Overreactions from One of Notre Dame’s Least Impressive Wins in Years

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.

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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.

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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.

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39 Comments

  1. Putting in a game plan to stress passing because the passing game needs work in spite of weather and the opponent signals the team that the coaches are treating the game like scrimmage. The team did just that. They treated the game like a scrimmage. We should game plan based on the team we are playing and the weather conditions we face. No matter the opponent.

  2. Offense is just horrible and our receivers cant stretch the field at all. Passing is no threat but I expect good teams like Clemson and NC to stack the box, stop the run, and bring pressure and get lots of sacks. We seem to lack originality on offense and are very predictable. While we have a really good D they will get exposed as always against teams with talent. Clemson is going to embarass us at home with their defensive talent unless someone figures out what to do with this offense to make it a threat. We need a real offensive coordinator.

  3. The Irish game plan was awful; their preparation was inadequate; their personnel rotation made no sense and that fake kick was epically bad.

    Just gad they won – but clearly something was amiss.

    GO IRISH!

  4. Once again, Kelly appears to be the only person in the entirety of big time college football to realize that, with this performance, Notre Dame does not belong in the same class as the Clemson’s and the bama’s. We will struggle mightily with Pittsburgh.

  5. Louisville has an abundance of very talented players. It looks like they have started playing as a team. Also, their game plan was very well prepared. As far as ND, they were not prepared for a defense that was attacking with reckless abandon. The Irish did rise to the challenge and eeked out a victory. However, the Irish will have to make great strides before Clemson if they want to go undefeated! As a loyal fan, I do have great faith in the program. So, GO IRISH!!

  6. Ian Book is horrible and has to take responsibility for most of the sacks.He is now doing what every other Q.B. has done with more than a season under their belt. Books first year leading NCAA in pass completions percentage, now just as Whimbush, Kizer and the rest holding the ball way to long… Its like they’re being “over-coached”! I am a huge Coach Kelly guy I think he’s done more than any other N.D. coach before him with the state of college football now. But with Q.B’s I don’t know? At Cincy, he had 4 Q.B.’s at one time who could have started for the Irish, he was like the Q.B. whisperer… They play like this they will have four losses this year.

    1. QB regression theory under BK is sadly an irrefutable fact. 90% of Book’s sacks are self inflicted. Clark needs to play now while his mind his free from the “analysis paralysis” plaguing Book in year 3. First year quarterbacks do well under Kelly because the game plan is simplified. Agree that on the whole that BK has done well recruiting and developing other position groups besides the most important one. As Jurkovec shows us, once free from BK’s mind games, a QB can flourish.

  7. Frank
    This game sure makes your ‘5 things I didn’t like’ easier to write this week, so there’s that.
    It certainly looked like the OC took the week off re: a game plan.
    But it’ll be easier to plan the rest of the games as teams put at least 8 in the box and stunt and blitz. Book it.
    All good points, including an impressive ND D’ performance against a team that was averaging nearly 35 ppg.
    Other than that, and K.Williams rushing, I’m anxious to see you finding three other things you like for that post.

  8. You’re all acting like a bunch of hair lips… I’ve been one of Kelly’s biggest supporters but after today it made me really wonder if he is the right man for this job. There is a lot of Talent on this Notre Dame team and a lot of talent coming to Notre Dame in the next couple years.. we have a five star quarterback that will be here in January as an early enrollee, but it seems like every quarterback that we have under Kelly regresses.. look what happened with Phil J, he went to Boston College and he has been basically on fire.. I would really like to see Kelly stay there but he just might not be the right guy for the job like I said I think honestly Notre Dame should swallow their guts and glory and give Urban Meyer a call I promise you within three years Urban Meyer would have a national championship at Notre Dame

  9. I have to say that this is one of the poorest articles on college football I have ever seen. For one, it doesn’t take into account many factors of college football. Rival games can go either way in college football I don’t care who is ranked where and what the powers to be say Your point spread is or should be. Next, even champions can have a off day and not be at the top of their game…champions do however still find a way to win…that is exactly what the fighting Irish did!!!

  10. Putting it gently, this team is a putrification of a once-proud, once-legendary program. If there is a league with an available opening that this “Sunset Boulevard ” of an outfit can get accepted into, I recommend they jump on it prontito. It’s like a typical McDonald’s burger: you know what you’re going to get everytime out; you n know
    it won’t be great,and it will cost a lot. Keep buying boys.

