Saturday provided an interesting game again for us Notre Dame Fighting Irish fans. It’s like Rollercoaster Tycoon, except we wouldn’t have as many ups and downs built into the plan of the theme park. Once again, I and many other Irish fans, were left scared out of their wits that a team that is less talented could potentially come into Notre Dame Stadium and defeat the Irish. It is nothing short of maddening to watch, especially because we see the talent that the Irish have. They should be producing better.
Here are three of my takeaways from the game against the Vanderbilt Commodores (Fighting Jay Cutlers) that happened on Saturday afternoon.
Three Things to Take Away
Just pick a quarterback.
Part of the issue with the game on Saturday was the gameplan. When it seemed that there was a rhythm to the offense with Brandon Wimbush at the helm, here comes Ian Book. Now, I know Kelly likes to talk about putting Book into the game in the “blue zone” offense (whatever that actually means). However, after Book threw that touchdown pass in the 4th quarter to Nic Weishar, there was a change of quarterbacks twice in the confusion and timeouts leading to that failed 2 point conversion attempt.
On that 4th quarter TD drive, Book came into the game after Wimbush led them down the field. Again, Brandon Wimbush is very far from incredible. But, as far as comparing him to the rest of the season, he played more like he did against Michigan and less how he played against Ball State. No turnovers, and he led the team down the field on both touchdown drives. Short passes were crisper and well-executed (minus those bubble screens, the worst play in any playbook). He improved.
The switching of quarterbacks, whether there actually is a rhyme or reason to is, is infuriating. Chip Long and Brian Kelly need to keep consistency and pick one QB. It messes with rhythm and confidence of the players if you keep switiching them out. As for now, I believe sticking with Wimbush makes more sense, as we can’t run drives just on 4-5 yard screens and fades from Book. To me, there aren’t enough positives for Book to put him in as the starter. He can obviously come into the game if Brandon makes mistakes like he did against Ball State, but I would want one decision to keep him in as the quarterback. The coaching staff did not provide the best gameplan to continue to score points in the second half.
This 3-0 record is confusing.
This takeaway is not news. However, I was sitting in the stands at the end of the game, pondering the issues that were at hand, but also grappling with the way that the Irish were still undefeated and still a Top 10 team in the nation.
Playing to the opponent/hype of a game is not something I like to see, but clearly that has been happening. 23-ish points per game is probably not going to sustain the team through the next few weeks. I am ecstatic that they are 3-0 considering I’ve seen every combination of record from the first three games of seasons, and I’ve seen so many outcomes from the games about those different records. 3 wins and no losses feels awesome especially after Wisconsin lost at home to a then-unranked team (now BYU is #25). The whole situation of the season gives me concern, but we have been better than all three opponents. That probably isn’t good enough for some of our next few games, but maybe taking this one week at a time is something necessary.
The defense (overall) should be applauded.
I do not love the “bend, but don’t break” defense because it scares the living hell out of me. This is especially the case when we play a team in Vandy just looking to score points and play the spoiler. However, the defense is still only giving up just shy of 17 points per game. They are doing their job.
The defensive line continues to provide pressure. The secondary has done well, too. Alohi Gilman has been great in pass breakups (and that isn’t even counting the ridiculously awesome and wacky fumble-touchback that he forced). Julian Love also just is a menace out there as a defensive back with his pass breakups. In times when we needed them to step up, they have immensely. They have been an overall bright spot and continue to be. We have to have that offensive clicking as well so we don’t have to rely on them too much.