5 Things I Didn’t Like: Despite Strong Win, Notre Dame Misses Some Opportunities

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.

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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.

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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.

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15 Comments

  1. Most here actually believe Book has no where to throw and as a result he scrambles. I see it as, he can’t get himself to throw, so he runs. No doubt, 3+ years of doing the same has made him into a very good runner.
    I would implore him to first think, put up the 30yd ball, especially if it’s a one on one situation. Likely, one of 10 will be intercepted, 3 blocked, 6 either caught or draw an interference call. Odds are with us.
    An effective long ball game opens up the underneath passes and creates opportunities for longer runs.
    I would alternate our two speedsters as decoys to draw the safety away from 11, 88, 18, 87, 24 and 3. So much to gain by doing this. Now all BK has to do is convince ‘stutter-step’ Book.

  2. Not a word about a pressured Ian Book flicking the ball forward like a drumstick up for grabs….from inside his OWN 20 yd line!?!……late in the second half, up by only one score at the time.

    Oh right….it actually worked out for a completion, so it gets filed under “great play”.

  3. How about BK, Reese, and/or Book not going hurry up after the Skworonek non-catch?! I saw it was close live. The replay was clear the play would be over-turned. And yet the ND O lollygagged it until the booth finally decided to call down. After the catch was over-turned, Book missed an open Avery Davis deep. Net result of the incompetence of the coaching staff and Book was that ND went from first down and driving to punting in a one-score game! That kind of BS is unacceptable and will haunt you in a game where every possession counts!

    GO IRISH!

    BEAT THE ‘CUSE!

  4. I just read that Zeke Correll suffered a high ankle sprain during the Carolina game. He played the second half with the sprain. Correll is questionable for Saturday’s game vs Syracuse.

  5. * Ditto on the no-call late hit and horse collar tackle way out of bounds on Book that ended both the third quarter and the ND drive at a potentially key moment in the game . . . I knew ND wouldn’t get that call and the announcers skipped over it despite it being an obvious no-call that would result in a could have been critical change of possession. But refs are refs – had it been Lawrence or Rodgers or Brady, the flag would have been thrown. They read the sports pages, too.
    *And credit where credit is due: NC DC Bateman had his D’ pressure Book all day- great D’ scheme. It appeared for most of the game that the ND O’ game plan was “hope Book can escape”. And he did all but twice! Without his running and making plays under pressure, there were few offense highlights other than a couple of McKinley catches and Kyren’s huge run assuring the clinching two monster drives and the superb D’ adjustments and pressure that ended the drama.
    * Did tire of hearing about NCs 4th quarter heroics that started even with their 1st quarter hype.

  6. The ACC officiating is so bad. That hit on Book starts after the white line – after! The non call on the Hold on Hinish on the play that gave UNC first and goal at the one was as bad as they come. Hinish gets the sack there, or they call the blatant hold and maybe my blood pressure gets a break earlier in the game.

  7. Agree on Tremble. Pretty sure handed typically and dynamic after the catch being able to shed tackles. Poor kid had a bad game catching but as usual is a terror on his blocks.

    Another thing I can’t stand is we are the #2 team in the country and are consistently in the top 10 in recruiting and we have what I’m guessing is a walk-on returning punts. This is unbelievable to me. Keys? Tyree? Armstrong? We seem to be ok with just not turning the ball over on punt return rather than gaining what could be critical field position or even a TD which might happen if we put a dynamic player back there. I just don’t get it.

    1. Ditto on Salerno rather than a more dynamic player retuning punts. He’s sure handed but that’s it. Safe returns, but no chance to break one, which we may need going forward. Salerno is a preferred walk-on.

    2. What’s the rationale of not having two punt returners back- one to inform the other of where the pressure is coming from, or to serve as a blocker against the first defender arriving?

      1. Who are the first guys to typically get to the returner? The gunners right!? I don’t understand why coaches do not double team each gunner like the majority do in the NFL. The interior line’s first job is to stop any block attempts which keeps them in longer than the gunners who simply release on the snap. Doubling each gunner gives your returner way more room to work with. It is very difficult to cover a gunner in space 1 on 1. Seems simple. ND coaches seem to overthink it and not only that but not put our best athletes as the returner.

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