  11. Ian Book didn’t see receivers wide open crossing right in front of his face a lot of the game. It’s because he escapes the pocket way too fast because he’s scared. If he stands in the guys are open. Pressure Book and spy him with a decent athlete and passing game over. Kid doesn’t have what it takes. We let the kid go who could have gotten it done.

  12. Two real college football teams playing an exciting game in Tuscaloosa.

    Two real college football teams with competent coaches, great players on both sides of the ball, two real QBs, teams that want to play for a NC.

    In South Bend we root for a fossil, with a mediocre coach, mediocre players, arrogant administration, etc.

    ND won today because UL is just a bad team that shot itself in the foot all day. They recover that onside kick and the national media is having a field day about BK’s signature loss!

    This is so sad.

    If ND beats Clemson it will be as big an upset as the “Miracle on Ice”!

      1. Where is term located, David? In your case I’d say it might be east of a rock and west of a hard place.

  13. Bama, 4 O snaps, 7 points, and that includes throwing an INT on their first play.

    What’s the difference between Bama and ND? Coaching, skill players, play calling, recruiting, you name it.

    Bama has a real O line and not just a hyped one. Bama has a real QB and not a bum who can’t throw. Bama has WRs who can get open and catch.

    ND is a glorified Ivy League team trying to compete with almost NFL-caliber competition in the likes of Bama, Clemson, and Ohio St. and they no longer can. Not too many Rhodes Scholars will be able to cover Clemson or Bama WRs. ND can possibly win an Ivy League title but not a NC.

    1. Alabama is in the football championship business.
      ND is in the “wring a few more bucks out of this dying, nostalgic brand” business.

      I have chosen entertainment over vexation. You too can end masochism.

      1. Call me a masochist, “david”!

        But I agree with you that ND football is old news. When the last of the Boomers and earliest Gen Xers go to our reward, ND football will no longer even be much of a money maker.

        Perhaps if ND entered into the modern era of college football and recruited to win, then that might change.

        But like you say, “Covid King” Jenkins is OK with the buck continuing to roll in for now.

    2. Well, ND is NOT a minor league for the NFL. These young men have to take REAL CLASSES and pass them! I believe they do really well for their situation. I. APPLAUD these young men for their ability and great effort!! National champion or not, I love the IRISH!!

  14. Aren’t you just a ray of sunshine. Good grief ..it was ugly and there is a lot to work on but they are 4-0 and other than today have put up a lot of points and a lot of yards. I know the name of the article suggests you will be critical but pump the breaks a bit.

    1. Keep wearing those rose-colored glasses! It’s always sunshine with them on!

      For thirty damned years we keep hearing about ND football having a lot of work to do. When does the damned work get done, Mike?! Please tell me how many signature wins you recall in the last three decades. How many NCs?!

      In that same time how many embarrassing defeats, “moral victories,” and ugly wins?

      Please tell me something that makes you feel good about this team and program right now. 4-0 against a mediocre schedule with all games played at home? That’s you gold standard for ND football?

      Pathetic!

      1. From the article: “ND wanted to work on its passing game…………. ”

        Are you kidding. 3 year starter. 4th game of a season. I can’t recall the last time the better QB was on the ND side of the ball. Why BK latches onto a QB and sticks to him regardless is mind blowing.

  15. Notredame needs a lot of work in the passing game. Book was somewhat off however his receivers didnt give him much help. After Kelly praised McKinley last week and said no db in the country could cover him how ridiculous was that statement I saw at least 3 big passes that he dropped allowing a smaller defender to RIP the ball away. Those would have been 3 completions with Claypool. Lenzy cant stay healthy. Kelly needs to give watts and jordan johnson a shot. Also I live in Ohio and 2 years ago Ohio State hired former receiver Hartline as their new re diver coach and they that his coaching and recruiting has taken Ohio States receivers to an unbelievable level.Of course they have Dwayne Haskins and Jistin Fields throwing to them not Ian Book. Maybe the problem is Del Alexander.

    1. Notre Dame is doing just fine.

      The football money machine keeps rolling…..a spineless, lying right-wing zealot alumnus is about to sit on the US Supreme Court…..and John Jenkins faced less ‘in loco parentis’ pushback for irresponsibly contracting a deadly virus and bringing it back onto campus than Brian Kelly did for a wind gust killing Declan Sullivan.

      Life is charmed in South Bend.

      1. To the child from NZ: Excellent rebuttal of some damning facts. Really took them on, straight up, in a mature, measured way. Just excellent.

  16. So…what did I miss?
    “..one of the least impressive wins in years…” seems almost impossible.
    That’s a long list of truly excellent candidates.

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