I hate to say it but this feels very familiar. Notre Dame with a huge chance to make a statement. To show the country they’ve arrived and are not to be taken lightly. Everything was aligning for this team and after an amazing week with Gameday in town, there was some great energy going around. Only for all hopes and dreams to be shattered in three quick hours. They were so close but in the end, it wasn’t enough.
There’s a lot to dissect after this matchup. Not only that but some major red flags need to be addressed. The most annoying part about it is, that the reason you lost is different than previous losses like this. It didn’t feel like Notre Dame was outmatched. It felt like they didn’t play to the level they know they can play and they let it slip away. Even more frustrating is that it was in multiple facets of the game where the issues arose and not just with players.
You have the guys, use them.
I’ve been saying all season that my favorite part of this offensive unit is its ability to change its approach drive to drive. All year when something stopped working they’ve been able to stay balanced and change on the fly. As the game went along last night, it was obvious that wouldn’t be the case and Notre Dame was going to mostly stick to the run. They were going to try and wear Ohio State down and grind them out in the end. That approach was working until the clocks hit 0:00 and they’d lost. After getting blanked in the first half I thought they may come out and open it up a bit more. I thought both teams were going to, to be honest. But Notre Dame kept it on the ground. My issue with it is, that you have Sam Hartman. Not only that but you have receivers capable of making plays downfield. They chose not to use them and it cost them in the end. The issue with a running clock is that it makes having multiple 13+ play drives a weakness. You’re getting fewer scoring chances and forcing yourself to have to score on a higher percentage of your drives to keep up.
I’m not saying the running backs or offensive line were bad. They had a great game in a lot of ways, and they had the ball with the chance to put it away. They just couldn’t do it and now you look at the gameplan as a whole as a failure. Ironically when they did try something on the final drive it almost led to a pick and saved the Buckeyes a timeout. Without that timeout at the end, the clock would have run out on them. It all points to coaching. The players put it all out there offensively but the gameplan gave them less wiggle room and in the end, it cost them.
Ten men twice.
I’ll get to the back-to-back plays at the end when the Irish defense decided 11v11 was too easy. But first I think that the final play and final drive for that matter, are a microcosm of the entire game for this defense. They had moments to put it away and just couldn’t do it. Sloppy tackling, bad coaching, and miscommunications in the secondary will not add up to a W against the Buckeyes. First off the tackling has to improve on all levels. This team is one of the worst in the nation in missed tackles and that continued last night. Players were in position multiple times to make big plays but ended up on the ground watching someone go right past them. This unit also needs to get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. I was dismissing it early on due to games against Navy and mobile quarterbacks but after last night there is no excuse. If you give them time to sit, it gives a receiver time to find an open spot. The times they did get to McCord, he looked like exactly what he is - an average quarterback. Whenever he had time, it gave the receivers time to run around and find an open spot.
While the pressure wasn’t getting there from the d-line, the defensive backs were one of my biggest pain points this whole game. It didn’t matter how good the receivers for Ohio State were, you couldn’t tell because with every pass they caught they seemed to be wide open. Pass coverage breakdowns like that cannot happen against teams like the Buckeyes. You have to be disciplined and know your assignment. The 3rd and 19 at the end of the game was infuriating. You allowed McCord to hit an open receiver underneath for exactly what they needed. I didn’t like sitting back and rushing three, which is on coaching, which leads to my final issue.
Skip any issue we had with the playcalling on defense. Anything at all you can think of just drop it. You’re at 2nd and goal from the 1 yd line, seven seconds left, against Ohio State, top ten matchup and you have ten players on the field? Not once but twice, coming out of a timeout. There are no two ways to slice it, that’s a fireable offense in my book. There were no down linemen on the left side Ohio State scored on, on the final play. If you don’t think at least one guy there could’ve held back that run that barely broke the plane, you’re crazy. You get paid big money to make sure that sort of thing doesn’t happen and it happened on back-to-back plays. Back-to-back plays that could define the rest of your season.
I was mistaken when I said this felt familiar. Falling short again and all that, yes it does still feel the same. But this one feels slightly more annoying. This isn’t a result/game you look back at and say “Well they were just better.” Marcus said it after the game when he said they did not play their best. I entirely agree, except I would say they didn’t coach their best. I’m normally of the line of thinking that there is plenty of blame to go around, players and coaches. While the players were not perfect, I feel in this game coaching let them down. Which is disappointing because despite what happened in the end, this team has a lot of talent. We’ll see how they bounce back against a Duke team who will be ready.