5 Things I Didn’t Like in Notre Dame’s Loss to Georgia

Notre Dame lost another heartbreaker on a national stage this weekend in a game no one gave them any chance in.  There was a lot to like in the close, hard-fought loss that didn’t eliminate Notre Dame’s playoff chances altogether, but at the same time, there was more than enough to not like in a game in which Notre Dame had a chance to win as time was clicking down. )

1. All of the procedural penalties

Brian Kelly has taken responsibility for Notre Dame’s multiple procedural penalties that plagued them throughout the game.  Notre Dame was playing in one of the most hostile environments we’ve ever seen them venture into, but that doesn’t excuse the number of miscues we saw on Saturday night.

During the week leading up to the game, Kelly said he was pleased with how his team handled practice situations where they tested them with noise.  Did he get a false sense of security?  Did they not test them enough?  Who knows.  What we do know is that whatever Kelly and staff did, it wasn’t enough.

Notre Dame won’t have to play in an environment like what they encountered again this season.  The Big House has a greater capacity, but after what the Wolverines did last weekend, their fanbase probably won’t be as amped as the Georgia faithful were this past weekend.

2. Notre Dame’s inability to establish any running game

We knew Notre Dame wasn’t going to have much success running the ball, but we didn’t know that they would barely even try to run it.  They only ran for 46 yards on the night, but that was on just 14 attempts.  It’s not groundbreaking numbers, but 3.3 yards per carry isn’t great, but it’s also not terrible.

Notre Dame could have attempted a few more designed runs for Ian Book in the zone-read with limited resources on hand.  Jahmir Smith joined Jafar Armstrong as one of the walking wounded skill positions players.

The Irish did a good job getting creative with ways to move the ball without a running, but the lack of running game could end up costing the Irish again later in the year if they can’t find a way to manufacture one.

3. Chip Long’s 3rd quarter playcalling

Chip Long called a tremendous first half on Saturday night.  He was creative and had Georgia on its heels as much as anyone could have hoped for – for the first 30 minutes.  But then two things happened – Georgia adjusted, and Long got a bit more conservative.

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Long had to know that Georgia was going to adjust at half-time.  What he wasn’t able to successfully do was anticipate their adjustments and stay one step ahead.  The Notre Dame defense gave Long and the offense a chance to take a two-possession lead after half-time by getting a stop on Georgia’s first drive of the half.  They weren’t able to.

By the end of the game, Notre Dame started moving the ball again, and the Irish had the ball in the hands with less than two minutes remaining and a chance to take the lead.  We all know how the story ended, though.

4. Notre Dame’s squandered opportunities

Notre Dame had chances in this game to put points on the board they didn’t capitalize on.  On the 2nd drive of the game, the Irish were set up at the Georgia 40 yard-line.  Penalties derailed the drive a bit, but they still had a chance for points because Long dialed up a perfect call on 3rd and long.

Tony Joens Jr slipped out of the backfield for a screen that had big play written all over it.  Jones had a convoy in front of him but got tripped up from behind.  Jafar Armstrong doesn’t get caught on that play.  Avery Davis doesn’t either.  A huge play was there to be had, but it goes down as a missed opportunity.

At the end of the first half, Notre Dame put a heck of a drive together that ended with a field goal to take a three-point lead.  They had a chance for more, but Brian Kelly mismanaged the clock and let a good 14 or 15 seconds tick off the clock between plays he ultimately taking a timeout.  Not ideal.

In the third quarter, Chris Finke had one drop on what should have been a third-down conversion that resulted in a Georgia interception.  Finke later dropped another pass on 3rd down after running his route short.  It wasn’t a great quarter for Notre Dame’s 5th year, senior captain.

5. Another heartbreaker in a game that could have been a narrative changer

While it was impossible not to be impressed with Notre Dame’s effort given how they held up against Clemson last year, heartbreak in another game like this one stung.  It was Florida State 2014, Clemson 2015, and Georgia 2017 all over again.  Notre Dame went toe to toe with an elite team when no one gave them a chance.

A win on Saturday night would have been huge for the program.  It would have set up the Irish as a playoff favorite with a favorable schedule the rest of the season.  It also would have changed the narrative of trolls like Tim Brando and Paul Finebaum who love to take shots at the Irish whenever given a chance.  It would have done wonders for Notre Dame’s recruiting efforts in 2021 which are already off to a great start but could have used the jolt of adrenaline.

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In the end though, Notre Dame fell just short leaving Irish fans left taking some solace in the fact that at least this time Notre Dame didn’t get blown out.  It’s not as bad of a place to be as say, Michigan fans right now, but it’s still excruciating to be stuck in this limbo stage between being back to a 10-win a year program and waiting to fully breakthrough back into a “tier A” program.

