Notre Dame’s program record 26 game home winning streak came to a screeching halt on Saturday afternoon when the Irish left Cincinnati walk into Notre Dame Stadium and push them around. The Bearcats did a lot of talking leading up to the game, and they backed it up while the flaws the Irish overcame over the first month of the season ultimately led to their demise. After falling behind 17-0 in large part to their own mistakes, a late rally fell short as the Irish leave the contest with more questions than they had entering it.
Notre Dame let Cincinnati mock them
I knew this game meant a lot more to Cincinnati than Notre Dame, but I had no clue just how much it meant to Cinncinati. Apparently, Brian Kelly leaving Cincy for Notre Dame almost 12 years ago still stings because Cincinnati went on a troll barrage after beating Notre Dame today. The official Cincinnati football Twitter account mashed up essentially years’ worth of Brian Kelly press conference clips from his time at Cincy to describe today’s win for their program.
While I respect the troll to some extent, that seems like a lot of work to do when there was a chance that the video never saw the light of day. Oh, and I purposely didn’t embed it here because I didn’t think it deserves any more engagement than it’s already gotten.
The sad thing here for Notre Dame and Brian Kelly is they let it happen. Today was a comedy of errors for Notre Dame, from bad turnovers to penalties to terrible coaching decisions. In the biggest game of the year, Brian Kelly coached worst than we’ve seen from him a while. For instance, why on earth did Kelly insert Tyler Buchner into the game right when Drew Pyne was in a rhythm, and the Irish offense showed some signs of life? Buchner got stuffed on first down, and the drive stalled. It was a classic “let’s outsmart everyone but only outsmart ourselves” situation.
Cincinnati and its fans will enjoy this for years to come, and Notre Dame let it happen on their home field all while plenty of Notre Dame fans sold their tickets to Cincinnati fans allowing a mini sea of red. Not great.
Brian Kelly mismanaged the quarterback position, badly
It was pretty clear in the first half that Jack Coan needed to be replaced. But, by the end of the second quarter, Coan checked down to running backs and threw the ball away at the slightest sign of pressure. Or, in some cases, even when there was no pressure at all.
We said on the preview pod we expected to see Drew Pyne from the beginning since Coan was hurt enough last week to get taken out. Combine that with Coan being the least-mobile quarterback in recent Notre Dame history, and it seemed like a bad idea to start him. Brian Kelly did anyway. It didn’t work. At all.
The play that encompassed Coan’s day the best – or worst – was his last snap on 3rd and 5 at the end of the first half. There was no pressure on Coan at all, but Coan rolled out and threw the ball away without trying to run, buy time, or even fire the ball downfield. There was nothing to lose in that situation if he fired it downfield. Notre Dame had to punt. Coan just casually tossed the ball away, though without a defender near him.
Simply put, Brian Kelly could not have managed the quarterback situation worse than he did today.
At this point, there is no reason for Notre Dame to start anyone other than Drew Pyne. Pyne wasn’t perfect, but he sparked the Irish offense and led the Irish to their only 13 points on the day.
In the 5th game of the season, Brian Kelly played three quarterbacks and then said that they needed to figure it out after the game. Anyone who watched the fourth quarter last week already had figured it out.
Notre Dame’s defense isn’t to blame for the loss
Notre Dame’s defense gave up a couple of scores at inopportune times, but overall the defense played well enough to win today. If Notre Dame had any semblance of a competent offense in the first half, maybe they win this game. Instead, the offense repeatedly put the defense in bad positions for the first 30 minutes.
With the game looking bleak in the 3rd with Cincy up 17-0 and marching, the defense came up with a big turnover to get the Irish back in the game.
After Notre Dame cut the lead to 17-7, Notre Dame’s defense forced a three and out, giving the offense a chance to cut the lead more. However, the offense responded with a three and out of their own.
The defense did its part today despite missing a few opportunities for additional turnovers.
Mistakes ultimately undid Notre Dame
The list of unforced errors for Notre Dame is pretty long in this one. There was the Chris Tyree fumble on the kickoff that gifted Cincinnati a field goal. Then, there was the Kevin Austin drop on 2nd and 10 in the fourth when Notre Dame was still down ten that would have been a huge gain. Finally, there was the Coan interception on the game’s first drive when Notre Dame had marched down the field.
Notre Dame isn’t good enough to overcome all of those unforced errors against solid teams, and that cost the Irish today.
Expectations Need to Be Reset
I maintained all along that I would reset my expectations until Notre Dame lost a game, and now I begrudgingly have to. After what we saw today, it’s hard to imagine Notre Dame navigating the final seven games this season without another loss along the way. If Kelly can’t decide on a quarterback, what chance does the Notre Dame offense have?
Like we saw today, the defense will be good enough to keep the Irish in every game, even when the offense cannot do anything. It seems evident that Notre Dame should stick with Pyne at this point and see what the kid can do, but Kelly was non-committal on Pyne following the loss.