Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

Irish Fly Away From Cardinals

September 2, 2019

Alohi Gilman is a Notre Dame captain for a reason.

Jack Lamb is one of the somewhat-unknown Irish linebackers for the onset of the 2019 season.

They made the two biggest plays of the first half Monday night in No. 9 Notre Dame’s season-opening 35-17 win at Louisville, when first Gilman and then Lamb recovered back-to-back fumbles by Cardinals quarterback Jawon Pass.

"I thought it was a great atmosphere,” stated Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly. “Louisville played really hard. They created a great atmosphere for an opener, which, you know, it's hard to duplicate that for your team, so I thought we benefited from being on the road in a great environment. Thought we came out, started really well. We had to make some adjustments to their speed option game, which I thought we settled down and did that. I thought after we made those adjustments, kind of took control of the game after that."

The latter erased Ian Book’s own uncharacteristic fumble, and allowed Book to dive into the end zone four plays later for a 21-14 Notre Dame lead just before the half.

It proved to be a decisive scenario in the Irish’s wild, early back-and-forth opening victory before a crowd of 58,187 at Cardinal Stadium.

Notre Dame dazzled early with offensive efficiency, needing just six plays including an early 35-yard dash from Book, for its first touchdown of the season. Sophomore tailback Jahmir Smith squeezed into paydirt from the 3, and Tony Jones Jr. rushed seven times for 87 yards --- just in the opening quarter.

The Irish then watched Louisville, largely with a ground-based attack, reel off 14 unanswered points. Pass had untouched rushing scores of 8 and 17 yards that spanned a combined 18 snaps and just 7 minutes, 26 seconds of game clock. Pass’s first score finished a dizzying 88-yard drive and the second covered 75 yards as the Cardinals amassed a whopping 208 yards of offense in the opening half.

Notre Dame fell out of rhythm offensively and saw the Cardinals’ revamped defense under first-year coach Scott Satterfield and co-defensive coordinators Bryan Brown and Cort Dennison coerce a trio of three-and-out series from the Irish.

It looked as though Notre Dame had wasted its chance for a lead before the break when Book dropped back, opted to scramble and then fumbled when bumped by an offensive lineman. Lamb’s recovery provided an instant opportunity for redemption.

Two snaps later, Book darted inside the Louisville 10 to set up first-and-goal, and moments thereafter, he added his fifth rushing touchdown since 2018 from 11 yards out on third-and-goal following a false-start penalty.

“The first game, maybe some jitters, great environment here, Louisville played great, respect them, great opponent,” explained Book. “Just gotta put that behind us, but at the end of the day we’re happy we’re 1-0 and we’re gonna learn from this. Now we know what it’s like.”

The Irish finished the half with 246 yards on 39 offensive snaps.

Notre Dame doubled its lead to 14 midway through the third quarter, when Book notched his first passing touchdown of the season with a seam route to tight end Tommy Tremble. The sophomore from Johns Creek, Ga., broke free untouched and absorbed contact at the goal line for a 28-14 lead after the fourth extra point from new kicker Jonathan Doerer. Tremble’s pass covered 26 yards and came a snap after Book also found Chase Claypool on a crossing route. Claypool’s catch-and-run took the Irish from their own 43 down to the Cards’ 26.

“He's an outstanding athlete,” Kelly said of Tremble. “We knew that when we recruited him. He had crazy numbers and all this testing when we recruited him and knew that it was just a matter of maturation, mostly off the field, as he kind of transitioned into college, and balancing both football and academics. As he's done that and become more comfortable with balancing both, he started to emerge as a football player."

Daelin Hayes scooped up Pass’s third fumble after Adetokunbo Ogundeji forced it with a strip after Pass had guided Louisville down to the Notre Dame 20. Hayes, touted just last week by Kelly as someone who had produced a very good preseason camp with little fanfare, also sacked Pass late in the game.

After allowing 14 points in the game’s first 11 minutes, the Irish held Louisville out of the end zone the rest of the contest and yielded only a fourth-quarter field goal.

The Irish have now 12 days before their 2019 home-opening game inside Notre Dame Stadium against New Mexico and former Irish coach Bob Davie on Sept. 14.

“We just have to focus on some smaller details; they were there and just had to execute what was called,” said Book. “We trust the coaches to put us in the right decision and we just had to execute, all 11 guys as one.”

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