokunbo Ogundeji were playing with intensity, South Florida’s offensive line was slow to bear the onslaught, passive, like horses ridden by bull slashers. It was an afternoon when Notre Dame’s defensive line stopped the Bulls’ best running backs, Johny Ford was stopped and Kell Joiner Jr. would finish the game with just 11 yards on eight carries.
The blue and gold offense remained determined to score points in every drive. Coach Brian Kelly warned they would use three tight ends this season and did so against South Florida. With amazing performances from Tommy Tremble, freshman Michael Mayer and Brock Wright, the Irish offense was tearing the USF Bulls apart in the third quarter. Mayer, who started his first game, continued to show his blocking power, and Tommy Tremble was versatile in blocking, running as fullback and catching the ball, recording 61 yards on three catches. We saw the return of WR Lenzy Braden who had three catches for 34 yards. The Notre Dame horsemen did not stop advancing yards, in the last quarter C’Bo Flemister managed to escape 31 yards in an explosive way and finally Jafar Armstrong lunged at the Bulls scoring a touchdown on a 5-yard run. The Notre Dame backfield added a total of 281 yards running the ball. C’Bo Flemister ran 127 yards on 13 carries, the Irish had 429 total yards.
Notre Dame’s defense was impressive and they finished strong just as coach Kelly wanted it to happen, without any distraction from the pandemic. Alexander Ehrensberger had a spectacular afternoon, he did not stop trying to bring down Jordan McCloud who only completed 8 passes of 14 throws, Isaiah Foske and Ehrensberger got one sack each. The revelation on defense was linebacker Jack Kiser who started for the first time to record 8 tackles, followed by corner Houston Griffith with 5 tackles and freshman safety Clarence Lewis, who debuted today due to Kyle Hamilton’s injury, tackled 5 times. The impact of the Notre Dame defense has been overwhelming, limiting 27 of 28 opponents to 30 points or less with coach Clark Lea as defensive coordinator. The blue and gold defense have allowed only one touchdown in the last three games.
After beating USF Notre Dame has extended its winning streak at home to 20 games, breaking the longest streak in the school’s history in modern times; 19 consecutive wins from 1987 to 1990. Brian Kelly is the first Notre Dame head coach since Lou Holtz to record four or more shutouts in his career, the most memorable was a 31-0 win over Michigan in 2014. The Fighting Irish riddled the Bulls 52-0.