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Sunday, April 14, 2024
The Observer

Week 7 Notre Dame football grades: Offense falls apart on the road against Louisville

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Irish graduate student quarterback Sam Hartman is hit while throwing a pass in Notre Dame’s 33-20 road loss against Louisville on Oct. 7.


In the most disappointing performance of the season, the Irish offense sputtered in a loss to No. 25 Lousiville that put to bed any remaining hopes of a College Football Playoff appearance. Here is a look at the performance of each offensive position group during the 33-20 loss.

 

Quarterbacks

By now, everyone has likely seen the astounding comparison between Sam Hartman’s performance against Louisville this season and last. In both, Hartman led a No. 10 ranked team into Lousiville’s home stadium and threw three interceptions in a loss.

In Saturday’s game, he finished 22 of 38 with 254 passing yards, two touchdowns and, as the stat mentions, three interceptions. The first of these came on the opening drive. Hartman threw up a prayer in the direction of Rico Flores Jr. in the face of intense pressure — a bad misread to start the game. The offense showed some life in the second quarter when Hartman connected with walk-on freshman wide receiver Jordan Faison to move the chains on third and eight before finding him again on a 36-yard touchdown pass. This was one of only two connections over 20 air yards in Hartman’s last 16 attempts after starting the season 9-12 for 374 yards and six touchdowns.

Aside from this bright spot, the remainder of the game was a nightmare for Hartman and the offense. In the first six drives of the second half, he went 5-11 for 42 yards while being sacked twice and losing a fumble. He made a number of pivotal mistakes, including sliding three yards short on second and eight, leading to a deflating third-down stop. Faced with a two-score deficit in the middle of the fourth quarter, he opened up the drive throwing his second interception, killing any chance of a comeback for the Irish.

While he didn’t get much help from the offensive line blocking in pass protection or from the wide receivers getting separation downfield, many of Hartman’s mistakes can’t be excused. He went on to throw one more interception in garbage time. It was a night Hartman will need to forget, especially with USC around the corner.

Weekly Grade: C+ ; Season Grade: B+

 

Running Backs

Notre Dame’s running backs combined for a measly 57 yards on the ground at 3.35 yards per carry, by far the lowest total all season. Freshman Jeremiyah Love’s 13-yard rush was the longest run from any Irish player all game. The running backs struggled, especially in short-yardage situations. Sophomore Gi’Bran Payne and junior Audric Estime were stuffed on a couple of key third and shorts. The running backs struggled to break away in an uncharacteristic fashion.

Through the air, Estime, Payne and sophomore Jadarian Price could not get going, combining for only 16 yards on three receptions. Love faired a bit better, going for 16 yards himself on two catches. For large parts of the season, the running backs have been the foundation of the Irish offense. They will need to make a greater impact next week. 

Weekly Grade: B-; Season Grade: B+

 

Wide Receivers

The Notre Dame wide receiver corps continued its struggles this season, combining for only 151 yards through the air. Returning from injury, junior Jayden Thomas and freshman Jaden Greathouse made little impact. Thomas made only two catches for 33 yards, and Greathouse was far from 100%, not hauling in a single reception. Faison was the leading receiver for the Irish, tallying two receptions for 48 yards and a touchdown in the second quarter.

With an opportunity to start the second half with a touchdown and take a lead, senior Chris Tyree broke open down the sideline but dropped the would-be touchdown pass. The mistake was reflective of the disappointing wide receiver performance in this game and most of the season. Facing a weak USC secondary, the group will have an opportunity to bounce back in a big game.

Weekly Grade: C+; Season Grade: B-    

 

Tight Ends

Mitchell Evans appears to be the next product of Notre Dame’s tight-end factory. The junior was once again the best performer in the offense, carrying the passing game almost on his own. He made four catches for 71 yards and a touchdown, including two third-down conversions. This season, Evans has been responsible for nine third and fourth down conversions, the same number as the entire receiving corps combined. Junior Holden Staes, a consistent target in the past weeks, had only two receptions for 16 yards. He and the wide receivers will need to get going in future weeks to lighten the burden on Evans.

Weekly Grade: A; Season Grade: A-

 

Offensive Line

Successful Notre Dame teams of the past decade have largely been built on the foundation of the offensive line. However, this year’s unit looked worst against Lousiville than they have all season. They struggled in pass protection, allowing five sacks, and got very little push in the run game, especially on multiple short-yardage situations.

The offensive line rotations that occurred marked how disjointed the group has become. In the second half, junior right tackle Blake Fisher had to be substituted after a plethora of mistakes. He was beaten multiple times throughout the game and committed a false start on third and short, as well as a face mask that negated a 30-yard passing play. For the offensive line to reach its full potential, Fisher needs to improve his play. The coaching staff also needs to establish a unified five.

Weekly Grade: C+; Season Grade: B+

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