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.

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.

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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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!!

  4. 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.

  5. 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

  6. 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.

  7. 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.


  9. The O-line pass blocks well but has no other game. Start doing your job Coach Quinn, or resign.

    We will probably go 11-1 this year for a two year regular season record of 23-1. Yet to the legions of posters who predicted an ugly blowout at Georgia, this would be underachieving. Do you people have any idea of the magnitude of contempt I have for you this morning?

    Thank you Rayjay, Frank, and Bob Rodes for expressing my feelings about the team after this difficult loss.

    BGC ’77 ’82

    1. BGC,

      I doubt ND goes 11-1 with this QB and O line.

      Even if they do, regular season wins pale in comparison to big wins in major bowls or PO games.

      NCs are the standard or at least used to be. Set the bar lower the results follow!

      GO IRISH!

    2. After rereading my post, borne from frustration and contemptible anger, I redirected it by blaming some players, thus underrating rather than appreciating- a violation of cardinal rule #1. I should know better. I do. But knowing, and not doing is not knowing. Mea culpa!
      BUT, my right to vocally disagree with strategy re: scheme, player evaluation and placement, maximizing player potential, ( see: McKinley, Kmet, and who knows who else), the failure to maximize speed and risk letting Lenzy and keyes to make a chunk play – all these questions I gladly revisit.
      What theND team had to overcome – early in the season, without many key players – and the effort and many great plays and tackles must also be recognized beyond the agonizing final score.

    3. BGC. Good post. We were worried about a blowout. Instead, we came close to winning and everyone seems to be upset. If we could’ve done a few things better we would have won.

  10. A lot of people below are complaining about the lack of use of Kmet, but they forget he has had a couple of tough injuries, namely a high ankle sprain last year and of course the collar bone issue this year. I thought we were very ready to compete with an exceptional team in a tough environment that executed well and made some great catches on passes that were thrown perfectly with defenders in good position. Bottom line they have a bunch of great talent, a little more than us, and they played superbly in front of their home crowd. There were a few running plays that were blocked well that Dexter would have done more with and so would have Armstrong.

  11. I can’t even read this article. I do agree with some points. But if you think Kelly & the rest of the coaches didn’t have the team prepared, you’re smoking crack. ND looked like the better team up until the 4th quarter. Sucks that we lost but it is what it is.

    And….if you think Kelly is so horrible, maybe you can become head coach and do a better job. Good Luck! Go Irish☘️❤️☘️

  12. I thought the game plan was superb considering the level of talent Georgia has. I think that was a bogus roughing call on Eichenberg, which he followed with a false start because he had a momentary lack of focus after the bogus call. I thought Bank whiffed a lot last night but that happens but it costs you against a talented team. The touchdown catches they made were fantastic and our coverage was good, so you cannot help that. Yes, play calling went too conservative in the second half. I think Finke is very dependable but he did have a poor game last night. Numbers 31 and 6 are great linebackers and will be better than Tranquill and Coney by the end of the year perhaps. I do not know enough about handling the snap count however it would be nice if we have a home game against an opponent like that if some of the season ticket owners, looking at you college professors, would not sell their tickets to the highest bidding opponent fan.

  13. Excellent essay, Frank. Agree with every point you made. Was also wondering why they didn’t go to McKlinley? The problems with the silent snap count were surprising. The issues with dumb penalties has been a hallmark that one would hope had been solved by now. Need more speed/talent from the slot. Zero production on punt returns. Still, they didn’t get blown out. They showed up.

  14. Georgia has better players (4-5 stars) across the board and were playing at home. This was a moral victory for a fine program.
    ND has STUDENT athletes not just athletes. They done good and will have a grand year with a nice bowl game. Let the thugs at Clemson, Alabama etc. fight it out for the best semi-pro team.!

  15. what is frustrating to me as a long time fan is Kelly’s failures on the offensive side of the ball.Its ironic to me because he built his reputation as being this great developer of quarterbacks.All I heard about before they hired him was the great Kelly fast paced 40 points a game spread offense.Ive never seen it.Also I believe it’s more than just the quarterback.Imo it’s the play calling scheme philosophy in game adjustments etc putting players in the right spots.Kelly 3 years ago made some great hires and coaching moves in the areas of defense and special teams.Maybe he needs to shake up the offensive side of the ball.Also if the offense doesn’t improve in the next few games especially if Notredame suffers another loss I would start Phil and build toward 2020.Also as the saying goes you next years team this year.

    1. I’d like to see the offense improve over the next few games, too. Our biggest problem, though, appears to be the lack of depth in the running game. Not play calling, etc. Got to dance with who you brung, and with the running game, we ain’t brung much.

