There usually isn’t much to dislike in a 39-point blowout victory, but sometimes those are the most fun to nitpick, given how well the game went overall. That is the case with Notre Dame’s season-opening 42-3 victory over Navy over the weekend. Even for an opener, the Irish looked sharp in dispatching Navy without the game ever getting remotely close on the scoreboard. Still, here’s this week’s 5 things I didn’t like.
Audric Estime in the game in the 4th
I know Estime was taken out of the first half because of his fumble per Marcus Freeman’s Monday presser, but I still didn’t like seeing him in the game in the fourth quarter against Navy. Weird stuff happens at the end of games when you have players who aren’t necessarily experienced and could be too amped up just to see the field. Estime is way too valuable to this team to risk any sort of injury while up 39 points against a team like Navy in the fourth quarter.
I saw some chatter on Twitter that maybe Estime really wanted to top 100 yards, and that explains it. Even if that were the case, I wouldn’t like that either. Get your fourth or fifth string back some run there instead of your top guy who you will need against the Buckeyes in September. I guess I could see the argument of Estime needing some carries after fumbling, but it still seemed like an unnecessary risk having him in the game at the end.
Jason Garrett in the Booth
Notre Dame fans and complaining about the NBC commentators, name a more iconic duo. In the case of Jason Garrett, it is 100% justified. He is certifiably terrible. I won’t get into the whole “he is openly cheering for the other team” angle. Every fan always thinks the announcers want the other team to win. Instead, I’ll focus on how he ignores the actual flow of the game and makes statements that don’t make sense.
As Notre Dame drove for their last touchdown of the half, Sam Hartman hit Gi’Bran Payne for no gain on a 2nd and 3 with 0:49 left. The play was a net negative for Notre Dame since it was no gain, and the clock kept ticking. Garrett commented that it was a good catch that set Notre Dame up in a 3rd and manageable and made no mention of the clock—reminder: the play gained 0 yards.
Later on the same drive, Hartman scrambled to his right and looked like he had Payne for a potential touchdown, but the ball deflected off a Navy defender’s body. Payne had a path to the endzone and a blocker. Garrett commented that Hartman was lucky that one was deflected, implying that it would have been a negative result.
These are just two examples of countless from the game. Any hope that he would improve from his first season in the booth last year to this seems misplaced. He’s just not good at it. I’m just saying Mike Mayock is available again after being fired by the Raiders as GM in 2022.
The one saving grace that took attention away from Garrett on Saturday was the camera work by NBC in the first half, especially. It was terrible. The camera followed the wrong action more than once, causing fans to miss plays almost entirely at times. Covering the option is challenging, given all the motion and misdirection, but it’s not like NBC doesn’t cover Navy every two years.
Between the camerawork and listening to Jason Garrett, it made the FOMO of not being in Ireland for the game all the more real. That FOMO could have made this list, too, since watching all the scenes from Dublin and not being there was tough. Hopefully, the Irish will return in a few years when my son is old enough to appreciate it so that I can take the fam.
Brian Newberry’s surrender field goal
Was that Brian Newberry or Dino Babers coaching Navy on Saturday? Tough call. Newberry had a number of questionable calls in his coaching debut, but the surrender field goal while down 42 points was up there. Sure, he didn’t want to get shut out, but kicking a field goal just to avoid a shutout will always be ridiculed by the other team.
JD Bertrand having a fumble recovery stolen from him by officials
There wasn’t a lot to dislike football-wise in this one for Notre Dame, but one play that stood out in a “what the heck were you looking at” perspective was JD Bertrand’s fumble recovery that was clear to everyone but the officials.
I still don’t understand how this wasn’t ruled a recovery by ND. pic.twitter.com/32GMnqnrlO— Clutch Sports: Notre Dame (@ClutchSportsND) August 28, 2023
Officials ruled that before Bertrand maintained possession and came out of the pile with the ball, Navy made a clear recovery. How they made that determination in real-time is beyond me. Even on a slow-motion replay, it would have been tough to say that Navy clearly possessed the ball under the pile before Bertrand got his hands on it. The play didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things other than robbing Bertrand of a fumble recovery from his stat line. Still, it was a horrible call by the official.