SOUTH BEND, Ind. — It might not be a stretch to say that Saturday was the most impressive Notre Dame performance of the six-year Brian Kelly era – for 59 minutes. The No. 8 Fighting Irish answered plenty of questions about their defense — and, more specifically, about their option defense — in a 30-22 win over No. 14 Georgia Tech at Notre Dame Stadium, taking a 30-7 lead before Georgia Tech scored two touchdowns in a last-minute flurry to make the score look closer than the game was.
Unfortunately, as they have in every other game this season, they Irish might have lost a key player, as safety Drue Tranquill left the game late in the second quarter with an apparent right knee injury. Nonetheless, Notre Dame responded the right way in the second half, forcing an early turnover and building an insurmountable lead over the Yellow Jackets.
What the win means for Notre Dame: You can’t write the Irish out of the playoff picture just yet. They overcame another injury (Tranquill) and delivered a very impressive performance in thoroughly outplaying the red-hot Jackets. DeShone Kizer showed some good and some bad in his first career start, but the Irish have to be confident moving forward, especially with a nice tuneup game against UMass next week before traveling Oct. 3 to Clemson.
What the loss means for Yellow Jackets: You could probably frame this as “what the loss means for the ACC,” although the answer would remain the same: Not good. Did anyone watch perennial favorites Clemson and Florida State on Thursday and Friday night and think either looked like a playoff-caliber team? That onus might have fallen to the Jackets entering Saturday, but they looked like far from a finished project against the Irish. They must regroup quickly, too, considering their upcoming slate: at Duke, North Carolina, Clemson.
Player of the game: So, what took Notre Dame so long to move C.J. Prosise to running back? The former defensive back-turned-receiver-turned-tailback had a 91-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to cap another brilliant day, finishing with 198 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries. Prosise was the third-string running back in the spring; he now has 451 rushing yards through three games.
Stat of the game: Georgia Tech entered Saturday with the best third-down conversion percentage since the start of 2014 (58.1). The Jackets proceeded to fail to convert on their first nine third-down plays, until finally breaking through in the fourth quarter. Also worth noting: Kelly improved to 4-0 in freshman (true and redshirt) quarterbacks' debuts at Notre Dame, as Kizer joined Malik Zaire, Everett Golson and Tommy Rees as fellow Irish rookie signal-callers to win their first starts.