Overreactions: Notre Dame Uses Big Plays While Going Through Motions in Final Tune-Up for Ohio State

Notre Dame beat Central Michigan by 24 points on Saturday, but they led by just seven in a game that they were favored to win by 35. It was an uneven performance from the Irish, who had the classic look of a team who knew they had a big game next week and let their minds wander from the task at hand. Marcus Freeman preached all week the Irish would be focused on the moment, but it was clear the Irish weren’t as locked in as we’ve seen them this season.

Notre Dame played sloppy for a large portion of the game

Notre Dame won the game and racked up over 500 yards of offense. In fact, the 578 yards of offense they had was the most any Irish offense put up since 2019 against New Mexico. But it could have been even more. The second and third quarters felt like a struggle as the offense went from marching up and down the field to sputtering at times, making the starters play most of the game.

Defensively, tackling was a mess on the day, leading to Central Michigan points. The Irish were missing some starters – more on that in a bit – but the bottom line is if the tackling is the same next weekend, Ohio State will light up the scoreboard.

At the end of the day, the box score looked OK, but this felt like a game where the team overlooked the opponent and was only interested in the ending.

Deep bomb touchdown passes are fun; we should do that more often

Remember a year ago when Notre Dame had no quarterbacks who could hit deep shots? Heck, that wasn’t isolated to 2022. Jack Coan struggled with that in 2021, too, and the deep ball wasn’t exactly Ian Book’s strong suit. In yesterday’s contest, we finally got a glimpse of the Sam Hartman, who was the best deep ball passer in college football a year ago.

Hartman hit Tobias Merriweather for 75 yards to start the game.

Shortly after, he hit Chris Tyree on a 76-yarder that was a pretty tricky catch to make for someone new to the wide receiver position.

Hartman also found Jayden Thomas on a 39-yarder and Rico Flores on a 42-yarder. He ended up with 330 yards on just 16 completions.

Sam Hartman took too many hits, including dirty ones

While Hartman played great, he played longer than needed because the game was so close. As a result, he took too many hits and limped after one particularly dirty hit in the 3rd quarter. After Rocco Spindler got bulldozed, a Central Michigan defensive tackle sacked Hartman low at his knees and then twisted his leg.

It was a dirty hit. NBC “expert” Terry McCauley explained that it technically isn’t a flag in college because the defender was “blocked” on the play and needs to be unabated for a flag for tackling low. Still, even Jason Garrett made mention of the leg twist and called the hit out for being dirty.

Flag or no flag, the extra hits on Hartman could have been avoided if the Irish had handled their business earlier as they are capable of. Notre Dame didn’t need to still be throwing the football with their starting lineup up in the game, giving its fans flashbacks of past struggles with the likes of Ball State, Toledo, and Marshall.

Running back rotation was much more limited

The four-headed monster appears to have shrunk dramatically in a short period of time. It was inevitable that Audric Estime would start to get the lion’s share of carries, with the other backs filling complementary roles. That time arrived yesterday. Estime carried the ball while Gi’Bran Price, Jeremiyah Love, and Jadarian Prime combined for just 9.

Estime did damage with his 23 caries with a career-high 176 yards (8.8) average that doesn’t include a 72-yard touchdown that was wiped out by a Holden Staes holding penalty. It took him a little while to get going, but eventually, Estime owned the fourth quarter and showed no signs of slowing down with the extra workload as he hurdled defenders in the process.

Notre Dame’s defense was missing pieces, and it showed

Notre Dame was missing JD Bertrand and DJ Brown on Saturday and then got more banged up along the way. The loss of Bertrand had a trickle-down effect on the defense as they were missing their signal-caller, and some players were out of position as a result. It showed. Notre Dame turned in its worst tackling performance of the season.

PFF has Notre Dame down for ten missed tackles on the day, and that doesn’t include Antonio Carter’s missed tackle for loss on an actual perfectly timed safety blitz where he ran right by the running back before a significant gain.

The defense only let Central Michigan score a total of 3 points in the second half, but the Chippewas still ran the ball well at times. Eventually, the defense locked down and forced three straight three-and-outs on their final three drives.

Will Notre Dame ever recover a fumble?

Notre Dame has forced seven fumbles, and their opponents have fumbled nine times this year, yet the Irish have not recovered a single one. That is a lot of bad bounces for the Irish defense. Thomas Harper had a textbook corner blitz that resulted in a huge hit on CMU quarterback Jase Bauer, resulting in a fumble. As the ball has bounced all year in these cases, it went right to a CMU lineman.

Jack Kiser also forced a fumble that the Irish were unable to recover. Hopefully, one of those bounces goes Notre Dame’s way next week because it’s starting to be almost uncanny.

Javontae Jean-Baptise is playing a very high-level

Notre Dame’s pass rush didn’t have a great game, but the one bright spot was Jean-Baptise. PFF graded him with an 89.2 pass-rush grade, and he picked up another tackle for loss on Saturday in the run game. The knock on JBB coming in was that he wasn’t strong against the run, but that hasn’t been the case so far this season.

He is still looking for his first sack of the season, but he had five pressures on Saturday (3 hurries, 2 hits) after just two in the first three games. Next week would be the perfect time for him to finally get home at the quarterback against his old team.

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  1. At home as a dog to higher rated team, if memory serves, Notre Dame almost always wins if we get eithe of a defensive score, or a special teams score (of seven points).
    In addition, we are capable of scoring on every possession, but we need to can the penalties to do that
    Ohio State might be able to stop us on some possesions: I don’t know about that. But I sure as he’ll know we can stop ourselves.
    Bruce G Curme
    77 82

  2. “The difference between college and NFL, the quarterbacks just don’t give the receivers a choice but to catch it. They just throw it on you, and it’s going to be there, and you expect it to be there. That’s what Sam does for us.”
    –Tobias Merriweather

    And if he keeps playing like this, I just can’t see how he doessn’t attend the Heisman ceremony. Well, unless Shedeur Sanders gets 3 nominations.

  3. No pre-game prediction article from Frank and not one in-game comment. That’s a first and a clear sign that UHND is officially dead. Besides that ND looked a bit lost on defense. Hopefully Bertrand will be back next week.

    1. Not gonna get Peacock to watch Central Michigan, thank you.

      FL State was ranked 3 for beating LSU. Well, they have no QB, and they suck. Shouldn’t have ever seen the Top 15. Which says a lot about how deep the media bought into the Kelly fantasy, and how far astray their idiocy leads them.

      Speaking of which….
      Colorado will no doubt vault into the Top 10 with a double OT win over juggernaut Colorado State at home.
      Bwa ha ha ha….but serioously. ESPN could not have debased itself any more than it did on that broadcast. And Jay Norvelll should get somne serious consideration for other jobs….he had those kids ready to play in a freakishly intimidating environment.

      And Buchner. I will never ever forget the long, heated debate “Hartman or Buchner?” among the illuminati here.

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