Notre Dame has hosted Louisville twice since they entered into their agreement with the ACC years ago and good things haven’t really happened either time now. In 2014, the Irish blew a fourth-quarter lead in their November meltdown. They didn’t lose to the Cardinals today, but they did limp to one of the least impressive victories in recent program history to the tune of 12-7 in a game in which they were favored by 17.5
There’s going to be a lot to unpack from this one, so lets jump right into this week’s overreactions.
What the heck was that?
I didn’t feel great about this game going in, but never thought for a second we would see a replay of the 2018 Ball State game with a 3rd year starting QB and an offensive line with five returning starters. It was like Notre Dame was practicing its offense for the first in fall camp, not playing its fourth game of the season.
The kinks of lost practices time and limited player availability aren’t an excuse this week as last week. Notre Dame was as healthy as they have been all season today, and the offense looked all kinds of out of sync.
Kevin Austin had his number called once early in the game and then never saw another target the rest of the game. Tommy Tremble was barely used. Braden Lenzy was invisible. Avery Davis made an impact on reverses early on and then wasn’t heard from again for the rest of the. If Brian Kelly and Tommy Rees had a game plan today, it wasn’t apparent.
Notre Dame’s redzone offense was a trainwreck
Notre Dame made five trips to the redzone today, and they scored a total of 12 points. The only way to describe that is awful when you consider how bad the defense was that they were facing. Last week, Louisville gave up 46 points to the same Georgia Tech squad that lost 73-7 earlier today to Clemson. Think about that for a second and then think who Notre Dame more closely resembles right now – Clemson or Georgia Tech.
Kicking two field goals on their first two drives after marching down the field was terrible enough, but getting no points on their third trip when they called a fake field goal and then only six points on their fourth trip because they were forced to chase points made matters even worse. The final trip into the redzone was the game’s final drive that ended with the Irish kneeling on the ball to end the game.
Georgia Tech put up 46 points on the Louisville defense. Miami scored 47. Notre Dame scored 12 points. This was the kind of performance that should rightly result in the Irish dropping in the rankings.
Who thought that fake field goal was a good idea?
One of those redzone failures came from Notre Dame’s ridiculous fake field goal call at the end of the first half. Notre Dame was facing a defense that we’ve already established has been scored on at will this year, and they thought they needed fake field goals to put points on the board?
When plays like that backfire, all they do is give a team like Louisville hope, and that’s precisely what happened. The Cardinals marched down the field with limited time and just barely missed a field goal as time expired before half time. The Irish didn’t stop them so much as the clock did in that instance. The entire sequence gave them life heading into halftime that they capitalized on by taking the lead on their first – time consuming – drive of the second half.
The defense was solid despite a lack of turnovers
It was a weird game for the Notre Dame defense. It didn’t feel like the Irish defense was overly dominant, but Louisville only tallied 219 yards of offense and converted just three of nine third downs while scoring seven points. Watching it live, though, it didn’t feel like that much of a dominating effort.
Notre Dame did tally 8 TFL’s on the afternoon but didn’t record a single sack and didn’t force a turnover against an offense that has been one of the most generous at turning it over in the country so far this year. They did have their chances to get their hands on a couple of potential interceptions but didn’t come down with any of them.
Again, weird game for the Irish defense in that statistically, they performed pretty well. Still, the utter lack of any semblance of competence from the offense made the entire performance feel underwhelming.
Notre Dame didn’t utilize its best receivers
I have no idea what Notre Dame is doing with its wide receivers right now. With Braden Lenzy and Kevin Austin healthy and available, Notre Dame barely utilized them. Instead, Notre Dame started Javon McKinley, Bennett Skowronek, and Avery Davis even though McKinley and Skowronek essentially play the same position.
I just don’t get what Notre Dame is trying to prove or accomplish with their wide receiver corps. Noting was working in the passing game, but Austin, Lenzy, and freshman Jordan Johnson mostly stood on the sidelines. Cool.
Notre Dame was bailed out by Louisville mistakes
Notre Dame got really lucky with some untimely penalties from Louisville in the second half – most notably their illegal block on what looked like a really well executed onside kick right after they took a 7-6 lead in the third quarter. It’s possible that Notre Dame recovers the kick without the penalty, but it was really close and was just a great call by Louisville head coach Scott Satterfield.
Louisville didn’t do themselves any favors on what turned out to be their final drive of the game with more penalties as well. I tweeted during the game that Notre Dame was lucky that Louisville was doing all they could to lose the game late because it certainly felt like the Cardinals were.
Kyren Williams was one of the few bright spots
For all the bad in the game – and there was a ton of it – Kyren Williams was once again a bright spot for the Irish. He continues to turn small gains for most running backs into 5-6 yard runs because he bounces off of tackles and maximizes every run. Williams ended the game with 127 yards on 25 carries, including the game-clinching third-down conversion on the game’s final drive.
Notre Dame couldn’t get Chris Tyree going this week like they did last week, but Williams now has topped 100 yards in three of four games this year.
Not sure where Notre Dame goes from here
Obviously, it is better for Notre Dame that they won the game. Losing to a team as bad as Louisville would have been disastrous, and there wouldn’t have been a recovery from it, but a win like this does more harm than good to the program’s perception from a playoff perspective.
It was clear Notre Dame wanted to work on its passing game early. That part I get and don’t mind because the passing game has not been nearly enough to think the Irish have a chance against Clemson or North Carolina in November. The problem was, the passing game couldn’t do anything against a bad Louisville defense. That’s a terrible indictment on the state of the Irish offense.
Notre Dame is running out of chances to improve offensively for its challenging November games. Today was either a significant lost opportunity to do that or was a clear indicator that this offense just isn’t and won’t be very good this season. Neither of those scenarios is good for the long term prospects of this season.