No. 9 Notre Dame (1-0) spoiled the start of the Scott Satterfield era at Louisville (0-1) by shutting down the Cardinals in the second half Monday night in Louisville. Since being knotted up at 14-14 after the first quarter, the Fighting Irish outscored the home team 21-3 the rest of the way for a 35-17 win to start the new year.
Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book gave the Irish the lead just before halftime, making up for a lost fumble just a few plays prior to that. Book lost a fumble one play after the Irish recovered a Louisville fumble. But the third fumble in three successive plays gave the ball right back to Notre Dame, and Book capitalized with an 11-yard run with 17 seconds left before the halftime break.
Book then added to the Notre Dame lead with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Tommy Tremble midway through the third quarter. With the Irish defense getting a handle on Louisville quarterback Jawon Pass and the Cardinals unable to sustain the energy and momentum they ha din the first quarter, Notre Dame started to pull away. After Louisville resigned to settling for a 42-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to cut the Notre Dame lead to 28-17, the Irish delivered what was essentially the knockout blow with Jahmir Smith‘s one-yard touchdown run at the end of a 12-play, 75-yard drive.
There were some glimpses of improved football by Louisville that Satterfield can take into practices for next week. Among the chief areas of concern should be ball control. Louisville lost three fumbles. Last season, Satterfield’s Appalachian State was among the best teams in the nation in handling the football with just 10 fumbles all season long, and just five lost fumbles all year. Louisville was much more of a mess handling the football, ranking 125th in the nation with 23 fumbles and 10 fumbles lost. It may not happen overnight, but Satterfield should be able to find ways to improve how his players hold on to the football relatively quickly. Pass scored both Louisville touchdowns on the ground, but has room to improve with his passing accuracy (10-of-24 for 127 yards).
Notre Dame had some shaky moments early on with the defense as Louisville was showing some new looks with their offense, but the Irish calmed things down a bit and started locking down on the Cardinals offense after the first quarter. The defense in South Bend should once again be pretty solid against most of their opponents. As seems to be the biggest concern in the Brian Kelly era is will the defense be good enough when up against some of the nation’s best programs. We don’t need to worry too much about that just yet, although a road trip to Georgia is approaching pretty quickly (Sept. 21).
Next up for Notre Dame is a home date with New Mexico, coached by former Fighting Irish head coach Bob Davie. Whether Davie coaches his team this weekend remains in question as the former Irish coach recovers from a health scare from over the weekend. Davie coached at Notre Dame from 1997 through 2001 after serving three seasons as the defensive coordinator for Lou Holtz. This weekend would mark Davie’s first game as a coach back in South Bend if he is able to make the trip and coach for New Mexico. Davie was 35-25 as head coach at Notre Dame, with a 0-3 bowl record.
Louisville will host Eastern Kentucky, an FCS opponent, in Week 2.
Notre Dame might be in for a tougher battle than the experts predicted. Notre Dame holds a lead at halftime in Louisville, but the Cardinals are not about to go away. A late fumble by the Cardinals (one play after Notre Dame fumbled, which was one play after Louisville had fumbled) allowed the Irish to take the lead with Ian Book (who was responsible for the fumble) taking off for an easy touchdown run. At halftime, Notre Dame leads Louisville 21-14.
Notre Dame looked like it had an offensive game plan that has been worked on for months to set the tone after their playoff elimination last season. Ian Book was perfect throwing the football and took advantage of a Louisville defender turning his back on him for a 37-yard gain on the ground on the first play from scrimmage. Jahmir Smith finished the 75-yard drive with a short three-yard touchdown run to give the Irish an early lead. But Louisville wasted no time in providing some energy for the blackout crowd. Jawon Pass picked up an 18-yard completion to Seth Dawkins and Javian Hawkins managed to find some yards on the ground on the ensuing possession. On 3rd and 12, Notre Dame’s Julian Okwara gave away five free yards with an offside penalty, and Pass took off for a 13-yard gain on the next snap. A 15-yard by Javian Hawkins a few plays later led to an eventual touchdown run by Pass to draw even at 7-7.
Notre Dame went three-and-out on their next series, and Louisville took the lead after that with a 12-play touchdown drive. Pass once again did the honors by running the ball into the endzone for the lead. This time it was a reversal of fortune, however, as the Irish were the ones to answer right away. An 11-yard run by Tony Jones evened the score at 14-14 later in the first quarter.
The second quarter saw the scoring slow down, with only the late score by the Irish putting the dent on the scoreboard.
If you need to put on a pot of coffee, now is the time. You may not want to miss the end of this game.
Louisville has perhaps one of the most suitably named quarterback ready to lead the offense in the season opener Monday night against Notre Dame. Jawon Pass has been named the starting quarterback for the Cardinals by new head coach Scott Satterfield.
Pass was the most likely candidate for the starting job, especially after an injury cost Malik Cunningham a shot to win the starting job. Pass was Louisville’s leading passer with 1,960 yards and eight touchdowns last season, mostly serving as the team’s starter. However, Pass and Cunningham split playing time later in the season as Pass proved to have some issues with interceptions (12 picks thrown) and inconsistent pass accuracy. Cunningham was slightly better with accuracy but still had room for improvement as well.
Fortunately for Satterfield, he feels Pass has really come along since the former Appalachian State head coach moved to Louisville.
“There’s times when he looks unbelievable, like really, really good,” Satterfield said. “Obviously, he’s a big, tall and strong quarterback. When he stands in there and really follows through he looks how you are supposed to look. There’s times when his footwork is off and the ball sails on him, but he’s gotten a lot better than that. I think he has an opportunity to really have a good season and play well for us.”
Satterfield also noted Cunningham has returned to practices and is working his way back into the mix, whether that means as a starter or a solid back-up option still to be determined later.
“A lot of it depends on what he does in the next couple of days,” Satterfield said. “You know, he is looking good. I mean he is throwing the ball; he is doing a lot of good things. With Malik his strength is running, and you want to be able to do that 100 percent so well know a lot more of it come the end of the week.”
Pass will get his first test Monday night against a Notre Dame team coming off a College Football Playoff appearance, and the Fighting Irish tend to bring some good defense to the field.