Weekly Matchups: Notre Dame Stays on the Road for Battle Against Louisville

Having gone through two consecutive dramatic endings, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are hoping that their Saturday night road clash against the Louisville Cardinals avoids the same fate. Stress levels and nerve endings for the Irish fanbase have been frayed, and would welcome something of a breather.

That may not happen, considering that the Cardinals enter the game with a spotless record after winning a tight 13-10 contest at North Carolina State on Friday night. That 5-0 record marks the first time in a decade that Louisville has started the season in that fashion. Despite limited scoring in Friday’s game, the Cardinals can be explosive, having twice scored 56 points in a game this season.

Below is a look at some of the key matchups in Saturday night’s battle:

QB Sam Hartman vs. Louisville Defense

Until Saturday night’s dramatic winning drive, Hartman had largely been quiet. That changed when he used his legs to gain a clutch first down on fourth-and 16 to set up Audric Estime’s touchdown. While he again avoided any interceptions, he was also held without a scoring toss for the first time in 2023. One overthrow was notable since it could have resulted in a score.

Cardinal defenders have had a mixed bag of success this year, either shutting down teams or showing vulnerability. They held North Carolina State to 201 total yards but gave up 175 on the ground to Georgia Tech. They’re capable of making big plays, with nine turnovers this season, but against a talented Notre Dame team, they’ll have their biggest challenge of the season.

Notre Dame Defense vs. Jack Plummer

During much of the first half against Duke, the Irish defense effectively shut down the Blue Devils’ offense. That allowed Notre Dame to take a 10-0 advantage into the break, dominance that faded in the second half and nearly cost them the game. They’ve faced Plummer before while he was with the Purdue Boilermakers in 2021. In that matchup, the Irish held him to 187 yards and one touchdown in the 27-13 win.

Plummer is at his third school in as many years after transferring to Cal last year before then heading to Louisville to rejoin his former Purdue mentor, Jeff Brohm. Over his five seasons, he’s completed nearly 64 percent of his passes and thrown for 58 touchdowns but has also thrown 25 interceptions, including six this season. His lack of mobility could aid the Irish pass rush, even if a sack isn’t the final result.

MLB J.D. Bertrand vs. RB Jawhar Jordan

Bertrand had another big night, tackle-wise, with 11 stops. He and his fellow defenders were a force in the first half when it came to shutting down the Duke running game. Those efforts weren’t quite as strong in the second half, but his leadership helped the Irish defense deliver a clutch stop on a Duke drive late in the game that allowed for the winning score.

Jordan was pretty much shut down on Friday night, gaining only 32 rushing yards, ending a three-game streak of over 100 yards on the ground. He’s in his third year at Louisville after spending his first two seasons at Syracuse and has scored six touchdowns in 2023. While not a regular target of Plummer’s, he has caught a pass in every game this year and is just three grabs away from surpassing his collegiate career-high of 10.

RT Joe Alt vs. DE Ashton Gillotte

Alt holds the most prominent spot on the Irish front line, protecting Hartman’s blind side. That status will be important against the Cardinals’ best pass rusher and could spell the difference in how the signal-caller’s night turns out. He’s a veteran who leads his unit and will hopefully instill some discipline to avoid the spate of false start calls that were seen against Duke.

Gillotte is considered by many to be Louisville’s top defender and is living up to that standard this year, leading the Cardinals with five sacks. His tackle toral is relatively modest but he tends to make big plays when he is involved. Now in his third season at the school, he’s got a pair of fumble recoveries to match his two forced fumbles.

CB Cam Hart vs. WR Jamari Thrash

Hart has been overshadowed by the exploits of Benjamin Morrison but has been a solid part of the Notre defense and has been for the past few years. He’s got quick footwork and has the veteran background to offer nuances to his coverage. He’ll definitely be challenged in this matchup and needs to deliver another consistent performance.

After spending three years at Georgia State, Jordan was one of the boatloads of transfers that arrived through the portal earlier this year. He’s been the Cardinals’ deep threat this year, bringing in 22 passes, while averaging 20.2 yards per catch and reaching the end zone five times. Against Indiana, he caught four passes for 159 yards, highlighted by two scores of 85 and 25 yards, respectively.

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  1. Ole Miss fined $175K after last week’s win vs. LSU.
    $75K for tossing beer cans in disgust of a TD awarded to LSU, despite replay showing it was an incomplete pass.
    And $100K for post-game storming the field.

    Money well spent.

  2. In actual news….NCAA just dropped the limit on new scholarships offered per year, from maximum 25 to unlimited (as long as all scholarships still total under 85).
    So now everyone can emulate “Chainsaw Sanders”!
    If a coach doesn’t have the patience to “build a program”H (borr-rrinnnggggg!!), he can now do an instant overhaul, drive off 45 guys, and immediately repalce them with 45 new ones.
    Yay, higher education!

  3. ESPN reporting that Taylor Swift just texted Deion Sanders.

    Earth’s electromagnetic field has begun to reverse polarity, climate change is changing back, dogs and cats have initiated a sweeping end to hostilities, and Kanye West has spontaneously combusted.

  4. I do not like seeing Hartman used as a running back.
    First, because there’s other guys for that job, and people losing their jobs is a real problem in America.

    Second, there are WRs whose job it is to get open and catch the ball. And most often, Hartman ends up running because they aren’t doing their job. And people not willing to do their job is a real problem in America.

    Third, Hartman running the ball will end up with him getting hurt. Behind Hartman, ND has no QB.
    Hartman didn’t transfer to ND to run the ball, get hurt, and jeopardize his own post-college prospects.
    And people not being able to achieve their American Dream has become a real problem.

    So to the ND WRs: Take pride in your work, do your job, and restore the American dream.

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