Notre Dame came away a winner on the road against Louisville Monday night, but it the victory wasn’t without some concerning elements for the Fighting Irish.
Louisville, on the other hand, has some positive things to take away from the tough loss at home. The final score was 35-17 in favor of Brian Kelly’s squad, but the Cardinals kept it much closer than anyone anticipated.
These are the top takeaways from Monday night’s college football action.
Notre Dame doesn’t look like the No. 9 team in the nation
It wasn’t surprising that the Fighting Irish were ranked No. 9 overall entering the season. But on Monday night against Louisville, Notre Dame looked, quite frankly, really bad for the first half of the game.
Defensively, Notre Dame was gashed on the ground early as the front line got pushed off the line while linebackers and safeties attacked from poor angles. Granted, this unit stiffened up as the game wore on, but in no way was it a dominant performance.
Offensively, the offensive line struggled to keep Ian Book comfortable in the pocket, and the team converted just 5-of-12 third downs. Things picked up late and that’s a positive takeaway. Yet overall it just was not the way Brian Kelly wanted to see his team playing in the season opener.
Louisville rejuvenated under leadership of Scott Satterfield
During the 2018 season, the Louisville Cardinals were a dried-up husk of a football program under Bobby Petrino. They went 2-8 with Petrino and then lost both of their final two games with interim coach Lorenzo Ward at the helm. Opponents averaged 44.1 points per game against the Cardinals, which was the third-worst mark in the FBS.
Clearly, this program is revitalized now that Scott Satterfield has taken over. From the early moments in Monday night’s game, it was evident that this year’s team is bringing some juice to each and every play. The most stark improvement was just seeing the Louisville defense flying to the ball and not backing down an inch going against the Fighting Irish.
A loss is a loss. Yet Monday night’s loss was one the Cardinals could at least say had nothing to do with a lack of effort.
Chase Claypool is a tough cover
Last year, Claypool showed a bit of his potential, catching 50 passes for 639 yards and four touchdowns. On Monday night, Claypool was clearly the best receiver on the field for the Fighting Irish.
The 6-foot-4, 229-pounder possesses an outstanding blend of size and athleticism, and he put it on display with some big-time runs after the catch. All told, the senior receiver hauled in five passes for 94 yards, totaling nearly half of Notre Dame’s yardage through the air.
Jawon Pass has to get a handle on the ball
The Cardinals had a real shot to stay close to Notre Dame late in the second quarter and into the third. But quarterback Jawon Pass got a horrible case of butterfingers, fumbling the ball three times — including twice in a row on consecutive possessions.
Overall, Pass had a rough night from the pocket, completing just 12-of-27 passes for 134 yards. Yet the Cardinals had some solid momentum with a very strong run game. Unfortunately, Pass’ turnovers gave Notre Dame’s defense much-needed life. Simply put, the senior quarterback has to get a handle on this or all the other positive stuff Louisville’s offense is doing will be moot.