Beyond the Boxscore of Notre Dame’s Sloppy 18 Point Win Over Louisville

In Brian Kelly’s 10th season opener at Notre Dame, the Irish traveled to Cardinal Stadium in Louisville as 18-point favorites and matched the oddsmakers’ assessment with a 35-17 win. The victory didn’t come easy, but the bottom line was that Notre Dame’s regular season winning streak was extended to 13 games.

Getting the season off on the right note against a team coming off a 2-10 season in 2018 was a necessity with much more challenging opponents on the schedule in the weeks ahead. The win won’t have much of an impact when it comes to the national polls, but it was certainly better than the alternative:

Below are some of the aspects of the game that stood out:

First Quarter Fireworks

The Irish wasted no time after starting the game at their own 25. On the first play, quarterback Ian Book took off for a 37-yard run, thanks to gaping holes in the Louisville defense. That was the first of five running plays in a short six-play drive that ate up a mere 2:21 on the game clock. The Cardinals answered by marching 88 yards on their first drive to tie the game, imitating the Irish by doing most of their damage on the ground.

Notre Dame’s next drive stalled, but Louisville continued to click, marching 75 yards to take a seven-point lead. The Irish charged back by letting Tony Jones Jr. deliver most of the damage by rushing for 63 yards during the nine-play, 75-yard drive. By the time the period had ended, the two teams had combined for 314 yards of total offense, 260 on the ground. The running numbers would reach 454 by the half.

Comedy of Errors

In the final two minutes of the first half, possession of the ball managed to change five times, with Notre Dame ending up as the beneficiary of this turnover wave. The first miscue came when Alohi Gilman managed to strip and recover a fumble by Louisville quarterback Javon Pass at the Cardinal 26.

Yet Book coughed it up on the next play after gaining two yards, but the stumble was wiped away just one play later when Pass fumbled again, with linebacker Jack Lamb recovering for Notre Dame. Book then atoned for his error by dashing 12 yards on the first play of a four-play drive and then racing 11 more yards for the go-ahead score with just 17 seconds left in the half.

The Passing Game Awakens

For the first 36 minutes of the contest, the Notre Dame passing game was effectively dormant, with just 63 yards on seven receptions. That changed in the span of just 36 seconds as Book connected with Chase Claypool, who turned his catch into a 31-yards gain to put the ball at the Louisville 26. That was followed by redshirt freshman Tommy Tremble getting open and scoring on a 26-yard grab to give the Irish a 28-14 advantage

After Louisville managed to slice three points off their deficit, the Irish passing attack answered that attempted comeback. A pair of 10-yard grabs by Tremble and fellow freshman Lawrence Keys was later followed by a 34-yard catch and run by Claypool that put the ball at the Cardinal two-yard-line to set up what effectively was the clinching score. Book finished his evening by throwing for 193 yards and the one scoring toss to Tremble.

Defensive Growing Pains

The Irish had multiple holes to fill on their defense for the 2019 season, so the expectation was that things wouldn’t ordinarily go according to plan in the early stages of the season. That was certainly the case during Louisville’s first two drives, when Notre Dame seemingly had no answer to stopping them.

However, things settled down over the rest of the contest, with the Cardinals only gaining 223 yards the rest of the night. More importantly, they only put three more points on the scoreboard, While allowing 383 yards isn’t something that should become a regular feature this season, the learning curve for this unit is hopefully a brief one.

Next Up for Notre Dame

The Irish are off this Saturday before returning on September 14 for their home opener. The game will have a bit of history attached since it will mark the first-ever meeting with the University of New Mexico Lobos, whose coach is a familiar name to Notre Dame fans: Bob Davie.

The hope is that Davie will be back on the sidelines after a health scare in the Lobos’ opener resulted in his hospitalization. In reality, the Irish should have no problem in this game, with the only real concern being the possibility of the team looking ahead to their next game, which will take place between the hedges against the Georgia Bulldogs.

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  1. There is no comparison to Louisville this year versus last year.

