Notre Dame opened its 2019 season on Monday night with a somewhat underwhelming 35-17 win over Louisville. The final score wasn’t that far off what many predicted, but how it was achieved left a lot to be desired – especially for a team with playoff aspirations who was facing an opponent that was 2-10 a year ago.
Here are some immediate overreactions from the uneven performance that has Notre Dame at 1-0 on the season heading into a weird week two bye week.
Notre Dame did not look like a top 10 team
Let’s be honest, folks. The performance we saw tonight was not one of a top 10 team. Notre Dame actually trailed 7-14 at one point and at no point did they look like the dominant team we all were hoping to see. The good news is this was just week one. The bad news is Louisville is one of the weakest opponents on the schedule.
Notre Dame had chances to blow this one open multiple times, but they were never able to find any sort of offensive consistency all night after it looked like the Irish would just walk up and down the field. On their first drive, Notre Dame ran it down Louisville throats, but after that drive, Notre Dame just looked off.
This is not the end of the world, though. Notre Dame has a lot of time to work on all of the things they did wrong tonight – and there were a lot of them. If this is how Notre Dame is looking a month from now, we have some much more significant issues.
Ian Book played one of his worst games as a starter for Notre Dame
The main reason Notre Dame wasn’t able to put Louisville away early was that Ian Book was just not sharp. His final numbers don’t look awful, but they weren’t impressive either considering how bad this Louisville defense was last year. Book finished 14 of 23 for 193 yards and a touchdown with another 81 yards rushing and a second touchdown on the ground with no turnovers.
The big question for Book coming into the season was if he was going to be able to get the ball downfield. He failed that test in week one. It doesn’t mean he will fail it all season, but he just couldn’t get the ball downfield much. He did have a nice touchdown throw down the seem to Tommy Tremble, but other than that, Book couldn’t push the ball downfield.
Book was also uncharacteristically inaccurate early in the game, and it stalled drives. A prime example of this was Book’s off-target pass to Chris Finke on 4th and 5 in the second quarter. Book aimed the ball more than he threw it and Finke was stopped short. An accurate pass there and Finke easily gets the first.
He did have a nice stretch where he hit Chase Claypool on a crosser before connecting with Tommy Tremble for a touchdown, but those stretches were few and far between. Claypool and Tremble both did look good when given the chance.
Book has two weeks to work on whatever it was that had him off tonight with a week two bye coming.
Tony Jones Jr Should Have Had More Carries
Tony Jones Jr had 87 yards on his first eight carries in the first half. He got just seven more carries the rest of the way. Jones saw a lot of action early with Jafar Armstrong getting injured again early in the contest. Jones finished with 112 yards and a touchdown on those 15 carries.
In the first half Jones looked unstoppable, but Louisville did start to key on him more as the game progressed – especially when it was clear that Book was off his game. Still, the way Jones was running early, it would have been nice to see him get more carries. Or get used at all in the passing game.
Notre Dame’s defense adjusted well after a rough start
Notre Dame’s defense was on its heels early. Louisville came out and marched down the field for long touchdowns on each of their first two drives. The new linebackers looked utterly lost and All-American, captains were jumping offsides on crucial third downs.
Then Clark Lea adjusted, and Louisville scored just three points the rest of the way. They got some help from Louisville along the way with the Cardinals forgetting how to hold on to the football for a while, but they also adjusted to what Louisville was doing well.
The Kyle Hamilton hype looks like it is real
Let’s get to a positive since most of this has been a bit of doom and gloom. The Kyle Hamilton hype seems legit. Hamilton did have one bad whiff early, but other than that, he was all over the field. He didn’t record his first interception like we had hoped (for Greg’s sake), but it feels like it’s just a matter of time before he gets one.
What was really interesting was seeing Hamilton get time in the base defense in place of a healthy Alohii Gilman. That’s how much faith this staff has in Hamilton already. He made a couple of nice plays in coverage and
Notre Dame’s linebackers are still kind of a mess
Notre Dame played a lot of linebackers as they said they would and it was pretty clear why they did – no one other than Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah stood out. Drew White was the closest to a standout, but he did get targetted in the passing game which we know is his weakness. Asmar Bilal was not heard from much because he was generally not around the football. That is a bad trait for a linebacker. Jack Lamb and Shayne Simon saw the field and looked solid.
Based on tonight, expect to see Drew White in the starting lineup again in two weeks against New Mexico, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Bilal wasn’t after tonight.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, on the other hand, flashed exactly what we thought we had – a potential game-changer. He is still going to be out of position from time to time as he learns, – he was at times Monday night. But man is he athletic and holy cow does he explode. He is going to be a star at some point.
The rest of the group? Welp, we got 11 more games to figure that out because we didn’t get too many other definitive answers tonight.
We’ll have more throughout the week breaking this one down. It wasn’t what any of us were hoping to see, but it is also far from the end of the world.