Before the Boxscore: Assessing Notre Dame at Bye Week #1

Entering the first of two bye weeks, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish hold a 6-2 record. That’s one game better than last year’s mark at this point and comes without the two embarrassing home losses they suffered last season. With the exception of their trio to Clemson on November 4, the remainder of the Irish schedule should add at least three more victories to the regular season win column.

Getting to this point has involved taking care of business against outmanned opponents while dealing with slumps in certain areas of the team’s offense. On the defensive front, the effort has largely been strong, with the final margin in the Louisville loss matching the points allowed off Notre Dame turnovers in the game.

Below are some of the key aspects of the Irish’s first eight games:

Receiving Weapons

Prior to the start of the season, the Notre Dame receiving corps had a number of question marks attached to a host of talented players. Many of those concerns have been calmed by the insertion of Sam Hartman as the Irish signal-caller with the veteran quarterback connecting with seven receiving options on 100 of his 143 completions on the year.

Increased contributions from the tandem of Jayden Thomas and Jaden Greathouse would help offer Hartman more choices in passing situations. Both were held out of the Duke game due to hamstring issues, something that blunted Thomas’ strong start that saw him catch 12 passes in the first five games. Since then, he’s had just two receptions against Louisville. Greathouse also started out with 12 grabs in his first five games but has not caught any passes since returning.

Offensive Line Stumbles

In Notre Dame’s eight games this season, the Irish offensive line has only allowed 11 sacks. Delving deeper, that number shows that all 11 of those sacks came on the road in unfriendly environments, which led to snap count issues and some costly turnovers. It’s a concern that will need to be addressed with the matchup against Clemson taking place in the cauldron of Death Valley, an unforgiving locale for most teams.

Last year after eight games, the Irish had also allowed 11 sacks. However, the breakdown there shows that the takedowns were not so pronounced and were spread out over six contests. In their final five games last season, the Irish gave up 10 more sacks, with the near-collapse at Navy accounting for half of those takedowns.

Tight End Tandem

Trying to replace a player like Michael Mayer was going to be a challenge for the Irish and is something that’s largely required the efforts of two players. Starting off with sophomore Holden Staes and really picking up speed with Mitchell Evans, Notre Dame has remained strong at this position.

Staes matched his 2022 output with one four-yard touchdown grab in the rout of Tennessee State, then was a key part of the weather-delayed win at North Carolina State. Against the Wolfpack, he caught four passes for 115 yards and two scores before catching just one pass in the next three games. He’s snagged a pair of passes in each of the past two contests to supplement the output of Mitchell Evans.

In that North Carolina State clash, Evans sustained a concussion that kept him out of the subsequent game against Central Michigan. Returning against Ohio State, the third-year receiver has since hauled in 19 passes for 293 yards and one touchdown, becoming a favorite option for Sam Hartman in the process. Both Evans and Staes offer large targets for Hartman and offer one explanation for the uptick in passing output.

Third Down Slippage

In their first five games of 2023, Notre Dame was able to move the chains effectively in third-down situations. Converting 29 of 54 opportunities, the Irish managed to win four of those games and lose the other on the final play from scrimmage. Yet, in the past three matchups, the numbers have shifted in the wrong direction.

The Irish have won two of those three games, though one of those victories required a dramatic late drive to make it happen. Overall, converting just nine of 38 chances in this area is an indication that something needs to be fixed, especially before Notre Dame takes the field against Clemson.

Final Take

Even though the opportunity to compete for a national title effectively died with the loss to Louisville, Notre Dame is still in a position to be selected for a major bowl game. The final result at Clemson will likely answer that question, considering that the other three opponents for the Irish have a collective record of 7-11. In addition, two of the contests will be played under the Golden Dome. Marcus Freeman’s second season at the helm is still in the midst of emerging from midseason struggles, with questions about the conclusion still waiting to be answered.

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  1. Listen…hear that?
    For the first time in months, a whole week went by without any media wonk salivating about the “phenomenal” manchild in the sunglasses, or his 4-3 football team.

  2. “…After losing to Utah, USC has now officially wasted Caleb Williams.
    …Williams is a singular talent at the quarterback position. Unfortunately, because of USC’s mismanagement and defensive woes, he will never play on the game’s biggest stage.”
    — CBS Sports

    After such fellating nonsense about this Manziel -lite dooshbag, I’d Freeman wwould get past the spit take and coughing and say ‘hold my beer’……

    1. Late in the game broadcast last night, some brave rebel in the trailer put up a 2-column graphic of Williams’ statisitcs…….
      First column: his total college career numbers.
      Second column: his results agianst Top 25 teams.
      Night and day different!

