Notre Dame completed another successful business trip over the weekend. They marched down to North Carolina and reminded the upset-minded 19th ranked Tar Heels, who is the class of the ACC this season. The win appears to have Notre Dame on an apparent collision course with Clemson for the ACC Title. The road to victory wasn’t without some bumps along the way, though. Here are some unlikeable aspects of Notre Dame’s latest win.
No turnovers from the Notre Dame defense
Considering how well the defense played on Friday, it might seem silly to find anything wrong with the defensive performance; but if there is one thing, it was the lack of turnovers by the defense. This has been a consistent problem throughout the year that has been surprising given how much disruption the Irish defense generates.
Notre Dame has constant pressure on Sam Howell and ended the game with six sacks. And they could have had more. When a defense is generating that kind of pressure, usually turnovers follow. They didn’t on Saturday.
Against a team like North Carolina, that is good, not great; that is fine. In a rematch with Clemson or a trip to the playoffs, it probably won’t be. It’s just bizarre that a defense that can control the line of scrimmage and be so dominant at times struggles to create turnovers. Perhaps they will come in bunches here at the end of the year? Who knows at this point.
If there’s one thing for the defense to work on in practice for the next few weeks, it’s forcing turnovers.
ACC Officials letting Ian Book get horse collared, out of bounds
I complain about the ACC officials too much, I know. In my defense, they are downright brutal, and maybe I still haven’t gotten over them stealing a beautiful win from Notre Dame in Tallahassee six years ago. Regardless, there are bad calls every game, and sometimes Notre Dame is the beneficiary of them too. That said, there are bad calls, and then there a missed calls that are just dangerous.
In realtime, Ian Book getting hit out of bounds on the North Carolina sideline on a 3rd down scramble was clear as day to me. Then I saw this angle.
COME. ON. MAN. Are you kidding me? Not only does the UNC defender launch himself at Book well after Book is out of bounds, but he basically horse-collar tackles him four yards out of bounds.
A play like that is dangerous and could have cost Notre Dame their quarterback. And there was an official RIGHT THERE staring at the play. He kept his flag in his pocket, though.
A missed chip shot field goal
After some struggles earlier in the season, it looked like Jonathan Doerer was locked back in and back to the automatic kicker we met last year. On Friday, though, Doerer delivered a very uncharacteristic shank on a 32-yard attempt. A connection there would have given Notre Dame its first two-possession lead of the game with two minutes left in the third.
Hopefully, the miss was just a hiccup for Doerer and not anything to be too alarmed over. Notre Dame is going to need Doerer to be locked in like he was against Clemson when his only miss came from 57 yards out at the end of the first half.
A rough day from Tommy Tremble in the passing game
In August, I thought Notre Dame might lose Tommy Tremble to the NFL early following this season. I was sure he was about to explode in this offense after sharing the spotlight with Cole Kmet. Michael Mayer’s emergence has forced Tremble to take a backseat in the passing game, but on Friday, Tremble has a chance for a big game and came up short.
Tremble dropped a TE screen designed for him that sure looked like it had the potential to be a big, big play. He couldn’t haul in another pass later in the second quarter that would have been a first down as well. That one wasn’t as easy, but still one you’d expect him to make.
Mayer’s big-time plays and Tremble’s new reputation as a monster blocker have caused people to forget about his skills as a receiver. I’m still holding out some hope that we see Tremble slip down a seam for a huge gain this year – perhaps in the ACC Title game? Saturday was a rough day at the office receiving wise for him, though. Blocking-wise, he continued to destroy anything in his path.
Notre Dame failing to put away North Carolina earlier
Notre Dame had an opportunity to put this game away early and really make a big-time statement on Friday. Its defense settled in and kept one of the nation’s most explosive offenses grounded for the entire second half. The Notre Dame offense, however, failed to capitalize on the opportunity.
After seizing the lead for good on their first possession of the second half, the Irish offense produced the Doerer missed field goal and back to back punts before icing the game with an 8 play, 89-yard drive. Those back to back possessions that ended in punts generated just 26 yards on 8 plays.
Right now, Notre Dame is undefeated, and style points don’t matter. In the future, however, they just might. The Irish had a chance to make the kind of statement that forces any remaining naysayers to take notice. They didn’t capitalize on it. For a team with a stated goal of winning a national championship, you have to seize more of those opportunities at some point.