5 Things I Didn’t Like in Notre Dame’s Opener vs. Louisville

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.

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  1. The Irish were too predictable. They did not seem prepared. Please leave Fink in the slot and let someone else handle punt returns. Too many dumb penalties. Some things never seem to change. I don’t care because I’m all Irish all of the time!

  2. Considering that Louisville was horrid at passing downfield and had massive running back speed and depth certainly seemed to show. They will have a much better win loss record this season. The linebackers, for us, were a key question, and by being well positioned they were able to deal with a massive speed disadvantage. Credit to both teams and Louisville will be dangerous with this coach. I thought that our linebackers looked decent but not where we need to be right now. Their learning curve should be sharp, though.. They are young and learning rapidly. Georgia will be a problem, of course. Despite a very good set of cornerbacks and D-line they will likely try to exploit our young linebackers. Hopefully they can rise to the challenge in a pivotal game. But we know it is a team effort, of course. Go Irish!.

  3. The team’s Achilles Heel is at defensive tackle. In the offseason there was a misleading conflation of the DTS with the DES, but
    they got little push. They are absurdly inexperienced, with only Hinish with effective upperclass experience, and they
    lack mass. Lacey looked like a frosh in need of a redshirt.

    Linebacker will not be the issue: JOK, Lamb and Simon were getting their first snaps at their positions. they will improve and
    White and Bilal are WYSIWYG. By November we will be on solid ground at linebacker..

    The only team that can exploit this inadequacy at DT in the first half of the season is Georgia and they SURE can exploit it with that absurd offensive line.
    Even with Isaiah Wilson out, Georgia;s OL is the closest thing around to that bevy of behemoths Bama had in ’12, with two
    Kouandjio’s, Warmack, the massive Fluker and Barrett Jones.

    The IRISH will need another year to catch up at Defensive Tackle.

    The good news is that we face only one daunting rushing offense, Georgia. The rest struggle..

  4. Rereading what I wrote this morning I notice that I wrote the reverse of what I meant. Sorry. I meant to say that maybe nobody else is ready to play outside, and that’s why Finke had to give up slot. Duh!

    BGC ’77 ’82

  5. Pedro, I’d like to see Jurkovec in real game action, however, at 6’4″, I can’t imagine him being as elusive a scrambler as Book.

    Once we see the pocket protection lasting as long as it takes for a play to fully develop, then we can put in a classic pocket passer.

    Not until then, sadly.

    1. Did you not see Jurkovec’s high school tape? The dude is an underrated runner at his size. He is a faster version of Kizer and will certainly be more effective running than Book.

  6. Frank, #’s 1 and 3, are all on Book. Clemson game exposed him. He can be flustered. But if I can guess at what was behind BK’s thinking, with a couple of WR’s out, Kelly expected his QB to do a bunch of running around. Book did that well.

    Secondly, that pocket that Book was scared out of, really didn’t exist for very long. I didn’t notice the OL holding those blocks long enough. So, scrambling wasn’t totally Book’s fault. Plus, telling it like it is, Jahmir Smith sucks as a pass blocker.

    I don’t see any way we come out of Ga with a win. Think about it, Spring, Summer and Fall FB wasn’t enough time to teach ‘assignments’? How is another game and an extra week gonna do it?

  7. Finke has to be moved back to the slot!! We all know that is his best most effective position, he doesn’t have the speed for outside WR!! I don’t get moving him outside after the season he had last year at the slot!! With all the SPEED and Talent these young WRS are said to have get them in the games, rotate guys but get them in and get some experience!!! Finke and BOOK had a great season together, let BOOK get his comfort level back!! No need to fix whats not broken!!

  8. PS: Bob, I hope you are right and I am wrong about Finke. He was open a couple of times against Louisville and Book missed it, and another time he was open for a first down and Book threw him a bad ball. So he may turn out to play slot well…I hope so. And I do strongly suspect that Finke wound up there because nobody else was ready…which would kind of force Coach Kelly’s hand, and make sense. If Book starts hitting him next Saturday, we’ll know.

    BGC ’77 ’82

    1. Bruce,
      I have an issue with the OC and position coach of a top 10 program if “No one else was ready!” ND has no back up WR ready? McKinley looked ready. Tremble running the post for the TD looked ready. No young WR who practiced all Spring and Summer was ready vs. Louisville? Moving your established slot receiver to a new position was the fall-back plan?

