It certainly didn’t go as easily as many expected it would, but in the end, No. 9 Notre Dame was able to dispose of Louisville rather comfortably in its season-opener, winning 35-17 on Monday night in Cardinal Stadium.Louisville, in its first game under new coach Scott Satterfield, came out hot and playing well. The Cardinals took a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter, but wouldn’t hold it for long. Notre Dame would score four minutes later to tie it at the end of the first, and then the Irish’s talent advantage slowly won out over the final 45 minutes of play by outscoring the Cardinals 21-3.The Irish offense was led by Tony Jones Jr., who rushed for 112 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Chase Claypool caught five passes for 94 yards. QB Ian Book got off to a slow start but finished with a nice line, passing for 193 yards, rushing for 81 and finishing with two total touchdowns.Louisville’s Jawon Pass finished with 134 yards passing, 67 yards rushing and two total touchdowns.Here are the three main takeaways from this one.1. Notre Dame looks like it will be able to run the football. Book had a difficult time finding a rhythm in this game early, and the truth is, he never truly found it. He finished with 193 yards passing after completing only 14 of his 23 pass attempts. Fortunately for the Irish, they didn’t need to move the ball through the air in this one.
Notre Dame finished with 232 yards rushing on 42 attempts for an average of 5.5 yards per carry. If you take out sack yardage, that average jumps to 6.3 yards per carry. Jones and his 112 yards led the way, and Book finished with 81, but Jahmir Smith had two touchdowns rushing as well. Notre Dame also had nine carries of at least 10 yards, with two over 30. All of which bodes well for the Irish moving forward, particularly against an offensive line that should be good. That line did struggle a bit, however, but that’s not atypical for an opening game.2. But will the Irish be able to stop the run? As well as the Irish were able to run the ball, they didn’t do a great job of stopping it. Louisville finished with 249 yards rushing, averaging 5.3 yards per carry. Louisville’s average spikes to 6.4 yards per carry when removing sack yardage, and the Irish defense was bleeding big plays in the run game as well.If you think Notre Dame’s nine runs of 10+ yards on 42 carries (21.4 percent) was a lot, Louisville had 12 such runs on 47 attempts (25.5 percent). It didn’t hurt Notre Dame tonight, and odds are it won’t hurt in next week’s home opener against New Mexico, but the Irish head to Athens in two weeks. If the run defense isn’t sorted out by then, it could be a very long day against the Bulldogs.3. Even in the loss, Louisville looks like a much better team in 2019. To be blunt, Louisville quit on Bobby Petrino over the second half of last season because it was apparent that he’d already quit on them. That led to a lot of lopsided losses to finish the year and a 2-10 record. Well, there’s a new coaching staff in town, and the change was evident right from the start.
I don’t know how many more games this team is going to win under Satterfield in 2019, but there was an energy and a determination in the Cardinals on Monday night that was nowhere to be found last year. In the end, they didn’t have enough to compete with the Irish, but Notre Dame’s a top 10 team, and not many can. In an ACC that’s pretty open after Clemson, however, this is a team that could suddenly be more dangerous than anybody anticipated.They’ll have to clean things up a bit, though. The Cardinals turned the ball over three times on Monday night, and that doesn’t include the other two fumbles they were able to get back on top of. It’s hard to beat anybody when you’re dropping the ball five times in a game, let alone a top 10 team. Still, if this had happened last year, it would have been a result of a team that didn’t care. That wasn’t the case on Monday.Thanks for stopping by.