Despite popular opinion, there were some things to like in Notre Dame’s win over Louisville on Monday. We outlined those already though so today we’re here to talk about what we didn’t like. Even with an 18 point victory, the Irish left fans wanting to see a lot more than they did. Here’s five things I particularly didn’t like in the Irish’s win.
1. Ian Book’s pocket presence
You didn’t have to be an expert to notice that Ian Book didn’t have a good night on Monday. Book looked skittish in the pocket just like he did in the Cotton Bowl and didn’t push the ball downfield at all other than his touchdown pass to Tommy Tremble.
Book took off running when he didn’t need to. He wasn’t setting his feet on all his throws. He was aiming the ball at times instead of throwing it. No bueno.
The most concerning aspect of this is Book was facing a Louisville team that had one of the worst defenses in the country last year. Brian Kelly can chalk it up to not having film of Louisville’s new defense all he wants, but this isn’t a defense that should have a starting quarterback at Notre Dame rattled.
Book was playing without Cole Kmet, Michael Young, and Jafar Armstrong for most of the game. So there is that. If Book plays anywhere close to how he did on Monday night in Athens, Notre Dame could get shut out.
2. Three offsides from Notre Dame defensive ends
Yes, it was the first game of the year, but three offsides from three senior defensive ends is not good any way you slice. Julian Okwara, Khalid Kareem, and Ade Ogundeji all jumped offsides on 3rd downs to either give Louisville a first down or turn a 3rd and long into a 3rd and manageable.
Notre Dame was not playing in a hostile environment either. That stadium was loud for a few minutes in the beginning, but as soon as Louisville lost they lead, the air came out of that stadium.
Notre Dame needs its ends to play elite football to reach its goal this year. Hopefully, this is something that we can ultimately chalk up to typical first game kinks.
3. Notre Dame’s failed conversions on 3rd/4th and short
The way Notre Dame ran the ball early in this game, you would not have expected them to have any trouble converting short-yardage 3rd and 4th downs. But oh did they struggle in this department Monday night. Louisville made several big stops when Notre Dame tried to run a little power football (or as much power football as you can run out of the shotgun).
In most of the failed short-yardage situations, new players either blew assignments or got blown off the ball. On one, in particular, Jarrett Patterson blocked an invisible defender while his man made the stop in the backfield. On another, Tommy Tremble got thrown around and into the backfield. And on another Tremble was left looking for someone to block while Notre Dame got stuffed in the backfield.
The other part of the problem Monday night was the lack of passing game. Louisville knew Notre Dame wasn’t going downfield and they adjusted accordingly. Notre Dame has to be able to pass better, or the running game will continue to struggle at times. Still, a 3rd and 1 is something Notre Dame should convert against a defense like Louisville.
4. Chris Finke as an outside wide receiver
When Michael Young got hurt, I said that moving Finke to the outside didn’t make sense to me. It didn’t make sense then, and it still doesn’t after seeing it in practice. Finke is not an outside receiver. He is a perfect slot receiver. Moving him outside was like giving him a whole new position – one that he doesn’t exactly have the profile for either.
I hope that we see Finke move back inside for the New Mexico game and we see more of Javon McKinley outside. Notre Dame targetted him early, and he looked good with a very small sample size.
Lawrence Keys was good in the slot, and his potential is very enticing to get on the field, but the alignment of Claypool – Keys – Finke won’t get it done in Athens if Young isn’t back.
Finke can put up some monster numbers this year in the slot. Hopefully, he is back there for game two.
5. Louisville’s ability to run the football
Even after Notre Dame adjusted its defense following two touchdown drives to start the game, Louisville was still able to run the ball better than they should have. Their success is extremely concerning with that Georgia game on the horizon in a few weeks.
Louisville ran for 249 yards on 47 attempts. A lot of that damage did come on the first two drives, but even after that, there were instances of Louisville running through some huge holes.
Notre Dame has to shore up its run defense to have any chance in Athens. Notre Dame’s linebacker carousel didn’t help much here so solidifying and limiting the rotation here could help as well. If Louisville ran for almost 250 yards though, Georgia could rack up a whole lot more with their backfield.