Key Matchups in Notre Dame’s ’19 Opener vs. Louisville

The 2019 Notre Dame football schedule gets underway on Monday night when the Fighting Irish break new ground by making their first-ever road trip to face the Louisville Cardinals. This series has seen only seen one previous meeting, a clash that took place at Notre Dame in November 2014 and saw the Cardinals squeeze out a 31-28 win. The defeat marked the fourth loss in five games for the Irish, who had started out the season by winning six straight contests.

The Cardinals have Scott Satterfield patrolling the sidelines as their new head coach. He arrives after having served in the same capacity at Appalachian State for six seasons, compiling a record of 51-24, including a 40-11 mark during the final four years. This first game on the Notre Dame football schedule will cap off a busy Labor Day weekend of action, with the Irish seeking once again to reach college football’s postseason while playing on a rare Monday night. Meanwhile, Louisville looks to wipe away the misery of a 2-10 campaign in 2018.

In this road battle, certain matchups will be worth watching. They include:

Jafar Armstrong vs. ILB C.J. Avery

RB Jafar Armstrong was pressed into service at the start of last season following the four-game suspension of Dexter Williams and was an effective option during that stretch. He compiled 245 of his 383 yards during those games and also scored five touchdowns. Now, he’s taking over full-time for Williams, along with Tony Jones Jr., and looks to follow in his footsteps after picking up 5.3 yards per carry and also snagging 14 passes.

Avery doesn’t have a lot of size at 5-foot-11, yet he seems to find a way to bring down ballcarriers. He made 56 stops last year, including 2.5 behind the line and also managed to recover a fumble that he forced. If that wasn’t enough, he also managed to pick off a pair of passes and knock away two more.

Notre Dame Secondary vs, QB Jawon Pass

Satterfield is more of a run-oriented coach, but the Cardinals will most likely be playing catch-up in this game, which will mean going to the air. The Irish have a senior-laden group of defensive backs to defend against the Cardinal running game, with Troy Pride Jr. and Donte Vaughn the first line of defense in this area.  Vaughn has a resurgence in fall camp after a few injury-plagued years.  That experience gives them a decided advantage in this matchup.

That’s because last season, Pass struggled to continue the success of the Cardinals’ Heisman Trophy winner, Lamar Jackson. He’s not a runner, having gained just 93 yards on 76 carries, and his passing was indicative of Louisville’s woes last year. He found the end zone eight times but managed to toss 12 interceptions.

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Drew White vs. RB Hassan Hall

Moving into the spot where Drue Tranquill roamed last year, linebacker Drew White got two opportunities to show his stuff last year when Tranquill was out. He finished with six tackles against Navy, then added two more the following week against Northwestern. The question marks entering this season are his limited experience and his barely 6-foot frame.

Hall was a player who didn’t get a large number of opportunities in 2018, but was effective in his time on the field. He ran for 303 yards and three touchdowns, collecting 4.3 yards per carry. In the new run-friendly Louisville offense, he could thrive, though the Irish would prefer he wait another week to get adjusted to his new workload.

C Jarrett Patterson vs. NT G.G. Robinson

Jarrett Patterson enters this year with no experience at center after arriving as one of many talented offensive tackles. However, he was able to quickly pick up the terminology of his new position during spring practices, which hopefully gives an idea of his regular-season learning curve. His level of success could determine how well the line as a whole performs.

Robinson ended last season with 22 tackles, including a pair of sacks, for a defense that allowed 44 points per game. In an effort to stop the free-flow of opponent points, he’ll be working from a slant position that will have him playing the nose on a regular basis.

Khalid Kareem vs. OT Mekhi Becton

DE Khalid Kareem made an immediate impact last year with eight tackles and one sack in the opening win against Michigan. By the time the season had ended, he had 10.5 stops behind the line, including 4.5 sacks and five more pass deflections. He could enhance his NFL chances, but needs to improve his consistency and stay healthy.

Becton brings massive size to the field at 6-foot-7 and 370 pounds and has 22 games worth of starting experience. Despite his frame, he’s agile and can move when the inevitable rush from Kareem comes. It goes without saying that his stature brings with it plenty of power.

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