Irish Wobble Past Cards

Louisville refused to play the role of the Washington Generals on Monday night, but Notre Dame managed to pull away in the second half to secure a 35-17 victory in the season opener. The teams traded long touchdown drives in the first quarter, which ended in an uneasy 14-14 tie that had Irish fans reaching for the Maalox. The defenses dominated the second period until a pair of fumbles by the Cardinals in their own end set up an Ian Book touchdown that gave Notre Dame a 21-14 halftime lead.

The Irish dominated play in the second half, but did not pull away on the scoreboard until Book hit tight end Tommy Tremble with his best pass of the night, a 26-yard scoring strike midway through the final period. Louisville fought gamely and kept the contest competitive throughout, but the Cards did not have the passing game to overcome a two-digit deficit against the deep Irish defense. They ran the ball quite well, however, raising significant questions about Notre Dame’s interior defensive line and linebackers.

Book scrambles for short yardage

Coach Brian Kelly has plenty to work on during the bye week until his team hosts New Mexico in the home opener on September 14. Offensively, Book was not comfortable in the pocket. He failed to pick up open receivers and repeatedly pulled the ball down in the face of pressure. The running game showed flashes of competence but the offensive line was pushed back on all of its attempts on third and short yardage by the undersized Cards.

Defensively, the pass rush was not in evidence throughout the first half, and the interior of the defensive line was unable to penetrate or disrupt Louisville. The Cardinals ran for a staggering 249 yards. A greater concern was the play of the Irish linebackers, who collectively missed numerous tackles and were caught out of position with alarming frequency. The secondary played reasonably well, but was fortunate that two certain touchdown passes went off the fingertips of open receivers.

Let’s review the answers to our pregame questions:

Which team can generate the most productive running game? Louisville outrushed Notre Dame by 249-232, which was wholly unexpected.

Can Book connect downfield with his new stable of fast receivers? Only once, but that was to a tight end. The other passes were mainly short dump-offs. Chase Claypool turned some of those into good gains, but the young receivers did not get much of a chance downfield.

Will Notre Dame’s pass rushers live up to their advance billing? Not really. Julian Okwara and Khalid Kareem were invisible most of the night, although Daelin Hayes and Ade Ogundeji were factors in forcing turnovers.

Can Louisville keep the ball away from the Irish offense? Yes, until they started to fumble late in the first half and continued that trend in the second.

Will the Irish front seven be able to contain quarterback scrambles and designed runs? No, in fact they were terrible in this regard. They were either out of position or just missed the tackle.

Can Notre Dame avoid mental mistakes and unnecessary penalties in its debut? The Irish defense jumped offsides on third down on three separate occasions.

Will the new Irish kicking specialists perform to a high standard? Jonathan Doerer was not tested with a field goal attempt, but he was solid on extra points and kickoffs. Jay Bramblett’s punts were neither bad nor spectacular.

Overall, the performance did not meet the high expectations of the fans, and I’m sure the players and coaches would agree. The second half was better, but Notre Dame failed to develop a rhythm that allowed viewers to rest easy until the final minutes.

15 thoughts on “Irish Wobble Past Cards

  1. Honestly, I’d have been surprised if the game had gone any differently. This had all the hallmarks of Brian Kelly football.
    Big stage and the team isn’t ready to play. Literally throwing away possessions to “establish the pass” when the running game is working. Unable to gain two yards when they need it against an undersized defensive line. Ensuring that a weak opponent believes they can win late until the game. Gashed repeatedly on the ground due to poor arm tackles and confused secondary. No kick return game whatsoever. A quarterback who makes no improvement from season to season. Validating criticism that we don’t belong in the same conversation as the other top teams. There’s nothing new here. Just more of the same mediocrity we’ve been living with for a dozen years.

    • I couldn’t agree more with BR’s comments! Why do our quarterbacks always seem to do well in their first year starting, then take a step backward in the 2nd? I understand that we have a lot of young receivers, but Book did not look like a quarterback with playoff experience under his belt. How does a team like Louisville, coming off their awful previous year, have a better punt/kickoff coverage team than we do? Kelly has been here way too long without either, it’s laughable. Sorry to say we will be embarrassed once again on the big stage, when GA blows our doors off.

  2. Not going to beat Georgia playing like that! Hate to say it but this team may be over rated. Book looked like he did against Clemson, but luckily Louisville is not Clemson. If not for some bad play by Louisville (fumbles and missed TD catches) this game could have been a disaster. Not sure if all these problems and weaknesses can be fixed by the Georgia game. I don’t really think the New Mexico game will tell us too much.

