Welp, that sucked. I didn’t feel good all week about this game, but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine Notre Dame would lay an egg like the one they laid last night. Michigan flat out embarrassed Notre Dame on a national stage in prime time and now has bragging rights for the next 14 years. In the process, they ended Notre Dame’s hopes for a playoff run and left Brian Kelly and the Irish with some burning questions they aren’t equipped to answer, it seems.
This was one of the most embarrassing performances of the Brian Kelly Era
There have been some really embarrassing performances during the Brian Kelly Era, but last night’s was, in my opinion, the worst of them all. Notre Dame went into Ann Arbor ranked in the top-10 with two weeks to prepare and no classes last week to give them even more time and laid another egg on the national stage. We thought that 2017 Miami was an aberration with Brian Kelly 2.0. We were wrong.
The morning after, I am still in utter amazement that this coaching staff had the team this ill-prepared for a huge road night game. Michigan’s players wanted this game so much more than Notre Dame’s, and it was clear from the first whistle. You will be hard-pressed to find anything that Notre Dame can hang its hat on from this game.
Bad penalties, poor tackling, blown assignments, dropped passes, huge mental errors. This game had it all in one supper sized crap sandwich. Given what was at stake, the talent on the roster, and the conditions in terms of prep time, there just isn’t a worse performance from a Brian Kelly coached Notre Dame team.
In year 10, we still can’t get great QB play from a Brian Kelly offense
Here we are in year 10 of the Brian Kelly Era, and we still can’t get elite play from the quarterback position. Ian Book is just the latest in a long line of quarterbacks who have regressed in the last ten years. In a game in which Notre Dame needed its senior captain to lead them, he had the following stat line: 8 of 25 for 73 yards with one touchdown and one interception that was negated by a terrible pass interference penalty.
Looking back on Notre Dame’s other loss this year and Book wasn’t great in that game either. Against Georgia, he had the ball in his hands with a chance to win the game in the final two minutes but couldn’t move the ball. His numbers on the season look fine thanks to those blowouts of New Mexico and Bowling Green, but by almost every measure, Book has regressed.
This isn’t something unique to Book, though. Malik Zaire, Everett Golson, Deshone Kizer, and Brandon Wimbush all regressed during Kelly’s tenure at Notre Dame. Book is just the latest to join the club. Whether it’s missing out on top recruiting targets, poor development, or not putting quarterbacks in a position to succeed, Kelly has to take a serious look at how he has mishandled this position.
For as awful as the game turned out, there was an opportunity to get back in this game in the 3rd quarter. Notre Dame’s defense set up Book and the offense with great field position twice to start the half with back to back three and outs. The offense did nothing with those opportunities.
Notre Dame’s other stars are regressing and didn’t make plays last night
Ian Book isn’t the only player who was expected to lead this team to regress this year.
- Outside of his outburst against Virginia, Julian Okwara has been quiet and was again last night.
- The same could be said of Khalid Kareem
- Troy Pride has taken a step back instead of forward to become the elite corner everyone was hoping for. He had a costly pass interference on a 3rd down that he earned.
- Alohi Gilman was always around the football in 2018, this year, he’s not had an impact, and last night he committed a costly pass interference penalty on a pass he could have potentially intercepted.
- Chris Finke has been invisible in the passing game all season, and last night was not even targeted.
All of those players have NFL potential, but this year their level of play has at best remained steady from 2018.
Another disaster, another game turned on a special teams play
Notre Dame’s defense forced a three and out to start the game, and then Bo Bauer delivered what should have been a game-turning play for the Irish with a blocked punt. Instead of getting the ball inside the Michigan 30 though, 5th year senior Jonathan Jones tried to recover the punt only to muff it and give Michigan the ball right back with better field position.
Considering how this game went, it’s safe to say Notre Dame still loses this game even if the Irish did get the ball there, but it would have given the Irish all the momentum, and then who knows.
It was very reminiscent of how Notre Dame nearly made huge special teams plays in the BCS Championship game against Alabama and then the Cotton Bowl last year against Clemson where special teams almost made huge swing plays on to have referees take them away in those cases.
That play was also reminiscent of Brandon Wimbush missing a wide-open Equanimeous St. Brown on that fateful November night in Miami two years ago too. I still wonder how that game plays out if Wimbush hits ESB there, and Notre Dame jumps out to an early lead. In both cases, huge plays were there to be made and left on the table only for a route to ensure.
Notre Dame’s inability to stop the run on D was mind-boggling
Michigan scored 45 points and threw the ball just 14 times. They didn’t have to. In a game played mostly in driving rain, Michigan ran the ball 57 times for 303 yards. This is a team that was mostly ineffective running the ball this year before last night. With everyone in the stadium knowing that the Wolverines wanted to run the ball, Notre Dame had no answer whatsoever. This is the same defense that, for the most part, stuffed the Georgia rushing attack in Athens a month ago.
Michigan had four different players rip off a 20+ yard run last night. Notre Dame’s longest run of the night was nine yards. Nine.
This wasn’t just a case of bad tackling either – although there was plenty of that. Michigan was creating massive holes for their backs to run through all night long. Notre Dame, on the other hand, had trouble getting back to the line of scrimmage. The Irish averaged 1.5 yards per carry last night.
Michigan’s dominance in the run game was one of the most disappointing aspects of one of the most disappointing performances from any Notre Dame team in the last 20 years. The way the Wolverines ran the ball showed just how much more they wanted this game, and the Irish defense had almost no answer for it other than a brief stint to start the 3rd quarter when the defense did do its part to try and get back in the game.
Notre Dame should be playing for the future over the final five games
With the Playoffs officially no longer even a remote possibility for Notre Dame, Brian Kelly and his staff need to be playing for the future the final five games. Younger players who can help this team in 2020 need to be getting more reps, even in tight games. A lot of talent returns next year, but there are some key areas where Notre Dame needs to start working in younger players to see what they have.
The biggest one of them all might just be Phil Jurkovec. The sophomore quarterback has the raw talents for the position that Ian Book doesn’t – namely a huge arm. We don’t know if he’s got the other skills though. He ended up having almost as many yards as Book last night after Kelly pulled his starter. I don’t think we’ll see Kelly do what he did last year when it was clear Brandon Wimbush was too limited in the passing game to keep him as the starter, but I do hope we start to see Jurkovec get some drives here and there for more experience.