Immediate Overreactions from Notre Dame’s Wasted Opportunity in Athens

That one hurt folks.  That one hurt so much that my immediate overreactions are coming to you the morning after because last night I had nothing left in the tank to write. Notre Dame jumped out to an early lead, took the lead into half time, then fell behind only have a furious 4th quarter come back fall short.  It’s an all too familiar story for Notre Dame fans.  The Irish played well enough to win, but not clean enough to walk away victorious.

Brian Kelly didn’t have Notre Dame prepared for the environment

This one should be obvious to everyone, including Brian Kelly, but he did not have the Irish prepared for the situation.  For all the talk all week long about the practice conditions and all of the “road warrior” sound bites, Notre Dame looked ill-prepared for switching to the silent count when surprise, surprise, it was too loud.

Notre Dame had an embarrassing amount of procedural penalties throughout the night, and it started on the first drive.  This wasn’t “Miami 2017 deer in the headlights” bad, but it wasn’t a good look for Kelly who should have learned how to have his team prepared for such environments after ten years on the sidelines in South Bend.

Kelly’s mismanagement of the clock at the end of the first half showed that the head coach himself wasn’t ready for this one.  In a game where points were always going to be precious, Kelly squandered an opportunity for a touchdown.

Notre Dame still has to play in Ann Arbor next month, but after Michigan’s showing yesterday, there’s a good chance the Big House isn’t anything close to what Sanford Stadium was like last night. But still, Kelly has to go back to the drawing board – again – to figure out what he needs to do to have his team ready for this road environments.

Notre Dame’s offensive line was the difference between winning and losing

There were a lot of things that could have made the difference last night, but with the current talent on the roster, the one area that made the difference was the Notre Dame offensive line.  From the first drive of the game, the offensive line couldn’t get out of its own way.  Here’s just a few of miscues the offensive line made in the first quarter alone:

  • Personal foul on Liam Eichenberg after a Lawrence Keys first-down run
  • False start on Eichenberd the play right after his personal foul
  • False start on Robert Hainsey on the Georgia 39 yard line on 2nd and 9
  • Bad snap by Jarrett Patterson on 4th and 2 from the Georgia 32
  • Aaron Banks gets caught looking in the backfield instead of for someone to block on an Avery Davis screenplay that could have been a considerable gain, instead it was a 2-yard loss.
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That all happened on the first three drives of the game alone.

Notre Dame was missing fire-power on offense from the start with Jafar Armstrong, Michael Young, and Kevin Austin unavailable.  But we, and the Irish staff knew that from the jump.  The offensive line is a veteran unit for Notre Dame that could have made the difference.  Instead, the offensive line stalled drives and continually shot itself in the foot all night.

What made this all the more frustrating is that when they weren’t getting in their own way, they were taming the Georgia pass rush.  Georgia did not sack Ian Book once and had just three tackles for loss on the night.

The Notre Dame defense played their hearts out

While the offensive line had a disappointing night, the Irish defense played their damn hearts out last night.  Georgia has one of the nation’s best rushing attacks, and for about three quarters, the Irish defense bottled them up.  Then they wore down after the three-and-outs on offense mounted.  Even still, Notre Dame held Georiga to 23 points including a touchdown on a 3rd and long that was simply a perfect throw and incredible catch.

Notre Dame’s linebackers – specifically Drew White, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, and Jack Lamb – played their best games of the year.  White specifically showed out last night.  JOK was JOK.  Some plays he got fooled, but he rebounded really well when he did and led Notre Dame with 2.5 tackles for loss. Lamb blew up a key third-down early in the game.  Those three backers combined for 5.5 of Notre Dame’s 6.0 TFL on the night.

Chip Long had a great first half, awful second half

I loved what Chip Long was doing in the first half.  He was creative and aggressive with his play calls.  He was missing some firepower, and he called a hell of a first-half that masked those deficiencies with misdirection.  We saw plays last night we never saw from Notre Dame before.  That was the first half.

In the second half, Chip Long got conservative.  Play after play after play was a pass that was designed to be at or near the line of scrimmage.  Once Notre Dame finally fell behind by two scores, he opened things up and called some downfield passes, and they worked.  It got Notre Dame back in the game.

Credit Georgia for adjusting to what Long was doing in the first half and taking it away, but at the same time, Long needs to be able to anticipate those adjustments and make his own to counteract them without having to waste an entire quarter where nothing works.

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Getting Cole Kmet back was huge, but Irish need more playmakers back

In his first game of the year, we saw a glimpse of what this offense can do with an elite tight end.  Cole Kmet hauled in career highs of 9 receptions for 108 yards while scoring the first touchdown of his career.  Early on Kmet was the x-factor for the offense.  Then Georgia decided to take him out of the game, and he went quiet for a little before coming back alive on Notre Dame’s late touchdown drive.