    “Under Petrino last season, the first quarter was when these guys pretended to care. The second quarter was when they quit
    pretending. Louisville gave up a combined 82 points in the second quarter of its final four games against Clemson, Syracuse, North Carolina State and Kentucky.”

    ND may not have steamrolled the Cards as many of us expected, but the win was against a team that no way resembles last
    years squad that was abandoned by Petrino.

    1. Fitz, As a retired public high school teacher I have to say that when the kids find out a teacher doesn’t care about them, or the institution the teacher works for, they stop caring about that teacher and that class. Always! I saw that a hundred times! I don’t know if Petrino cared much for his players, but he sure didn’t care much, or even respect, the institutions (plural) he worked for. And the kids can smell it a mile away.

      Satterfield is a complete contrast on both counts – he obviously cares about his players on a personal level…I could see that just by watching the ACC Network during my dialysis sessions… and his commitment to the Institutions he has worked for was just as obvious…so to see such a dramatic turnaround is no surprise to me. In fact, I would not be surprised if the Cardinals end up in a bowl this year. Won’t be a surprise to the ESPN analysts either: they said as much Monday night. Sometimes it’s more about being authentic as a person than about knowing the X’s and O’s.

      BGC ’77 ’82

  2. Brad , it’s a win , we’ll all take it. But , like the posters comments below with exception to a couple of trolls and BGC #6 point love fest of Louisville coach Satterfield — comments below are on target of what transpired in Kentucky horse country on Labor Day 9/2/19. Lot’s of work to be done. I’ll just add one thing —saw no huge improvement from loss to Clemson. Saw no speed/explosive plays. Book looked sub par , hopefully he doesn’t succumb to 2nd year let down under Kelly regime–like the others did. I liked the efforts of Drew White , Wu at rover and Hamilton getting in on the action. Where was Bilal ? Did he at least get an assisted tackle ? Where was the long ball try from Book–which was worked on in spring/fall camps ? I put Chip long on that—Keys and Lenzy with elite speed not a factor in game one. The talk after Clemson loss—was Irish lacking speed/explosive plays. This is not a “rebuild” season — It’s a “reload” season. Go Irish.

  3. Anybody know the status of Jafar Armstrong? Don’t think he played at all after the first series where I believe he may have injured himself. Saw him grab his groin area after getting tackled following his only catch of the game. He ran the ball the very next play then I don’t believe he played the rest of the game.

  4. 1. For newcomers, Tommie Tremble and Drew White looked real good to me.

    2. The adjustment (which was 7 points late in coming) against the triple threat series that paralyzed the left side of our defense on the first two possessions effectively cut off Louisville’s scoring for the rest of the game. Well done Coach Lea.

    3. Everyone is down on Ian Book right now, and maybe for good reasons…but maybe it’s not all Book…are the receivers all running their routes correctly? Or is Book looking downfield at blank spots of green where receivers ought to be, but aren’t? I’ll wait for a few games to answer that…I have a feeling that Ian pressing the panic button too early might be a two part problem…firstly, some repeat of his Clemson problem (self-inflicted) BUT ALSO a problem with new receivers screwing up, or even veteran receivers in a new position screwing up. I’d have to see better tape than the ESPN broadcast stuff to know for sure.

    4. “O-line” looked good (for a first game) with the exception of third or fourth and short…which has plagued BK’s teams for 10 years. It’s time for somebody to inject some new ideas on blocking and backfield in those situations…might I suggest the I-formation for third and short.

    5. Where is this great pass rush we’ve been hearing about?

    6. That Louisville went 2-10 last year is as irrelevant to a Satterfield coached team at Louisville is as irrelevant as Notre Dame’s losing record and 50 point loss to Miami to close the ’85 season was to Lou Holtz’s first team in their first game. Bobby Petrino is as dissimilar to Satterfield as Garry Faust was to Lou Holtz. It’s just plain irrelevant. Not apples and oranges folks – apples and pipe wrenches describes it better.

    BGC ’77 ’82

    1. Yeah, I’m not sure I would compare Louisville last year to this year. Frank even noted in his prediction that he was at least somewhat concerned about Satterfield. And it actually played out as he predicted. They came out firing and once ND adjusted, they put out the fire.

