Any hopes of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish battling for a national title presumably faded on Saturday night after they dropped a 33-20 road decision to the Louisville Cardinals. The defeat was the second of the year for the Irish and now gives them a 5-2 record for the season. It also helped put an end to the team’s 30-game winning streak in the ACC.
The Irish managed to knot the score by halftime at 7-7. However, a continuing inability to run the ball plagued them throughout the contest, finishing with just 44 yards on the night in that important department. Audric Estime entered the game with 672 yards and seven touchdowns, with a 7.1 yards-per-carry average, He ended the night with just 20 yards on 10 carries as Jeremiyah Love led all Notre rushers with 37 yards on five carries.
Below are some of the other key facets of the crushing Irish defeat:
Second Half Slide
An inability during the second half to reach the end zone until the desperate final moments spelled out a key reason why the Irish lost. The best the Irish could manage during the first 28 minutes after the break was a pair of field goals by Spencer Shrader, the first of which gave the Irish their only lead of the game at 10-7. That came after Cam Hart forced and then recovered a fumble at the Cardinal 39 on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter.
In their seven remaining series of the game, Notre Dame.could only muster a 54-yard field goal from Shrader and a scoring toss to Mitchell Evans with just 1:35 to go in the game. Prior to that final score, the Irish faced the virtually impossible task of making up a 20-point deficit in just over three minutes. While they managed to recover an onside kick, that drive ended on an interception to seal the victory for Louisville.
Hartman is Human
Entering the Louisville contest, Notre Dame quarterback Sam Hartman had kept his passing starts unblemished by avoiding any interceptions. That spotless mark came crashing down when Hartman ended up tossing three picks, which led to 10 points for the Cardinals. A fourth-quarter fumble also led to an additional three points for Louisville.
Hartman finished his evening with an otherwise standard night, completing 22 of 38 for 254 yards. Yet, the mistakes made were costly, with the quarterback also avoiding a potential intentional grounding call during one of his fourth-quarter drives. With another major matchup set for next weekend, Hartman can’t afford a similar performance.
Here Comes Mr. Jordan
For the second consecutive week, the Notre Dame rushing defense had major problems stopping an opponent’s attack. For the Cardinals, the main weapon used was Jawhar Jordan, who ended with a game-high 143 yards on 21 carries and also scored a pair of touchdowns.
Jordan has been Louisville’s leading rusher all season, so their usage of him didn’t come as a surprise. Yet, despite the best efforts of Irish defenders, they were seemingly helpless in trying to stop Jordan and the Cardinals when it counted most. The first of his two scores came on a 45-yard dash in the third quarter and gave Louisville the lead for good at 17-10.
Pass Protection Problems
One reason for Hartman’s struggles can be attributed to the pass rush the Cardinals were able to deliver on a regular basis. The Irish offensive line struggled to keep Louisville defenders from taking down the signal-caller. That took place on five occasions and helped blunt any thoughts of sustaining drives.
The last of the five sacks ultimately resulted in Louisville’s final three points after Hartman’s second fumble. To put into perspective just how bad a night the Notre Dame front wall experienced, this unit had allowed only six sacks total in the team’s first six games. Four of those came during the September 9 win at North Carolina State.
Notre Dame returns home for the final stretch of its four-game nighttime run. The matchup will pit them against one of their longtime rivals, the USC Trojans, who are coming off a home clash against the Arizona Wildcats. The Trojans offense is a powerhouse that’s led by quarterback Caleb Williams, the reigning Heisman winner who’s making a strong case to win it again. This series dates back to late 1926, with the Irish holding a 50-38-5 advantage. Notre Dame has won the last five contests on their home field, with the last Trojan victory at the Golden Dome coming in 2011.