Where #7 Notre Dame Must Improve when they Travel to #3 Georgia


For both #7 Notre Dame and #3 Georgia, Saturday’s opponents served as mere warm-ups for the potentially playoff eliminating game next week. ND throttled New Mexico 66-14 in a game that, if it were on the high school level, would have employed a running clock for much of it.

ND’s 66 points were the most they have scored in a home opener since they defeated Haskell (now the Haskell Indian Nations University located in Lawrence, Kansas) 73-0 way back in 1932 (when they were coached by Hunk Anderson). As for Georgia, they absolutely whomped Arkansas State 55-0, in a game that was essentially a glorified pregame walk-through for next week.

That 1932 Fighting Irish team compiled a 7–2 record and outscored their opponents by a total of 255 to 31 by the way.

Notre Dame starting quarterback Ian Book went 15-24 passing for 360 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. He joined Brady Quinn, Deshone Kizer, Jimmy Clausen and Tom Rees (then known as Tommy Rees) as Irish quarterbacks to toss five touchdown passes in a single game.

It is worth noting though that two of Book’s TD passes came off shovel screens that were thrown just barely forward enough to qualify as a pass.

Also, a third TD toss came on another short pass, which Javon McKinley turned into a beautiful 65 yard touchdown play, featuring a spin move that was overflowing with YACs (yards-after-catch), and five missed tackles by the opposing New Mexico defense.

“Obviously it feels good cuz it’s considered a pass, but I would be just as excited if it were considered a run,” book said of the play’s classification and the generosity it gives to his stat line.

“I would still run down there and celebrate with the team.”

McKinley finished with two catches, both for touchdowns, and 85 yards receiving. WR1 Chase Claypool put up a 4-96-1.

That said, on to Georgia now


“It’s going to be a hostile environment,” said Book of the heavyweight title clash next week.

“We talk about a road warrior mindset- that’s what it’s going to take. We’ve been talking about that (game) since the season began.”

Yes, going to Athens will provide a huge test, and that said, we see four obvious areas with definite room for improvement.

“Certainly the competition will be ratcheted up,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said in postgame.

ian book notre dame

Got to start faster

“I think we started slow, but we picked it up when we needed it,” said Book in post-game. The first couple of series, on both sides of the ball, were more or less pretty competitive today. However, it wasn’t long before ND started to pull away and the momentum shift began with 5-star freshman safety Kyle Hamilton getting a 34 yard pick-six.

“He’s around the ball,” said Kelly of Hamilton. “He just has a great nose for the football. The interception for the touchdown gave us some great momentum and we were able to feed off that”

Kelly added that this play “got the team and the stadium into it.”

You could call it a turning point; much like how the Louisville game turned when the Irish were able to get to and then rattle opposing QB Jawon Pass.

Notre Dame needs to come out guns blazing, hit the ground running (pick your cliche) at Georgia next weekend. There is little to no room for error against them.

Got to get more out of the running game

Through three quarters of play, ND had just 59 rushing yards (46 of that from Book), but they finished with 157, as they ran out the clock during garbage time.

“They weren’t going to let us run the ball up inside, so we had to move to some things we could do,” said Kelly, who stressed in preseason that running the football and stopping the run were going to be the top priorities for 2019.

The Irish also threw for 434 yards, and Kelly pointed out that you have to be able to do both, run and pass, because if your opponent takes one away from you, then you’ll have to be able to adjust.

Get better on third down 

ND went 1 for 10 on third down today, but they also finished 5-5 on fourth down.

“There are mitigating factors in the that 1 for 10 and I would have to go through every one of them,” said Kelly, as he mentioned how there are analytics involved, where the plays are sometimes called on third down in order to set up shorter yardage on fourth down.

“I think every body in the NFL or college football- their short yardage has got to be efficient. That will be something we’ll spend time on over the next couple of days.”

Got to shore up the run defense

UNM put up 212 yards rushing today, but they also had 46 attempts. They finished with 4.6 yards per carry, and were sitting at 3.8 ypr through three quarters. Not world-beating by any stretch, but also too high for a mid-major/team picked to finish in the bottom of the Mountain West.

Notre Dame will just have to be a lot better here when they had head down to UGA.

notre dame

Kelly pointed how the Lobos were committed to running the football, and overall he’s not worried about this part of his football team. Kelly thinks the OL is doing okay in terms of run-blocking: “we’re not getting pushed off the ball.”

He does see room for growth though: “our top down run support has got to be better.” He also said that he would like to see more out of the safety support.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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