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Notre Dame Football

Instant Reaction | Notre Dame 41 CMU 17

September 16, 2023

Winning by 24 points, out-gaining your opponent by 310 yards, averaging 8.9 yards per play (9.4 before the final series) to your opponents 5.0, and having the edge on 3rd down and in the red zone should be reason for celebration.

It doesn’t quite feel like that after Notre Dame’s win over Central Michigan, mostly because there were some things that didn't look so good. The tackling on CMU's first touchdown drive was rough. Some poor run fits leading to a 19-yard and 25-yard run weren’t ideal either. And for the second straight week, penalties were a problem.

The Irish had to sweat a bit in this game and no one wanted that, but all that matters is that they didn’t have to sweat it in the fourth quarter. The Irish offense averaged 9.2 yards per carry to close the game out and the defense gave up 12 total yards on three drives that ended in three-and-outs.

- I don’t think I can start without talking about how poor of a job the officials did…again.

The standard for officiating is so bad and I see no sign of it getting any better.

- The number of Notre Dame fans who say, “Boy, I’m glad they have Sam Hartman this year” has to be in the millions, right? T

he deep balls to Tobias Merriweather, Chris Tyree, Jayden Thomas, and Rico Flores are the throws that help separate this offense from previous ones.

- People will point to less than a handful of plays to say Notre Dame’s offensive line didn’t play well and I don’t believe that was the case at all. They opened up plenty of big holes in the running game and the protection was good most of the day. If it wasn’t, Hartman wouldn’t have had time to hit on those aforementioned throws.

Defensive tackle Jaques Bristol was a problem against Michigan State. He was barely noticeable today.

- Is Notre Dame ever going to have any fumble luck? That’s now nine fumbles for their opponents this season. Seven of them were forced by Notre Dame defenders. They haven’t had one bounce their way.

- Missed opportunities for tackles for loss on defense stuck out to me. Jaylen Sneed missed a big one (followed by more missed tackles by others) on the second drive.

Antonio Carter was blitzed and had a chance to blow up a run play in the backfield, but took a poor angle and it hit for a long run on another successful CMU drive.

These misses were from depth players, but Notre Dame had to rely on more depth in this game because DJ Brown was out with a hamstring injury and JD Bertrand was out with a concussion. Those two were greatly missed today and it was an example of how their value to the defense isn’t properly recognized by just about everyone.

- It’s hard to believe that CMU ended up 3 of 13 on 3rd down in this game because the pass rush didn’t appear to have much of an impact. I think some of it had to do with the approach on 3rd down this game, which say a lot more of Marist Liufau playing spy rather than rushing off the edge and outside of Javontae Jean-Baptiste, the Irish weren’t generating a ton of pressure without the blitz.

I thought the calls on 3rd down were pretty conservative and a lot of that was likely on purpose because of who they are playing next week. We’re going to see a lot more against Ohio State.

- I think you could tell the approach to this game was different by the way they played a lot of second team defenders on the second drive. They didn’t take those players out when CMU reached the red zone either. 

- There obviously weren’t a lot of wrinkles added on offense this week either, but they managed to take advantage of matchups in coverage and were simply better than CMU up front.

They definitely didn’t add a ton for Ohio State to prepare for, which was probably the right way to handle it.

- Nothing will happen to that CMU defensive tackle who tried to wrench Hartman’s knee, but something should. He’d be getting fined if it was the next level.

That’s an extremely dirty play and absolute garbage to do that in any game.

- There were things in this game that if they were to happen against Ohio State, it could mean them losing the game. They’ll have to play at a much higher level next week and they don’t need me to remind them of that.

But let’s be honest, this game didn’t mean much as long as it ended up in a win. 

It doesn’t matter that Audric Estime was once again producing explosive runs (not including one that got called back). It doesn’t matter that Hartman had another big day passing. It doesn’t matter that Notre Dame’s defense prevented two more touchdowns on CMU red zone trips.

What matters is that they get to the next game and hopefully have the players who were out today back in the lineup. What matters is that they get similar explosive plays against a defense that is going to be much harder to drive the football against. What matters is that the defense causes more havoc (20% at halftime, 16.6% overall) against an offense that is going to be tough to stop if they are in favorable down and distance situations.

On to the next one. We’re on to Ohio State. However anyone wants to put it, the week where they have to have their A game is the next one.

Game week starts Monday and it truly does mean more.

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