  3. We ran the ball so well at the start and then stopped doing it..totally, dont understand the play-calling.., 6 was doing great until he was benched, don t get it.

    Book had the happy feet of a rookie, very concerning.

    Linebacker play was awful, secondary and especially 11 , saved the day.

    I thought we had an offensive line, guess not !

  4. Just when you start to think BK has finally figured it out as a coach and we’ll dominate a team
    like Louisville in all phases of the game, we have to watch this STINKER of a performance
    from ND..

    WE LOOK LIKE AN 8-4 football team this year.. Hope I’m wrong..

  5. I agree with everything above, but I do think we’re overlooking some of the positives:
    – The secondary might be even better than last year; they took away almost all of the deep routes and were blanketing receivers all over the field.
    – The defensive line was as good as everyone thought they’d be.
    – Our running backs are picking right up where Dexter Williams left off.
    – Louisville is so, so much better than they were last year. This wasn’t nearly the embarrassment that some are making it out to be. It’s still a bit hard to talk about it in the office today, but at least we’re not part of the SEC. (Then again, they don’t really have any shame, do they?)
    – The defense made the adjustments necessary after the two opening drives.

    We all know what the challenges for the year will be – a huge talent/experience gap at linebacker, Ian Book getting rattled in the pocket, and a line that’s still struggling against more mobile defenders. I also think we’ve still yet to see what the lack of depth and experience at receiver are going to cost us. We can’t lose sight of the things that the team is doing well.

    • Thank you for bringing some logic to the conversation. Notre Dame did not play well, yet still beat a Power 5 team on the road by 3 scores. It was obvious that this is not the same dumpster fire Louisville team as last year. One thing I would have liked to see was ND’s backup quarterback take over at the end with about 5 minutes to go. The outcome was no longer in doubt, it would have given him some game experience, and it would have protected Book from senseless injury.

  6. Fair observations but it’s also week 1- on the road and on prime time. New coach, raucous crowd (for them) and their players came out juiced up. That’s probably a 6-6 team this year. We’ve come along way when we’re complaining about an 18 point win in such a scenario.
    Saying all that…I do have tremendous concern about Book. He was overwhelmed by the moment against Clemson and the happy feet I saw that day was back last night. Unfortunately, while some praise his athleticism, I actually see him as quite limited. Okay arm, good accuracy on short ball, decent foot speed and elusiveness but nothing great about him at all. Hard to win in this day and age with a QB who’s decent in everything, great in nothing.

    • You do realize Ian Book is 10-1 as a starter and came off the bench to beat an LSU team 19 months ago which doesn’t count in that record even though he won the game? You may think him decent in everything, great in nothing, but I beg to differ. If 91% of the games you start you win, that seems great to me.

      • Book saved our season last year, but Clemson gave us a good idea as to where his ceiling is. Louisville simply confirmed it.

    • Week One in college football reality.
      Ian Book 14/23 193 yards 1 TD and rushed 81 yards
      Trevor Lawrence (Tom Petty) 13/23 169 yards 1 TD 2 Interceptions
      Jake Fromm 15/23 156 yards 1 TD
      Jalen Hurts 20/23 332 yards 3 TD and rushed 176 yards
      The only cause for concern with Ian Book is that he broke a cheerleader’s nose.
      Go Irish!

  7. Of all the top ten teams ND’s win is arguably the least impressive and falls far short of the full spectrum dominance displayed by Clemson, Alabama, Ohio St. & Oklahoma. What’s worse is that Ian Book caught a bad case of Everett Golsonitis with his second year regression, sudden lack of confidence and turnover and mistake prone play.

    Not to worry, though, as Book just said he had the jitters. The fact that a second year quarterback coming off a CFB playoff appearance suffers from “the jitters” doesn’t inspire confidence in him or the season. No other top ten quarterback complained of the jitters as far as I know.

    As others have said I, too, am expecting an embarrassing loss to Georgia. Kelly’s record against ranked teams on the road is abysmal, so the odds aren’t in ND’s favor.

  8. Lets just acknowledge Georgia presents a really big challenge, as it does for any team playing them at home.
    Since the ACC schedule was implemented, we have 1 or 2 or 3 of these types of games each season., and our performance in each defines the entire season.
    Hopefully , ND meets the challenge at Georgia, plays well and gets a win, until then we really have nothing to talk about other than Bob Davies’ health and the Cubs..


    • Unless we figure out the LB position in two weeks, Georgia is going to run the ball all over us and
      it will be ugly!!!