      Agianst only the Top25 opponents, Williams pass completions drop from 74% to 50%.
      His passing yds per game drop from 355(..IIRC..) to 172.
      And vs. these good teams, he’s just 6TDs and 6INTs.

      “Singular talent”, you say….what a crock of shit.
      He showboats and pads his stats on doormats, and chokes in real games.

      1. You could say the same thing about Hartmans numbers as well. It doesn’t just apply to Caleb Williams. Hartman numbers are 64/90 71% 13TDs 0 INTs against the first 4 door mats of the season. Against the last 4 ranked opponents his numbers fall off as well. 67/113 59% 5TDs 3 INTs.

        Not a big fan of Caleb Williams but he will be a star in the NFL. Hartman will be lucky to make an NFL roster.

      2. Williams will be a monumental bust.
        He has low character, no leadership skills, and zero self-awareness. He;ll arrive as a diva, and any teammate would be justified in hating his guts.
        If he’s drafted by a team without a stellar O-line, he’ll react to the pounding like a spoiled child. And be concussed into last week.
        And scrambilng with the ball….his dominant college superpower… not a ‘QB thing’ in the NFL.

      3. …aas far as Hartman goes, it is a well established, widely discussed fact he has barely a fraction of the reciever talent that USC has.

        So just fuck off.

      4. If Williams played for ND you would have his Nut Sack draped over your chin just like you do Hartman’s. Truth of the matter is ND would be in the same exact position 6-2 with Pyne or Buchner as there starter.
        Stick with your strengths David Sucking Dick.

  3. Caleb Williams drowning in self-pity, his fate sealed by the Utah back-up QB running for 26 yards for a game-winning chip shot.

    Later in the evening, Penix giving away his short-lived spot near the front of of the Heisman line.

    Alabama showing –again— that it remains the most “professional” football program. Very little off-field drama, fixing weaknesses as the season proceeds, never losing games with early impatience or by coaches or players making dumb mistakes.

    Hope you got a boner beating up mighty Army, L’il Fat Fuck. See you in Tuscaloosa in two weeks.
    Remember to pack your medications.

  4. THE result ytd is a disappointment. Offense is anemic and Irish O. is frustrating and boring to watch.

    Play calling rates about a D+ to be generous.

    Leadership by MF has been spotty. For example, MF had the team totally prepped for USC and for the 1st 4 games against weak opposition. ND came out flat and careless w/ the ball vs. Louisville. Offense has looked silly since the
    OSU game. and there have been zero adjustments.

    Defense is solid and has met expectations. Credit to Golden and MF for that.

    I expect a 3-1 record rest of the year . – so, a 9-2 record. Not terrible. but disappointing nevertheless.

    1. “looked silly since the OSU game”…???? I beg to differ!!
      The team was at its absolute silliest looking FOR the OSU game, costume night.

  5. Hartman has a 65% completion rate, has a 18 TDs to 3 INTs, and has thrown it to several different targets.
    (Who knew that players other than the TE are eligible receivers !?! Is that a new rule?)
    And the guy throws a fantastic deep ball….for proof of that, you’ll have to watch some Wake Forest tape.

    His QBR is 75.5, ranked 24th.
    Because his pass attempts and completions this season are low yardage.
    Because ND receivers haven’t had the speed and skills to create separation and get open, so dinking-and-dunking is all the passing game can be.

    Hartman will go down as one of the most wasted weapons in ND college football history. And he’s been a very high character guy, who hasn’t made ONE compliant or dsaid anytihng negative about his ND experience. Which is a helluva damn sight better than what some of the delusional drooling idiots here have said about him.

    For those already speculating about which QB Freeman might consider going after in the transfer portal…after seeing what this program has done with Hartman, who’d want to come?

    1. Yeah, I’m very impressed with Sam Hartman the person. Also if he gets a chance he could tear up the NFL for a few seasons. Almost a Curt Warner sleeper except he’ll get his chance early.

      He is wasted as they have the weapons.

    2. I had a feeling at the time that when Notredame botched the Ludwig offensive coordinator position with this buyout nonsense that it would come back to beat them. Pairing a still work in progress head coach with an inexperienced offensive coordinator is not a recipe for success imo. So glad Swarbrick is leaving. As far as I’m concerned he should have been shone the door with his boy Kelly. We just have to hope this new guy is better for Notredames sake.

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