  16. Frank, you summarized the frustration very well. Allow me to vent.
    Please! Please, posters. No more talk this season about the quality of NDs OL, more mistakes than blocks- was Patterson not snapping the ball on time? 2nd and 2 on the goal line- 3 passes tell me you have zero confidence in your OL, and I saw why! And it all ended with the OL not blocking on their last play. Jones certainly doesn’t have elite speed, but how many lanes were opened for him all night?
    No O’ in third quarter. Not going to beat an elite top 5 team on the road (0-6 under BK) and especially when the only TD you can get in over three quarters is on an 8 yd. drive that took 5 plays – and then gain 0 FDs in the entire third quarter with two TOs.
    Kirby might not be that Smart but his DC is a lot smarter than NDs OC. GA had 9 D’ guys within 5 yds. of the LOS. How many long passes to Lenzy or Keyes? How many jump balls to McKinley,a 6’3”+ WR, and then you don’t throw it up for him to go up and get it. Nearly every key pass Fromm completed – his WR was covered and he trusted them enough to go up and catch it, including the two TDs he threw. Amazing how much better ND looked when they finally threw the ball downfield after falling behind by 13 in the fourth quarter. Too little, too late.
    Welcome back Kmet; I had no idea how much you were missed. Like with McKinley, I ask; why so underutilized for three years? And Claypool was again outstanding.
    To be fair, GAs QB and RBs are elite. Their WRs also made some great catches. All the more impressive the ND D held them to 20 points (three were given to them by a TO).
    Finally, no more talk about any playoffs; refocus on beating Virginia, SC, and the rest and yes, even @ Michigan and @ Stanford. Their mediocre teams will now see ND coming to town as their home bowl game.
    Kudos to and respect for a great D’ effort by Coach Lea and ND, most notably #95 MTA, #6 JOK, and #40 White.

  17. You blame Kelly for the silent count issues, when in fact it was Ian Book. There is no clap by the quarterback when employing the silent count. Book claps, players move. Unfortunate, but true.

  18. I hope Urban Meyer was watching last night. He can take this group to the next level. Whatever it takes bring him in. It’s the only way I see ND making the next leap.

      1. I should just ask if you’re Mick Finebaum now, after reading the complimentary things that Herbstreit said about Notre Dame after the game.

      2. I don’t understand what you mean by that. The Irish need a next level coach, we are stuck at where we are. I am not necessarily pro firing Kelly but is there any doubt Urban can win these types of games with the talent on this roster? What do Finebaum or Herbstreit have to do with anything I said?

  19. All of this is spot on! I would just add that I thought we would be able to generate more pressure on Fromm with Okwara, Kareem and Hayes. I noticed on a lot of 3rd and longs all 3 were on the field, which I love. Clark Lea has to figure out how to make that trio put real pressure on the QB. We desperately needed a sack fumble or a tipped pass out of that group last night.

  20. And in the end, add yet another data outcome under Kelly in his 10 year tenure as head coach. Again, he has a lot to account for as to how this team ( and himself as head coach) really wasn’t prepared. Clark Lea, on the other hand, is a much different story. His D came READY to play and the O side didn’t help out come the 4th quarter as they started to run out of gas. I have to ask, after 10 years at the tenure, as fans, when can we expect ND to start winning a game of this nature & magnitude under Kelly. Maybe in year 20? I’ll state it again, until there is more emphasis on “ hating to lose” versus just “winning games,” accepting losses & justifying “moral victories” will continue. When does the hype of “improvement in recruiting” start to pay off in games of this magnitude being won versus another written column detailing a gut wrenching loss for the team and it’s fan base ( especially here on UHND)

    Virginia next week will not be a cake walk, more so after last night’s loss.

      1. Ah, no, Robert, I did not express a blowout would be forthcoming but if accepting how things have added up in the last 10 years for this team fits well for you good sir, then you just keep wearing it. As to Kelly, he’s not going anywhere until he decides to leave as the ND Admin won’t make a change so I am not going to be saying “Fire Kelly.” However, Data on Kelly’s performance in games of this magnitude as head coach speak volumes.

      2. What forward movement? Has ND won a major bowl game? A PO game? A NC?!

        I guess if your bar is set to the lows of BD, TW, and CW, OK, there’s been forward movement. But that’s pathetic!

      3. Forward movement? Hmm? My post was criticism about this coach’s achieved outcomes. The record on that, Bob, is pretty Black & White. You can be about winning “lesser games” all you want and settle for that. I detest losing and want to see more for the program, especially AGAIN losing a big magnitude game like last night, something Kelly unfortunately has become very good at in his 10 years on the job. It’s apparent we differ as fans what we would like to see for the program. To me, it’s way past in continued excuse making for a guy who has had TEN years on the job directing the program to obtain better results and hasn’t.

    1. Agree to me being 63 years old it was just another gut wrenching loss.I know Notredame has a lot of guys out who maybe are potential difference makers.However not sold on Long and this dink and dunk offense.The 1 play that really upset me is the first time Notredame got the ball in the 3rd quarter they had a third and 7 and book three a 3 yard pass and Jones got nailed right when he caught it.

      1. I’m your age, and while I was disappointed by the loss, I also think we played a lot better than anyone expected. That’s what I’m focusing on going forward.

    2. Of course it won’t be a cakewalk. They are a good team but Kelly had the team ready to perform above people’s expectations and we had a chance to win against a more talented team last night. Our response this week will tell you if our team is able to overcome adversity and be improved enough by the end of the year to be thought of as very good to elite. Remember Dan Devine losing to a 35 point underdog the year we won the national title?

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