Kmet wasn’t the only offensive playmaker Notre Dame had been playing without though.  Armstrong, Young, and Austin were all still unavailable.  With them, maybe Notre Dame wins this one.  That speaks to the lack of depth Notre Dame has at the skill positions right now.  That should change moving forward, but for the rest of the year, it highlights how critical it is to get Armstrong and Young back and keep them healthy.

Third down woes plague Notre Dame yet again

Notre Dame struggled once again on 3rd down last night.  This time the Irish were 4 of 13 on third down a week after converting just 1 of 10 against New Mexico.  To win last night Notre Dame was always going to have to be better on third down, but they didn’t fare a whole lot better.

There were opportunities for Notre Dame to convert too.  Chris Finke, a 5th-year senior captain, dropped one sure first down on a third-down that turned into a Georgia interception.  A few drives later, he ran his 3rd down route short and then dropped the ball again.  Those are two plays that a 5th-year senior and captain can’t make and also highlight Notre Dame’s lack of firepower at the skill positions.

It was a frustrating night for Notre Dame because even with the injuries, even with the discrepancies in skill-position talent, it was all there for the taking for them.  They had every opportunity to win on the road against a top 5 SEC opponent.  They just couldn’t do it in the end.  It was an all too familiar story.

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40 comments

  1. Carl 3 weeks ago

    Hey guys like coach Lombardi said “We didn’t lose the game, we just ran out of time”, I would like to join Josh, BGC, Ray Jay. &
    Paddy, our kids played their hearts out .
    As for Bob & Pete Im 78 with 8 years at Holy Name Catholic School in Kansas, all the years of Notre Dame providing me with
    anticipation and excitement, and last Saturday night being no exception, to be two touchdown underdogs and to lose by what
    amounts to two field goals, and still be in the game when the final whistle blew, “They did good” thank you all the coaches
    and players.
    GO IRISH

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  2. Shawn Donaldson 3 weeks ago

    The boys played their hearts out Saturday night and should be commended for it. That being said, I believe it is fairly accurate to say that 1) Kelly told Long to reign in the playbook in the 3rd quarter and 2) Chris Finke single handily cost ND the game.

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  3. ndcrazymike 3 weeks ago

    IRISH played their butts off, I for one predicted a GEORGIA blowout!! Defense was physical all nite! IM shocked to say with a healthy ARMSTRONG who would’ve given us more speed and playmaking than Jones, we could have won that game!! Tough nite for PATTERSON who struggled with his first start in a crazy environment!! The #1 thing about this game was the fight and heart the kids played with, down 2 RB’S and a starting WR and still have a chance to win the game in the final minute!! If this game was played at South bend we may have had a different outcome, and not 6 false starts by the o-line!! IRISH need to focus now on VIRGINIA, and 1 game at a time!! GO IRISH!!

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  4. Robert Rader 3 weeks ago

    Re Kelly: Memories of the Weis debacle, the 47-44 first loss to Navy (whatever the hell the score was) – and the regimes of Davie, Willingham and (I can hardly say this) Faust – are far too painful to be less than grateful for how the Irish are performing these days.

    Whatever the faults of the O Line, the Irish cannot win a National Championship relying on converted QBs and receivers to run the ball. I welcome Chris Tyree, but it would be great to have a back who doesn’t have to find a gap because he makes his own gap, especially on the two-yard line.

    Agree with those who cannot understand the inability to prepare the O Line for noise – the results are utterly predictable: six false starts and four wasted time-outs.

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  5. Pedro 3 weeks ago

    What’s clear to me is Clark Lea is fantastic, and needs to be paid NOW and secured for the next year or 2. He will certainly get head coaching offers and ND needs to be proactive and not let another Elko situation happen. Chip Long, on the other hand, I’m still not sold on. Great game plan out of the blocks, but where are the adjustments in-game?
    RB depth was the difference, combined with no complimentary WR with speed. I felt like ND played the game with one hand tied behind it’s back. Only so much you can do with Tony Jones as your lead back and no speed opposite Claypool.
    Suspension and injuries hurt us more than people want to admit. If we have Kevin Austin and Jafar we win the game. That’s how close we are, I believe

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  6. Will 3 weeks ago

    When was the last time Kelly actually develop a. Quarterback. Oline has gone down
    Ever since harry left for NFL.. Quinn is not the answer need an upgrade.

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  7. Fitz 3 weeks ago

    I am not a big BK fan (very good coach but not elite – how many are?) but I believe he put together an excellent game plan that kept ND in the game for a half. UGA figured it out and stopped the Irish cold in the 3rd q when ND had no running or vertical passing game. Given those shortcomings give credit to BK for still having a chance to pull it out in the last two minutes.

    Book is a very good college qb, but not the elite (how many are?) that ND will need to win a NC.

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