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16 comments

  1. Ken 3 weeks ago

    Chip long called a terrible 2nd half. A few QB designed runs and a couple of over the top passes, if nothing else, might have opened up the intermediate routes that worked so well in the 1st half…and the flea flicker call was atrocious!

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  2. ChrisJ 3 weeks ago

    Chip Long is TRASH!!!! It’s been like this the entire time he’s been coordinator. A “good” team takes away something and we continue to run the same stupid stuff over and over right into it just because it may have had some success in the 1st half. Gameplan to get Kmet the ball was a great call. But once they took him away, how about opening things up to Claypool on the outside who is a huge weapon out there. I feel like we barely threw to him. And also as Frank points out, where the hell were the designed runs for Book just to keep the defense honest!? Were we that scared to get him hurt? Against a team like GA, you have to sell out and Book’s running ability would at least have made them account for it.

    Book didn’t have a great night but it wasn’t that bad either. He managed the game and made some good throws. There were some key drops and even one by Finke that led to the interception which Finke should have definitely caught. But there were still some bad decisions and it feels like Book has a bit of happy feet this season when he doesn’t throw on time to the first receiver. There’s many that could be called out but the last play was garbage on his part. Instead of feeling that rush on the outside and stepping up into the pocket which would have bought all kinds of time for our receivers to get open, he actually scrambles right into the rush initially and then had the athleticism to escape the pressure to at least get a prayer off. But this isn’t the same confident Book that we saw early last season and it’s almost as if it has been a continuous trend because Book’s last 4 games last year were all downhill in order if you look at the stats. I’m afraid Book has been exposed with all of the game film everyone has on him. He will be able to beat the bad teams but the good teams will eventually shut him down, just like GA did. Long has something to do with this but I do feel like Book doesn’t have the big arm to make all of the necessary throws when needed. There’s a reason he was a three star and as much as I want him to have success, we have a high 4 star sitting the bench that can make all of those throws and has a lot more size and speed.

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  3. Pedro 3 weeks ago

    The more I’ve thought about where the program is right now, the more encouraged I am. Realistically, we are 2 or 3 players away from winning that game. How different would our rushing attack look with Tyree? Or an older (and healthy) Lenzy?
    We have to realize that the program is still building. It’s just taking much longer than we all want. Some will laugh at this, but I see our talent right now on the cusp of Ohio State’s level. OSU wins a title about every 10-15 years. I think that’s a realistic expectation for the Irish

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    1. Mick 3 weeks ago

      Spot on Pedro. The Irish are in a very good place right now. The problem is the leap from where they are to where we all want them to go is monumental.
      However, is there any question we are closer now than we have been in more than 25 years? 94 is the last time I really remember the feeling that Nattys were not far away.
      Even in 2012 – which was a fun ride – I never felt we had a serious shot at winning that one. Last year I felt we had a punchers chance at Clemson and almost no chance of beating them both.
      My question would be is there any team in the country that could confidently say they could beat Bama and Clemson in consecutive weeks? Georgia is the only team that could possibly sniff this.
      So The Irish are on the cusp but I am not sure we can get there with BK. I give him huge props for his work post-the 4-8 fiasco but the scoreboard does not lie. We have lost every big game (top 5 opponent) we have played in under BK.
      I said this on another board – I think we are an elite coach away. There are only a few elite coaches in college and only 1 who is currently not coaching and that is Urban Meyer.
      I know he comes with baggage but if that baggage includes a ring or 2 I’m all in. Go Irish!

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      1. Bruce Gregory Curme 3 weeks ago

        Mick – Ohio State, Oklahoma and LSU could not beat BAMA and Clemson on successive weeks? But Georgia could? That’s a strange thought Mick. Georgia is better than us – but not by much…and if we had any kind of running game, not at all. Georgia is going to have it’s hands full with a two loss Texas A&M team, Florida (at least if Trask plays) and then probably LSU. I’d like to see them run that table…it would make us look even better…might even get us a playoff spot if they went 13-0…so I’ll be cheering for them…but I see them as a two loss team in that most brutal of all conferences.

        BGC ’77 ’82

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      2. jeff 3 weeks ago

        Bruce, I think Notre Dame would have a really difficult time with Bama, Clemson, Georgia, Ohio St, Oklahoma, and even LSU this year IN A PLAYOFF SCENARIO when the teams have FIVE WEEKS to prepare. All teams mentioned have more depth, better quarterbacks, and way more speed at the skill positions.

