This is post is from our intern Jameson Ondrof. Amazed he was able to do this between getting us coffees all day.
There are a few constant truths to life as a Notre Dame fan. Death, taxes, and dissatisfaction with anything less than a perfect season. While this pursuit of perfection is something I hope the Notre Dame community never abandons, some of the side effects are over-the-top, especially when a loss occurs early in the season.
Take, for example, some of the social media reactions that rolled across my feed last night. “All I’ve ever wanted in life is a competent Notre Dame team. Life isn’t fair.” Or another post that insinuates that all the individual wanted for Christmas was for the university to fire Brian Kelly.
Given those reactions, someone who hadn’t watched the game would be forgiven for thinking that Georgia had beaten Notre Dame by three touchdowns, while in fact it was a single point that separated us from one of the top-15 teams in the country.
I’d argue that was one of the most competent performances that Notre Dame has given since the 2015 season, especially on defense. Notre Dame fans saw a team that didn’t back down from a challenge, that was willing to battle in the trenches, yet ultimately was unable to make a couple of plays that would have led to winning an important football game.
As deflating as that was, there is still plenty of regular season in front of the team, and it goes without saying that everything from a New Years Six bowl (hopeful, I know), to a berth in the CFB playoff (dreams are what makes life worth living) are still in play. The key is how the team reacts over the next few weeks, and this stretch of the season is where we’ll see if Brian Kelly is actually the kind of coach that can win a National Championship at Notre Dame.
Convincing wins against Boston College, Michigan State, Miami (OH), and UNC in the run up to another huge game against USC would signify that the team is buying into the changes and the program still has room to progress under his guidance. Two weeks into the season is too early to be calling a season a failure or success (see: USC Trojans, 2016 version). Let’s let Brian Kelly do his job and revisit this space in January.
Now for a few observations regarding the game last night:
1. The Irish defense gave the kind of inspired performance that hasn’t been seen since 2015, if not earlier. Limiting Nick Chubb and Sony Michel to a combined 136 yards on 26 carries is something I wouldn’t have thought possible last January. Additionally, two sacks and six tackles for loss show a team that is playing more loose and aggressive than at any point in the last year and a half.
2. Josh Adams is going to have a year to remember. Whatever offense the Irish were able to generate last night flowed through him, with 19 carries and 6 receptions. Against teams with lesser talent levels (see: everyone on the schedule with the possible exception of USC), he’ll have enough room to work that I wouldn’t be surprised if he has some Doak Walker award buzz at the end of the season.
3. So much for the offensive line being the true strength of this team. The inability of the line to generate a push in the run game, nor protect Wimbush in the passing game led to much of ND’s offensive woes. This was best encapsulated on the final offensive snap of the night, where Mike McGlinchey, a consensus pre-season All-American at left tackle, whiffed on his block and allowed Wimbush to be hit as he was winding up to throw. Those were the kind of plays that made the difference in the game, rather than overall strategic coaching errors.
4. That being said, the one coaching nitpick I had was abandoning the run game between the tackles. We started to rely on the screen pass to slow down Georgia’s pass rush, with limited success. By not making Georgia put hats on hats throughout the game, the amount of energy the Georgia defensive line had left at the end of the game was noticeable and led to the big plays that tipped the game in their favor.
5. Chris Finke needs to attend the John Goodman School of Fair Catching.
6. Wimbush looked better than his 19 of 39 stat line indicated. The wide receiving corps dropped a number of balls that were catchable, and failed to get separation in time for Wimbush to get the ball out to them on other occasions. Beyond Equanimeous St. Brown, I’m struggling to see anyone who will keep defenses honest at this point in the season.
Go Irish, Beat Eagles.