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Notre Dame Football

No. 4 Notre Dame lumbers past Louisville

October 17, 2020

Maybe this proves to be Pittsburgh, circa 2018.

Two years ago, almost to the day on October 13, 2018, Notre Dame eked out a 19-14 win against the upstart Panthers.

Saturday, in front of a Notre Dame Stadium crowd of 10,182, the fourth-ranked Fighting Irish scrapped past Louisville, 12-7, for the program's 22nd consecutive home win.

“All in all, I know it's 12 to 7 and it's not going to go down as an instant classic, but boy we did a lot of really good things today,” coach Brian Kelly told NBC after the game. “We scored goals instead of touchdowns.

“We controlled the football virtually the whole day. We just din't finish (with touchdowns).”

In fact, the Irish (4-0, 3-0 ACC) got their lone touchdown from quarterback Ian Book in the third quarter, when the senior quarterback tip-toed the sideline and deked a Cardinals' defender to give Notre Dame the lead for good, 12-7, from 13 yards.

The two-point conversion failed, but the Irish defense never was really challenged again the remainder of the game.

“I don't know if there's relief as much as there's a lot of good takeaways from it,” Kelly said. “There's a lot of lessons to be learned about this game, the preparation was really good, I thought the mindset was really good.

“You've got to be able to finish drives. I think those things will be great for us to be able to work on.”

Notre Dame made five trips into the red zone but scored just three times, including a pair of Jonathan Doerer field goals from 32 and 30 yards out, respectively, that gave the Irish a 6-0 halftime advantage.

Among the nation's red zone leaders a year ago, Notre Dame must improve as it's scored just 12 touchdowns in 21 red-zone trips.

“We talked about it at halftime, we were driving down and we weren't finishing it,” Book said to NBC. “We've got to get down there and finish. We need touchdowns not field goals.”

Even with offensive struggles, Notre Dame continued to run the football well with 232 yards on 49 rushes. Sophomore Kyren Williams again eclipsed 100 yards, with 127 gained on a career-best 25 tries.

“I mean, it's a blessing come true,” Williams said of being the Irish's top back. “If you would've asked me last year if I'd be in this position right now, I'd tell you you were crazy.

“As a team, we got another dub, we're 4-0 and just going to keep moving.”

Notre Dame's defense returned to form, allowing just 219 total yards --- 83 of which came on the lone scoring possession for Louisville (1-4). The Cardinals also possessed the ball for less than 24 minutes.

“We controlled the football virtually the whole day,” Kelly said. “We just din't finish.”

Book finished just 11-for-19 passing and just 106 yards with zero touchdowns, the lowest output of his starting career. No Irish player had more than two receptions, and Notre Dame's offense also suffered from untimely drops.

Regardless, it's another win for Notre Dame – its 10th-straight victory dating to last season – and keeps the Irish unblemished as they head to Pittsburgh next week for their first road game of the 2020 season.

“It's challenges and it's a benefit,” Williams said of going on the road. “One benefit is we get to throw the white jersey on. We're playing a good Pitt team, we've got to come in and play our 'A' game.”

Shaun Crawford and TaRiq Bracy led the Irish with six tackles apiece; Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Kyle Hamilton combined for 10 stops.

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