Sometimes it’s hard to find things not to like in a 52-point win. Other times, like this past weekend, it isn’t so tough. That is the paradox of Notre Dame’s 66-14 win over New Mexico. The Irish totaled points like they were playing a video game, but also made just enough mistakes that it should give the coaching staff plenty to harp on this week.
Here are this week’s 5 Things I Didn’t Like. Make sure you check out the 5 things I liked from this one as well.
1. All of the defensive pass interference/holding penalties
Notre Dame’s secondary did not have the greatest of first halves on Saturday – Donte Vaughn in particular. New Mexico seemed to target him early, and the senior corner didn’t fare well. Vaughn was called for one pass interference penalty in the first half but could have been flagged another time. It wasn’t the best showing after not playing much at all in the season opener.
In the first quarter and a half of action, Notre Dame was flagged three times for pass interference – Vaughn, senior Troy Pride, and junior linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Khoramoah. Not ideal.
If Georgia wasn’t on the horizon, it might not be as concerning; but the receivers the Irish secondary face this weekend are on a whole other level than the Lobos receiving corps.
2. Inability to convert short-yardage situations
Greg already covered this in-depth earlier today, but it is worth mentioning again because it was perhaps the most concerning aspect of not just Saturday’s win over New Mexico but throughout the first two games. Notre Dame has not been able to convert 3rd and 4th and short with the success rate that they should be – especially when you take into account the level of competition thus far.
There are multiple reasons for the futility in these situations, and Greg covered them all but baring Notre Dame holding back some new third-down package that they’ve been saving for Georgia (unlikely), their inability to convert in those situations should have everyone very worried. Georgia’s defense isn’t just on another level than New Mexico’s; it’s on two or three other levels.
Even if Notre Dame was vanilla the last two weeks, there are absolutely zero reasons they shouldn’t have been able to line up and play power football against Louisville and New Mexico to convert in most of those situations.
3. NBC’s new Sky Cam
Uh, this was actually fun in the spring game, but NBC’s execution of the Sky Cam for the New Mexico game was terrible. There were multiple times that the camera was so far away from the action it was impossible to tell what was happening at first. Avery Davis’s 59-yard touchdown run was a prime example.
We’ll see if they are smart enough to adapt the way ESPN did during week one of Monday Night Football when they ditched their yellow down and distance marker that made everyone think there was a penalty every play at half time of week one. It’s doubtful since NBC put out promo pieces in advance of the opener warning everyone of how bad what they were about to do was.
Unfortunately, it looks like NBC’s already bare-bones coverage of Notre Dame football will be even worse this season.
4. New Mexico’s ability to run the football
The Lobos rushing stats were inflated a little bit thanks to a few long runs – and some ridiculously egregious missed holding calls – but even still, they ran the ball with more success than one would have liked last weekend. Louisville ran the ball very well early in week one too before the Irish defense adjusted. Add those two up and, again, you have concerns with Georgia’s rushing game in front of the Irish defense.
This was a week after Louisville found more daylight than you’d like to see from a defense like Notre Dame’s. That success definitely isn’t lost on Georgia. They are going to look to exploit that potential weakness in the Irish defense this weekend.
5. Notre Dame’s reliance on the big play
The big plays were a whole lot of fun on Saturday. What wasn’t that fun was Notre Dame’s reliance on the big play. Notre Dame has hit a bunch of home runs this year, but to beat Georgia this weekend, they are going to need to string together singles and sustain drives. We haven’t seen them be able to do that this year so far and they didn’t do it against New Mexico.
Don’t get me wrong, big plays are great. If Notre Dame can hit one or two of them against Georgia, they will have a great chance to pull off the upset. At the same time, Notre Dame can’t be all or nothing on Saturday night and expect to walk out of Athens with a victory.
Part of this goes back to Notre Dame’s futility in short-yardage situations and their overall lack of success running the ball. Was that by design against New Mexico to save things for Georgia and to keep Tony Jones Jr fresh following the injury to Jafar Armstrong? We’ll know soon enough.