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.