Notre Dame-Georgia brought the first “talking to” game of the year and also Notre Dame’s first loss. The game was tense, things got a little heated in the Flammang household, and after the kids were put to bed, I was respectfully informed by the wife my behavior was substandard. Something tells me I wasn’t the only one this week. Saturday was a substandard kind of night.
Notre Dame lost by one possession (again), and Brian Kelly was left to explain why his team can’t seem to finish off close games, and he did so to no one’s satisfaction (again). We get mad about the things Kelly says in the postgame, “he’s making excuses” or “he’s being arrogant and rude”, but it really doesn’t matter. He’s explaining another loss. There’s nothing he can say we are going to like.
With that, lets take a look at where this team stands following week 2.
The Safety Play
Hello Nick Coleman and Devin Studstill. One of the most encouraging take aways from Saturday night was the play of these two in a big game where a lot of stress was put on them in the back end. Coleman was especially impressive, not only making the plays that were there to be made, but doing so in decisive fashion. He’s a player who struggled with confidence early in his career at corner and struggled with his tackling in the first game and in the preseason. He came up with two huge stops early, one on the 33 yard run by Nick Chubb, in which Coleman saved a touchdown, and another on 3rd and 2 where Coleman stopped former five star, and top 15 national recruit Mecole Hardman, for a two yard loss. Both plays occurred in the open field, and both saved either touchdowns, or huge gains.
Studstill was again a solid tackler and was over the top of a couple long pass plays and in perfect position to defend a better throw from the quarterback.
Both players were strong where they were previously considered to be weak and it’s great news moving forward this year.
Simply put, a stud in this game.
In the same way the offensive line got bullied around by Georgia, it was Jay Hayes who did the bullying for the Notre Dame defense, racking up seven tackles, several at the lineup scrimmage, and a key 3rd and 2 stop late in the 4th to give the offense one last chance to win it. This is what we thought we were going to see last season from Hayes, and it looks like he has finally made good on his potential.
He was bad last week, he was phenomenal this week. Not only did he make all of his kicks, but they were all dead center, perfect. This young man is a streaky shooter and when he has it going, man, he’s more than solid. He deserved one more chance to win this game, because it was going to be money. Another good sign as the season moves forward.
It’s a mixed bag at this point, but they do lean a little more positive than negative. Watkins looks great, and displays excellent coverage, but he gave up two fifty-fifty balls, both of which led to points for Georgia. Julian Love was solid again in coverage, but he gave up the fade for a touchdown. I realize the receiver made an incredible catch, but it’s a play there guy made that ours did not, and that’s two weeks in a row for Love where he’s in good position, but someone else make a better play. But, the play of the corners is not killing the team right now, and they aren’t a liability, so it’s something to monitor as the season progresses.
Last week I declared I was ready to buy this group and now I’ve lost money, because holy smokes did they look bad. I don’t want to make a similar overreaction in the other direction this time, remember we saw the 2015 line get pretty beat up against Clemson’s front 7 as well (Prosise 15 for 50 that night), and that line turned out to be pretty good.
But, we need to call the performance Saturday what it was, and that’s dreadful. Notre Dame got some good individual play (see: Nelson, Quenton), but collectively, they laid an egg. It’d be one thing if it was similar to the performance of the defensive line, you win some, you lose some. And lets not dismiss Georgia’s defense, those guys can play. It was never going to be like last week. But, they couldn’t find traction at any point, the longest run by a running back was 7 yards, Wimbush was hit all night. It was a mess.
If the best part of the team is going to no show in a big game, you need a lot to go right for you to pull it out, and a lot did, but not enough in the end. Needless to say a major disappointment.
He wasn’t ready for this game. And I’ll give him credit, because he hung in there and took some shots, and he kept coming. But, his reads were slow, he locked onto receivers, he tried to take every run sideways, and he was inaccurate. Georgia is intimidating, and darn good, but Notre Dame needs better from it’s quarterback. I realize it’s his second start, but he’s a junior, he’s three years removed from high school.
The good news is he’s likely to improve over time and he’s coming up against some defenses a little more forgiving than Georgia before the next big one against USC. He’s not a lost cause by any means, but he was poor last weekend.
I’ll get more into this later in the week, but Dexter Williams, CJ Sanders, Chase Claypool et al are very easy to defend when they are standing on the sideline. It doesn’t take any kind of creativity to not utilize your offensive weapons. For example, I’m sure Notre Dame would have loved it if Georgia utilized one back all night. Would have been a big help.
You recruited them. Coach them. Put them in the game.
One last thing regarding all the Georgia fans
On the one hand, I understand if someone offers you $3,000 for two tickets and a parking pass, you would take that deal. Makes a lot of sense.
I also don’t like when half the stadium is red and people are barking.
Something needs to get figured out, because that sucked.