After being idle last week, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish will play their home opener this weekend against the New Mexico Lobos. If you’re a Notre Dame fan, you have to admit, the first game of the season didn’t exactly go as we thought it would.
I know I know. The Irish are 1-0 on the season after a 35-17 win on the road against the Louisville Cardinals. Still. Notre Dame went into the locker room up only 21-14 at the half.
Quarterback Ian Book had a fumble and looked sloppy at times during that first half. They didn’t play lockdown defense as many fans were expecting. Yes, a win is a win. But after all the hype this summer, fans were expecting more. What should they think before this weekend’s game? First of all, let’s look at the situation for what it is. The Louisville Cardinals are a Division 1 school in a legitimate conference. They aren’t the same team they were last season. There have been huge improvements on both sides of the ball.
Notre Dame went on the road and won. On offense, the Irish picked up a total of 423 yards. They had 18 first downs in the contest, moving the chains on five of 12 third-down opportunities. As a team, Notre Dame ran the ball for over five yards per carry.
No, he didn’t have a huge passing game, but quarterback Ian Book did what he needed to. He completed 14 of 23 passing attempts for 193 yards and a passing touchdown. He ran the ball 14 times, galloping for 37 yards on one of them. Book ran the ball for 81 yards, including a rushing touchdown. He’s not at Notre Dame to win a Heisman. He’s there to win ball games. The Irish did just that.
Tony Jones Jr. was the leading rusher for the Irish. On 15 carries, the kid was able to run for a buck ten with a touchdown. Keep your eyes open this week for RB Jahmir Smith. He only had 24 yards on eight carries against the Cardinals, but he was able to find the end zone twice.
Chase Claypool was the leading receiver for Book and the Irish, hauling in five receptions for 94 yards. New Mexico struggled to defend the pass against Sam Houston State, giving up 443 passing yards. I look for Claypool to have a big game Saturday against the Lobo’s weak secondary.
I think one of the biggest surprises of the Louisville game was the play of Notre Dame’s defense. They gave up 383 total yards and the Cardinals were able to average over five yards per carry. That being said, the Irish looked much better in the second half, only giving up three points.
Safety Alohi Gilman led the squad with 10 tackles. Kurt Hinish, Daelin Hayes, Julian Okwara, and Drew White each had a sack. Notre Dame was able to recover three fumbles in the game. They limited Louisville to 134 passing yards on 12 of 28 attempts.
All of this being said, what can we expect out of the Irish this week at home?
Notre Dame comes into this one winning their previous 10 games at home. For those who enjoy putting a few dollars on the game, they are 34.5 point favorites with the total being set at 64 points.
I’m not big on that point spread. Yes, Notre Dame needs to be pounding every team they play by as many points as they can if they want to make the College Football Playoffs this season. Other than next week’s game at Georgia, the Irish don’t exactly have the toughest schedule. This needs to be demonstrated in the scores.
That’s simply not Notre Dame’s style, though. They have no problem moving on to the second string as soon as they’ve reached a comfortable lead.
The defense should be over any nervous jitters they may have had in Louisville. They simply play better when there’s a leprechaun running around the stadium. To be honest, I’ll be shocked it the Lobos find the endzone in the first half.
New Mexico threw the ball for 340 total yards in the only game they’ve played this year. For the record, it was against Sam Houston State. They’re don’t exactly play at the same level Notre Dame’s defense does. Look for Alohi Gilman to have a ton of tackles again this week, maybe even an interception or two.
Overall, I look for us to see more of what we expect out of Notre Dame this Saturday. Tony Jones Jr. is going to rack up rushing yards. Book is going to have an impressive game throwing the ball. This will be their last game before they head to Athens. I won’t be surprised if they’re close to perfect this week.