Written by: Joseph Mooney
After a sloppy underwhelming first game against the Louisville Cardinals, the Irish will look to take what they learned from their 35-17 victory and look forward to Week Two. Brian Kelly did all he had to do down in Lexington: survive and advance. The biggest takeaway from Notre Dame’s matchup against the Cardinals was simple: Brian Kelly can coach. His ability to make adjustments and then place them into effect was amazing, it was two completely different teams from the first half and the second half on Monday night. Let’s dive into how each position ranks after the game.
You can simply say Notre Dame didn’t look like a top-10 team on Monday night. Ian Book looked like pregame jitters and high expectations surrounding this Irish team were impacting him early in the game. The biggest question all off-season, the ground attack, was well-answered thanks to Tony Jones, Jr. While they did survive, Notre Dame needs to make huge adjustments on both sides of the ball before facing Georgia.
Let’s be honest, Ian Book played one of his worst games ever in a Notre Dame uniform. Other than his inability to convert on key downs, Book caused to create too many unacceptable turnovers. His lack to diagnose a defense during pre-snap created great problems for Notre Dame in the passing game. The offense kept getting chances to blow the doors open on this game but never could reach this level of expectation. Louisville was a good learning point for the senior quarterback. Simply put, he must play better if he wants to reach the team’s goal.
The biggest question all offseason for the Irish offense was how they were going to replace Dexter Williams? That was answered on Monday night, as the running game was in full effect. Tony Jones Jr and Jahmir Smith showed the nation that Notre Dame’s rushing attack is in good hands, as he recorded three touchdowns and 134 rushing yards combined on the night.
Wide Receiver/Tight End:
With limited passing attempts, it’s hard to get a clear judgment of anyone on the receiving core other than Chase Claypool. Yes, Claypool showed his dominance over the rest of the young talented team. That said, in the opportunities that other receivers were granted, some like Tommy Tremble and Jafar Armstrong took advantage of every one.
The first half of the game was bad for the offensive line. They were unable to control the rush presented by the Cardinals. As the game went on, the unit got better as a whole. As the Irish wrapped this game up, it was clear the offensive line was flowing together. This is another thing the coaching staff has address prior to their matchup against Georgia.
Just like the offense, the first half (mainly the first few drives of Louisville) were hard to watch. The defense gave a sub-par Cardinals offense whatever they wanted in the first quarter and found themselves trailing at one point in this game. As previously mentioned, Brian Kelly’s ability to coach was phenomenal in this game, because this defense went from one who couldn’t control the run to a team that dominated the entire second half. Credit is also due to a defense that created many opportunities for their offense by forcing multiple turnovers.
As many predicted throughout the off-season, the defensive line was the backbone for this team. The defensive front struggled early, failing to control the run game or create a constant pressure for the Cardinal offense. As the game progressed, the defensive line tightened up, rallied together, and made the correct adjustments to finish out the game perfectly.
Monday night’s game showed that this Irish team lost a lot of talent on defense this off-season. Physically it was very similar in size and power; mentally, you can see the set back of football IQ and experience-wise. Other than Drew White and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, there wasn’t much depth on display.
Like every other defensive group, replacing stars such as Julian Love isn’t going to be easy. The young group of players is set to show the nation how wrong they are about their size, speed, and talent. A group led by seniors, Shaun Crawford, and Jalen Elliot will look for support from freshman Kyle Hamilton to dominate some of the nation’s top offenses this season.
Basically, they’re receiving the best grade because they made the least amount of mistakes. Every chance they were given was successfully converted. The new placekicker, Jonathan Doerer, went 5-for-5 on extra-point attempts, while Jay Bramblett punted the ball decently, averaging 39 yards per punt. Nothing too flashy from this unit on the night just took care of business.