The Irish are in a three-win groove as they head into their home matchup against the Central Michigan Chippewas this Saturday. Though Central Michigan are not projected to be a difficult opponent compared to the likes of those on the Irish’s remaining schedule, now is not a time for the team to rest. Notre Dame has an opportunity to tweak some weaknesses and get their reserves more playing time. Here are five keys to the game for the Irish to remember.
1. Don’t start slow
The Irish are coming off a major high after their road victory in the storm-delayed environment in Raleigh. However, they cannot start off slow and play down to their opponent at home, which happened last season against teams like Marshall, Cal and Stanford. In general, the Irish have taken a quarter or two get going this season — a trend that cannot continue with the Ohio State game looming.
2. Speaking of OSU, don’t look ahead to 9/23
Coach Freeman and staff are on track to keep the team focused on the Chippewas and not looking past them to the Buckeyes. Freeman’s mantra for the team is “One Play One Life,” and it’s never meant more than this week. Coming out flat or unfocused could spell doom. The last thing the Irish need is a repeat of last year’s Marshall game.
3. Establish the run
Central Michigan’s defense is objectively weak. In fact, their pass defense is ranked No. 131 in the nation. The rush defense is slightly higher at No. 71, and they’ve given up 36.5 points per game this year as a collective. Nevertheless, the Irish need to establish the run and get the offensive line (especially their young guards) in sync early, something that has yet to happen this season. The O-line allowed a sack on the first series last week, conceding a total of four against NC State. Establishing holes for Estime, Payne, Price and Love and protecting Sam Hartman is essential for a dominant Irish win.
4. Prevent chunk plays
Quarterback Bert Emanuel Jr. — the son of the former NFL pro — is a dual threat and can beat the Irish with his legs. Senior linebacker Marist Liufau put the pressure on Brennan Armstrong last week, but must continue his disciplined play this week to prevent Emanuel from creating problems for the Irish. The secondary must keep an eye on the Chippewas’ leading receiver Chris Parker as well, as he is averaging nearly 30 yards per catch.
5. Stop the penalties
Though the ACC officiating crew had some questionable calls against NC State, the bottom line is Notre Dame cannot commit 10 penalties and expect to win. Against any team. The Irish must remain disciplined so as to not commit costly penalties.
Catch the Irish face off against the Chippewas on Saturday, Sept. 13 at 2:30 p.m. at home at Notre Dame Stadium. The game will be broadcast live exclusively on Peacock.
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