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Instant Reaction: Irish fall to Louisville on Senior Day, 31-28

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Tarean Folston had a monster day on the ground and the team looked improved on both sides of the ball, but the same familiar issues came back to haunt the Irish on Senior Day.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Another Notre Dame game, another special teams error.

This time, it was costly.

Holder Malik Zaire couldn't get a clean hold and Kyle Brindza pushed a game-tying field goal wide right as Notre Dame fell just short to Louisville, 31-28 on Senior Day in South Bend.

The loss marks the first home finale loss under Brian Kelly.

The game started ugly for the Irish on both sides of the ball. The offense drove right down the field but couldn't put the ball in the end zone and settled for a field goal. Louisville responded, driving right down the field for a score by Freshman Louisville QB, Reggie Bonnafon, who would add another score on the ground in addition to his 35 yards rushing on 15 carries.

Offensively, the Irish were Northwestern-bad in the first half. Golson and the Irish offense looked out of sync at times. The lone bright spot in the first half seemed to be running back Tarean Folston, who would end the day with a monster game, rushing 18 times for 134 yards and a score. Despite that, the Irish went into the half down 17-6 without scoring a touchdown.

In a tale of two halves, the Irish came out of the gate in the second half flying, stopping Louisville's zone-read offense in its tracks and forcing the Cardinals to adjust. In return, the Irish offense punched the ball into the end zone with Folston and Golson and the Irish got a lucky bounce for a Will Fuller touchdown. Fuller would again finish with triple digit receiving yards, leaving Irish fans to wonder how he somehow is not on the awards list.

Louisville did end up adjusting though, moving back into a I-formation offense and letting Brandon Radcliff (136 yards rushing on 17 carries and a score) lead the way.

But the Irish defense buckled down after losing LB Nyles Morgan to an ejection penalty. The Irish stopped Louisville late and the Cardinals missed a field goal attempt, giving the Irish the ball back down three.

It just wasn't meant to be.

The Irish have now dropped 4 of their last 5 games, with USC left on the slate.

The defense played relatively well, considering the circumstances

In the first half, the Irish had some problems. But you could actually see the defense improve. After being gashed by Bonnafon's legs on zone read running plays, the Irish defense adjusted and forced some big plays. Also figure that the defense at one point had NINE Freshmen on the field on offense and defense. NINE! With the sheer amount of youth on the field, it's all the more impressive that they kept Bonnafon in check in the 2nd half and held star Wide Receiver Devante Parker in check (4 catches for 65 yards and a score). It was a collection of errors that resulted in the loss today, but the team looked improved defensively. Next man in is in full effect on the defense, as Jones and Riggs were lost to injury today too, with their prognosis unknown.

That said, Nyles Morgan was a liability

I'm not one to signal out players unless it's clearly awesome or REALLY bad play. Morgan was unfortunately the latter. He struggled to get off blocks in the running game, was miserable in pass coverage and was eventually tossed for launching himself headfirst at Bonnafon on a 3rd and 10 that the Irish clearly needed to stop Louisville on.  He is a young player with obviously an insane amount of talent and I am a huge fan of his, but today is one of those games that he'll hopefully learn from.

The Irish Running Game should've been employed earlier and more often

Despite the Irish ground game's struggles, Tarean Folston's legs were clearly working. 18 carries for 134 yards and a score were impressive numbers and it gave a lot of relief to a struggling Everett Golson. Folston clearly established himself as the feature back early in the season, but for some reason, Brian Kelly keeps falling back to a hybrid set of plays that involve everything from a shovel pass to Koyack to the never-working WR Sweep. I was (and to a degree still am) pretty bullish on Golson, but the guy needs help. Folston is clearly capable of serving the Mr. Reliable role that people were expecting out of Cam McDaniel. It's just up to the staff to realize that.

Special Teams were special today, and still fell short when the team need them the most

As I leave the in-depth analysis to Punter Bro, I'll skim the surface and say that the Irish played very well in the Special Teams department. Greg Bryant (remember him?) almost ran a punt all the way back (and deserved the score but that's just my opinion), Amir Carlisle had some nice returns on kickoffs and Brindza was the touchback king today. I mentioned last week how the switch from Smith to Zaire was foolish and this was yet another example. Despite being solid all day holding the football, Zaire couldn't get the snap down at the end of the game, causing Brindza to push the ball to the right, giving Louisville the win.