Everything going into today screamed trap game. A Peacock broadcast, a MAC opponent, and a week before a huge matchup with Ohio State. It was enough to give any seasoned Irish fan the creeps. I was confident going in; Based on the season so far, thought Notre Dame was going to be able to handle the situation without much issue.
For the first half and some change, it felt like that may not be the case. Some of us may have even started to have some flashbacks. Lucky for us this Irish squad is proving week by week that they may be different than what we are used to. Obviously a 41-17 victory over Central Michigan isn’t something to write home about. But considering how trap games like this have made the Irish look in the past, I think we can be satisfied with this outcome.
The reason this game was anywhere as close to what it was is primarily because the defense was still getting to the stadium when the game kicked off. They were unfocused and undisciplined against an offense and a backup quarterback they should have been able to overwhelm entirely. They allowed Central Michigan 160 yds in the first half, that’s only 59 yards short of their game total of 260 allowed by Michigan State in week one. Missed tackles, penalties, and overall sloppy play were all things that reared their ugly heads in the first half.
The absence of JD Bertrand was felt in the middle as the Chippewas were able to gash the Irish on multiple occasions. The defensive line was struggling to get much penetration and the linebackers were poor in support. It was very frustrating to watch, and something we hadn’t seen much of from this unit so far this year. While they didn’t necessarily get carved up through the air, the defensive backs were also less than spectacular against a backup quarterback in the first half.
After their pregame meal and warm-ups wrapped up during halftime, they decided to show up. They did allow another field goal, but for the most part, locked down in the second half. In the end, they only gave up 268 yds. Central Michigan’s second-half drives consisted of 4 plays for 22 yards, 12 plays for 50 yards (the field goal drive), 3 plays for 5 yards, 3 plays for 4 yards, and 3 plays for 7 yards. That is how this unit can play, and finally decided to do so after playing around for two quarters. All in all, my level of concern for the defense isn’t high. While the first half had me slightly worried, it felt more like the team was out of sorts as opposed to having actual issues. The second half calmed my concerns and reaffirmed my belief they just needed to wake up. They don’t have the luxury of doing that going forward, but I don’t foresee that as an ongoing issue as of now.
Just do you.
I love watching this offense. It’s fun watching an offensive game plan that works so well with the personnel they have in place. Not just in one game either, but in every game so far this season. When one aspect of this unit isn’t clicking, the other can pick up the slack. It hasn’t always been perfect, but that’s what I like so much. Whenever it feels like they’re starting to spin their wheels, they’re able to switch to another gear seamlessly and continue on. Even better, wherever they turn to they have weapons. It’s a nice change of pace, and what’s happening down at Alabama may show why this unit feels so different now.
The big play capability of his offense has to be the most fun part, at least for me. Notre Dame has had this ability before, but mostly in the run game. It’s been a while since we’ve had it in the pass game too. A dude a quarterback, skill and depth at the wideout positions, and an offensive coordinator hitting the right buttons (so far), are all a recipe for success. The Irish had four plays over 35 yards in the air (39,42,75,76), which is not something we are accustomed to seeing from this team. Especially when each of those receptions was by a different player. The pressure on Hartman today is one thing I didn’t like to see but, I trust this offensive line will be able to clean that up. They need to make sure they do, as they can’t afford to have Hartman hit like that going forward.
While the passing game had some fireworks. There were times in the second half when the offense felt like it was going to hit a wall. Good thing they got that Big ‘Dric Energy, as they were able to ride that (literally) all the way to a comfortable victory. Estime set his single-game best with 176 yards on 20 carries. That was an average of 8.8 yards per carry. In any other season, he is so good I feel like he’d be overly relied on. This year he works so well into this offensive scheme. Just think - after working to get behind you covered, you then realize you have to stop this freight train coming to run (or jump) over you and he’s going to keep going with no problem. And they’ll just keep feeding him, which is demoralizing to a defense.
In any other season, I’d say we’re lucky to have any one of these position groups. So far this season they all have given me reason to be excited. If they can continue this trend, it’s exactly what has been missing in seasons prior from this team. A offensive unit that can hit you from any angle, and hit you hard at that.
Here we go.
The easy part is done. Nothing we’ve seen or said the last four weeks matters at all going forward. This is where we are going to learn what this team is truly all about. The next month especially is going to be a great test for this team. If I’m being honest I feel good looking ahead. If you look around the nation after yesterday’s games, there are a lot of teams who’ve shown weakness in the first quarter of this season. Notre Dame has had its moments but has mostly taken care of business. I’m excited for this season to kick into gear, and it all starts in South Bend on Saturday night.