North Carolina and Notre Dame football battled in a huge top 25 matchup in Chapel Hill on Friday. What’d we learn from this ACC showdown?
I’m not even going to lie, I assumed Friday’s Notre Dame vs. North Carolina game would be a shootout. That wasn’t exactly the case as the game was tied 17-17 at halftime.
Mack Brown’s guys looked poised to pull off an upset while Notre Dame seemed composed and didn’t get too high or too low even when the Tar Heels were making things tight. Brian Kelly’s team stepped up and made plays down the stretch.
Backup to about their own 10-yard-line with five minutes to go in the game, Kyren Williams broke off a 47-yard run to get the Irish in North Carolina territory with a chance to put the game away with a field goal or touchdown.
Notre Dame would go on to score a touchdown to extend its lead to 31-17 with just over a minute remaining. That would be the nail in the coffin.
What’d we learn from this ranked ACC showdown?
3. Javon McKinley has stepped up in a big way
After a 12-7 win over Louisville, it looked like Notre Dame’s offense was in a bad spot. The Irish weren’t getting the most out of Ian Book and Tommy Rees’ play-calling seemed very vanilla and poorly-executed. Plus, the Irish had no true No. 1 receiver due to injuries.
Ben Skowronek has stepped up and the same can be said for freshman tight end Michael Mayer, but the biggest surprise has been senior Javon McKinley.
Heading into this season, McKinley had just 11 catches for 268 yards and four touchdowns in his career. He wasn’t exactly a superstar but he has become the most sure-handed receiver on the team, giving the Irish and Book that go-to target that he’s been looking for since Braden Lenzy went down.
Since the Louisville game, McKinley had 17 catches for 293 yards. He also had three straight five-catch games for the Irish heading into Friday. He added six catches for 135 yards against North Carolina.
This kid has stepped up in a big way when Notre Dame needed him the most.