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What does Notre Dame do now with the loss of Jafar Armstrong?

It’s like someone just kicked me in the groin.

notre dame football jafar armstrong Mike Miller/One Foot Down

After struggling in different ways in a 35-17 win over the Louisville Cardinals, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish got some bad news that will affect a large portion of the season. Jafar Armstrong left the game early on Monday night with an apparent groin injury, and on Wednesday, the extent of that injury became clearer.

Take a deep breath.

There is absolutely no spin available that softens this news. For all of those yelling “NEXT MAN UP,” well that’s nice and all but completely off base from the actual situation at hand.

Regardless of depth charts and what have you, Jafar was RB1 and a lot of what Notre Dame wanted to do on offense revolved around Armstrong running the ball, and coming out of the backfield as a receiver. This was clearly evident Monday night as so much of what was worked on in the spring and in fall camp went largely unseen from a schematic standpoint.

What’s important now isn’t what the Notre Dame offense is lacking, but what the other running backs have to offer — because they’re going to need to play.

Tony Jones Jr. had himself a game against Louisville, but I still have my doubts that he can carry the offensive backfield for the next two months. Jahmir Smith showed a lot with his tough runs on Monday, but there is still a real lack of explosion and playmaking ability in the passing game. Kyren Williams seems like a good option, but the last time we saw him he was hearing footsteps on a flare route. C’Bo Flemister is another option, but there is very little to feel confident about with his lack of playing time.

Many thought that Ian Book was going to need to carry this offense on his shoulders if the Irish were going to have a successful year, but a shaky game against Louisville has cast many doubts. As the injury list grows longer at the offensive skill positions, Book’s target list of receivers has grown shorter.

There are no clear answers, and even fuzzy answers need a “remains healthy” tag next to it. In my opinion, Notre Dame is going to have to rely even more on their passing game, and that means a major improvement from Ian Book is needed. There are enough guys there to make it work, but the dynamics involved are now a lot more complicated. Chip Long and Brian Kelly have a lot to figure out here, and I can’t say for certain how that’s going to go.