      I think there is a tendency to want to compare because it’s a lot of the same players as last year. I was guilty of that myself to some extent. But Satterfield is a totally different type of coach from Petrino. I would think that would change things up a bit.

      New Mexico will be a good game for the offense to work out some of the issues. But like I noted in the overreactions thread, it’s something season after season that seems to come up. They have some concerns, have what should be a pretty good game to work out some of the kinks….and they don’t. BUT, it’d certainly be premature to even think about benching Book or testing out Jurkovec. At the end of the day Book did what he needed to get the win.

      I did love that Lea made adjustments to the defense after those 2 quick TD’s by Louisville. I remember the cringe inducing lack of adjustments under BVG. I’m glad ND was able to hang onto Lea after Elko left. Lea’s not afraid to change things up if things aren’t working. The defense still has some issues to work on…but as I also noted before I have greater confidence in Lea taking care of the problems on his side of the ball than the offensive coaches right now.

  5. Like everyone I was concerned with the defense.However,I believe by mid year they will be pretty solid.I like the potential of wu, Kyle Hamilton and Simon on d.I am concerned about Book.If he plays poorly these next few games If I’m KellyI turn to Jurcovic.Develop and build for next year. Let’s be honest guys if Notredame loses to Georgia their not making the playoffs.

    1. Yeah Pete. I left Kyle Hamilton out as a newcomer who played well. In general, when they were forced to pass more our secondary shut them down pretty well. We have an embarrassment of riches at corner nickel and safety. But the d-line could have helped more than they did IMO. They were far from dominant.

      BGC ’77 ’82

  6. We have got a whole hell of a lot of issues to shore up before the perennial match up with Georgia. I too was highly disappointed with some of the little things that Book was doing. His decision making was questionable. Our front four was another. We allowed 249 yards rushing from a team that went 2-10 last year?? Tackling, 3rd down conversions, crucial 3rd down penalties. Thank heavens for a bye week. Not overlooking UNM, very worried about what to expect when we head down to Athens.

    1. ND played Georgia two years ago, and before that, nearly 40 years ago.
      How is that a perennial match up?

      Agree with your other concerns, however.

  7. Book seriously looked like a high school qb this game. Key on one man and if he isn’t open, tuck and run. Did the coaches tell him to forget about progressions and just run or was this just on Book’s decision making? Pockets were still available for many of those instances but he immediately escaped it instead of finding the open man.

    Kinda scary considering this was one of Book’s strengths last season.

    1. I was wondering the same thing. What was he seeing? Was he supposed to do that? Will be interesting to hear BK’s thoughts on Book’s performance.

    2. To me it’s a repeat of the Clemson game. Skittish if first read is covered. Trying to escape the pocket when all he needs to do is step up. I’m afraid it’s nerves and self-imposed pressure. Some guys like Trevor Lawrence just have an innate calm in the pocket. Can Book develop it? Doesn’t look promising. Hate to say it, but are we about to see another Brian Kelly 2nd year QB slump?

      1. Yes, the death’s valley of former ND QB’s under BK is a concern. It started with EG–the first QB we were told was ‘perfect’ for BK’s system. Then we had Zaire, Kizer (perhaps the anomaly, though I don’t feel he ever reached his fullest potential under BK)–then Wimbush–this was the one that was supposed to ‘really’ bring it all home, now Book (though I think there is more hype about future QB Jurkovec). I don’t count Crist because he was a holdover and Rees didn’t come with a lot of hype–he was just the QB holding EG’s place for him until he was ready and healthy.

        Each of them was the QB that was supposed to be the ‘elite’ QB we needed. And each one, except arguably Kizer, fizzled out and was replaced with the next big thing.

        I really hope this year won’t be a repeat of that unfortunate pattern. Start with a lot of promise, have a breakout performance one season and then fizzle out before we move on to the next big thing. Rise-repeat.

        It’s foolish to panic now–Book may have the game of his life in 2 1/2 weeks. But I’d be lying if I didn’t share some of Pedro’s concern. Fingers crossed

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