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      3. Mick 3 weeks ago

        I didn’t say Georgia could – I said is the only team “who could possibly sniff this.” Georgia has played for the natty and won a playoff game – plus they have played well in the SEC title games. None of those other teams (especially Oklahoma) have shown any recent ability to win these types of games. I am judging Ohio St as a post-Urban team. Beating Texas does not totally legitimize LSU yet. I like the Irish against any of these teams, not so much against Clemson or Bama.

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    2. Damian 3 weeks ago

      You know, though, what I find frustrating is for years we were that 2 or 3 players away from winning it all. We seem stuck in place. And after Georgia I just feel like ND is just not going to get there. That 5 years from now we’re still going to be talking about how ND is that 2 or 3 players away from being elite.

      Alabama in 2012 was a wake-up call. That game told us how much ground we have to cover. But it just feels like we’ve gotten as far as we are going to get. And I don’t know what the answer is to fix that.

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    3. Fitz 3 weeks ago

      I said the same thing yesterday about being just two or three players away from being among the elite. A speedball running back, an elite qb, and a standout linebacker would be on my wishlist.

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    4. Bruce Gregory Curme 3 weeks ago

      Pedro…I’m glad there is someone else on this site who has a little patience (besides Mr. Rodes and myself) and who sees a clear upward trend. Even some of the pundits down South who were hallucinating before the game that “Georgia is much better than ND at every unit on the field” had their eyes opened a little bit…finally. And Notre Dame is getting very close to being where we should be…finally. Now let’s nail that sentiment down against top twenty Virginia this weekend. And let’s prove that we can play a complete game without major lapses, like our third quarter against the DAWGS, which essentially cost us that game.

      BGC ’77 ’82

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  4. Brian 3 weeks ago

    ND did not even try to establish the run. Where have you been in the Brian Kelly era. Every year ND sends OL to the NFL and yet the only running they do that shows up in stats is the breakaway run. BK never allows his OL what they need to het into a run blocking rhythm, from day one.

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  5. Damian 3 weeks ago

    One huge difference between Long and Lea is the ability to make in game adjustments, THAT WORK. Long seems to struggle in that area. Lea on the other hand seems to excel. Look at Louisville. Lea didn’t even wait for half time to make adjustments. After Louisville scored on their 2nd drive of the game Lea made adjustments and the defense only gave up a FG after that. It’s one reason ND has to do what it takes to keep Lea on staff.

    And yeah, I’m happy we didn’t get blown out. I noticed many national articles noted ND gained respect in this game.

    But there’s a reason so many of us are unsatisfied. And that goes to Frank’s number 5. A missed opportunity. ND had chances to win this game and they failed to capitalize on that. And we are stuck in place right now. Something is missing. If ND wants to win NC’s they have to start winning these games. I’m starting to think we never will. I mean, we are in BK’s 10th season now. We are competing for some great recruits. Eventually if you want to win NC’s you’ve got to beat these teams and the Irish always fall short. Sometimes like this weekend. But it seems when we play these teams later in the season, or in big bowl games we are even worse and get blown out. That’s a concern. What if we played Georgia in November? Would that have then been a blown out because that’s our pattern.

    I don’t know what the answer is. And I noted before I’m not sure the real powers that be at ND really even care that much about NC’s. I think the money is far more important to them. Look at last year’s scheduling by Swarbick, sending the Irish to NY a week before they had to go to California, all for extra money. So as long as the money keeps coming in and ND is fielding top 25 teams at the end of the year….and does just enough to get in the conversation and keep the fans spending, I think the PTB are satisfied.

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    1. Bruce Gregory Curme 3 weeks ago

      Damian, you, and others, are right about Long. He makes good adjustments but the lag time is too long (NPI).
      Lea is much quicker…but on defense you’ve got to be quicker or you’ll give up points and field position. Still, even given the difference between defense and offense, Long is still a series or even two series too slow. Frank made the point on an earlier sheet that Long should have expected shallow coverage and short route dropping from Coach Smart going into the second half…and he should have. In fact, we should have laid a trap for exactly that…shake a little short and blaze deep, for example…one guy on a fly and one on a post…just to see how they respond. But there was no change until the fourth possession. Go figure.

      BGC ’77 ’82

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      1. Bruce Gregory Curme 3 weeks ago

        Sorry, read “route jumping” above

        BGC ’77 ’82

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  6. southside 3 weeks ago

    Hope Irish get a running game going versus Virginia. Read that the Cav’s are one of top teams in the country on defense. I’d like to see Avery Davis get more carries at RB. If O-line can bust a hole –see what Davis can do. He’s got comparable speed like Dex. Davis is 5″11″ 205 — that ain’t small. What worries me about Armstrong is his numerous injuries—and there are lots of games ahead. Let’s see what Davis can do in the running game other than jet sweeps.

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  7. Storespook 3 weeks ago

    I think you spoke to some good points in your article, Frank.

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