Most Irish fans will agree this was a sloppy win on the road against Louisville. There were players that could not tackle, hang onto the ball, or just flat out play. With the way Notre Dame played last week, the Irish do not stand a chance against Georgia in three weeks without significant improvement. The matchup against Georgia is easily Notre Dame’s biggest game all year and is arguably a must-win in order for them to make it to the College Football Playoff. In this issue, I will cover all the players and positions that need to improve before Notre Dame’s biggest game of the year.
Coach Brian Kelly and Ian Book both know that was a poor performance by the Irish quarterback last week. Against a Louisville team coming off a 2-10 season in 2018, Ian Book has to perform better and make the throws if the team wants to achieve all of their goals this season.
All night long we saw Ian Book run out of the pocket due to the pressure and receivers not being open. When the Irish have to travel to Georgia, that can’t happen. In the 4th Quarter, we saw Ian Book sitting in the pocket and stepping up to make the throw. That needs to be a consistent attribute of his game for all 4 quarters.
There were multiple times Ian Book could of been more patient in the pocket and waited for a window to open up. Instead, we saw him running out of the pocket for minimal gains or, in some cases, losses in that situation. He ended up with 81 yards and one TD on the ground last week. Those seem like pretty impressive stats but at the same time he ended with less than 200 yards and 1 TD passing. Alongside that, he fumbled multiple times for the first time in his career.
For the rest of the season Book needs to be patient and a better decision maker. If there is an opening, then run the ball. If not, don’t. Sit in the pocket and make the smarter decision. He will hae an opportunity to do that this weekend in Notre Dame’s last tune up before their trip to Athens.
Book will need to return to the level he was at last season in order to beat Georgia. It will be very exciting to see how he performs and if he can have the biggest game of his life.
There were many bright spots for the linebackers last week. Guys like Drew White and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah racked up multiple tackles, but missed tackles in crucial moments as well. White and Owusu-Koramoah, along with the entire linebacking corps, need to improve their tackling.
Notre Dame wants to continue to rotate their linebackers and keep the linebacker rotation fluid. A huge to-do for these linebackers is improving their tackling on 3rd downs and filling the gaps with aggression. Louisville’s QB Jawon Pass ran past Notre Dame’s linebackers for two touchdowns last week while picking up 67 yards on the night.
The two Louisville running backs each averaged 6.5 yards a carry and totaled for 191 yards on the ground. The Cardinals running backs Hassan Hall and Javian Hawkins showed off their speed against a younger Notre Dame linebacking core this past week. The linebackers will be facing much better running backs and offensive linemen in the coming weeks. That is a huge reason to why they must improve and get better.
The linebackers have another opportunity to clean up their tackling this weekend against a New Mexico team that will be looking to run the ball early and often.
Pass Rush/Defensive Line
Notre Dame lost so many defensive players from last year. Guys like Jerry Tillery, Te’von Coney, and Drue Tranquill will not be walking out of the tunnel next weekend in Athens.. In the first half, the defense failed play after play to get pressure on Jawon Pass. And when they did, Pass was able to scramble out of the pocket for some big gains.
The defensive line could not tackle and finish the job after finally getting pressure on the quarterback. This Irish team will play much better offensive lines this year and will have to step up their game.
Just like the linebackers, the defensive linemen need to be more aggressive and sound tacklers. They did play well when at times and eventually were able to make plays, but struggled way to much throughout the game against a weaker offensive line.
This defensive line has been looked at all spring as our best position on defense. They did not play like they were the best unit on the defense last week. They will need to for Notre Dame to have a chance next weekend.