  9. I have some concerns about Book, if for no other reason the long trail of QB misses under BK. We’ve seen this record before. A QB takes over for a previous hyped up QB that failed to reach their potential, only to become the next has-been.

    I wouldn’t panic yet certainly. It was the first game of the season and maybe he’s still working out some of the rust. This game could be an anomaly. But I can’t help but have concerns considering our history over the last 6 or 7 years with QBs.

    If he struggles with consistency against NM next week…then I think we may be in trouble with Georgia. Beating Georgia will be a very tall order this year regardless. ND will need to be on it’s A-game across the board I think. If Book continues to struggle, Frank’s prediction pay not be hyperbole–we may literally get shut-out (and thereby ending any chance of a playoff spot IMO–esp. after last years Clemson debacle–a 1 loss ND team this year will definitely be outside looking in).

    I’ve said this time and time again when we were in a similar situation with our next game against an inferior opponent—but I want to see ND wipe the walls with NM next week. I want to see something like 45-3 with Jurkovec playing the 4th quarter because we are so dominant that BK decides to give Jurkovec some practice time against another team.

    If we’re not able to put Jurkovec in the 4th quarter then I will have major concerns about Georgia.

  10. I’m not as concerned as some of us are. The failed conversions could easily be a symptom of Book’s unwillingness to pass. Their D looked like it was stacking against the run all of those times, and every fail was a run up the middle except that bad fourth down pass.

    So also, Finke’s invisibility could easily be a symptom of Book’s problems. (I haven’t pored over game tapes or anything, so I can’t say whether he was open all the time and Book was missing it.)

    As for the rush defense, it sure looked to me like Louisville put an option scheme together, and caught Notre Dame by surprise with it. Didn’t their offense look a lot like Navy’s? The stats sort of bear it out, too: lots of run yards, not much passing. If we didn’t prepare for an option attack then it doesn’t surprise me that we gave up a lot of yards on the ground.

    That leaves 1 and 2, which are things that I’m concerned about as well.

  11. Running game: situationally predictable, and woefully unimaginative….high school.
    Passing game: QB running will get him hurt, throwing behind on crossing routes..someone else will get killed.

  12. Skittish Toombs, very skittish – Riddick (not Theo)

    Jurkovec should get a quarter and a half of work vs New Mexico, and I have a feeling he’s going to cut it loose and look VERY good. Leadership and poise on the field are perhaps the most important traits of a QB. I think Phil has both.

  13. You nailed it Frank, especially, #3 and 4! IMO Book will heal himself, and the DE’s also will heal themselves…for #5, I think after a game 1 to game 2 improvement, we’ll be OK though I’m not as confident there. But numbers 3 and 4 require changes in formation, which is something BK is notoriously resistant to. I hope I’m wrong, but we may see Finke out of position until Young gets back. And we may NEVER see our short yardage formation really cause the defense problems. The shotgun? Really Coach? After 10 years of “getting used to it” can’t we try something else? Please. Stop “spotting” the opponents 5 yards on third and short!

    BGC ’77 ’82

    1. I dunno Bruce, he had to change the formation to put Finke where he is now. We’ll have to see, though. I’m not assuming that Finke is out of position yet, but it might be obviously so to anyone studying the game tape..

      1. It’s possible that nobody else is ready to play slot at this time…that may be why Finke is there. But it just seems to me that Finke has gone from being a real weapon to being useless.
        As for 3rd and short or 4th and short, almost every time BK or Long puts Book under center, we convert. This goes back to 2017 on the goal line. The same can hardly be said for the shotgun approach – which has failed repeatedly for 10 years, and we all know it! It failed for Kizer, and his predecessors, not just Book or Wimbush. I just think that we already earned those 8 or 9 yards…why give back 4 or 5 of them? Play it like General Grant.

        BGC ’77 ’82

      2. PS: Bob…you may be right about Finke, and I could be wrong. He was open a few times and Book didn’t see him, and on one play he was open for a first down and Book threw him a lousy pass. In any event, I suspect that he’s in slot because nobody else is ready for it…which would force Kelly’s hand, and it would make sense. If Ian starts getting the ball to him next Saturday, we’ll know for sure. I really do hope I’m wrong!

        BGC ’77 ’82

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