#9 Notre Dame (1-0) defeated Louisville (0-1) 35-17 on Monday night, but in the process, they’ve earned respect for playing with a lot of effort against a team fresh off a College Football Playoff appearance.
Let’s rewind and review Louisville’s effort against Notre Dame in the season opener.
For our report card, we look at some of the key matchups highlighted in the Notre Dame preview last week.
U of L OL v. Notre Dame DL: B+
With how bad 2018 ended up becoming, Louisville football’s first season with head coach Scott Satterfield is actually more of a “year-zero” scenario. What I mean by that is that the bar was set so low based on how much of a disaster 2018 was, that any semblance of good football or good effort would be a step in the right direction.
When I first reviewed the keys to this game, this was the one that stood out the most for two reasons: (1) U of L’s new offense is going to run the ball a lot in many different ways, and (2) their first opponent is not only coming off a College Football Playoff appearance, but also has a solid edge rush duo in Julian Okwara and Khalid Kareem.
If I said that Louisville would have 249 rushing yards on 5.3 yards per carry against them, and then outrush Notre Dame (even by 19 yards), most would have said I was crazy. But it happened. Louisville had a lot of success keeping Notre Dame off-balance with its zone running scheme, and along with that, threw a different wrinkle with Jawon Pass becoming a significant part of the rushing attack.
The only thing that keeps this from being an A is pass protection, and that Notre Dame kept Louisville’s running game in check for most of the second half. The Cards allowed four sacks (most of which took place in the second half), and weren’t able to sustain many drives in the second half. But overall, this was a solid showing by Louisville’s offensive line, especially Mekhi Becton and Tyler Haycraft. The tackle duo combined to allow only four total QB pressures with no sacks allowed.
Notre Dame Running Game v. U of L Front Seven: B-
Allowing 230 rushing yards on 5.5 yards per carry isn’t necessarily ideal, but a good chunk of those yards came on Ian Book scrambles. Book has great elusiveness when he gets out of the pocket, and usually has no problem carrying it himself if he doesn’t see an open receiver.
And he did that last night, as Book had 81 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Tony Jones, Jr. had 110 rushing yards as well, but the reason for this grade was because of how much better they looked versus ’18. They made key stops to keep Louisville in the mix throughout the game, and for the first time since 2017, there was actually a presence in the pass rush. Louisville got three sacks in the game, which is already more than 25% of the way to last year’s total of 11 sacks.
Considering the caliber of opponent and the running backs that Notre Dame has, this is still a solid grade for the Cards front seven.
WR1 v. CB1: C-
This will be more reflective on Louisville’s passing game, which wasn’t the best on Monday night. Jawon Pass completed 12-of-27 passes for 134 yards, but he didn’t throw an interception to Notre Dame.
Louisville’s passing game was held back by off-target throws and dropped balls throughout the night, but due to this being game one of the new season, it’s uncertain whether Notre Dame’s coverage is going to be that good, or if Louisville’s passing game is not that great. We’ll likely know by the Western Kentucky game what Louisville has in its passing game in 2019.
I did make mention that Jawon Pass needed a reliable guy that he can get the ball to, and the only one that was able to was Tutu Atwell. Atwell led the team with five receptions for 47 yards, but had a few opportunities missed. Seth Dawkins and Dez Fitzpatrick had only one catch each, and Scott Satterfield made it clear he wants to get them the ball more often.
“We got some guys on the outside who are good players,” Satterfield said. “Tutu (Atwell), (Dez) Fitz(Patrick), and Seth (Dawkins), we have to get those guys the ball.”