If you watched the NBC broadcast of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish versus the Ball State Cardinals Saturday afternoon, than you’re aware of the following: Brian Kelly and the Notre Dame coaching staff’s game plan consisted of building a massive lead early on, and then letting some of the younger guys on the roster get some playing time. Just ask Mike Tirico; he was calling for the third and fourth stringers in his second sentence of the broadcast.
It’s a bold strategy for a potential let-down game. It did not work out.
For Notre Dame, the starters ended up playing the whole game. The defense was obviously gassed, but that doesn’t excuse their play. You don’t give up 17 points to Michigan, a team with no semblance of offensive strategy (that’s being kind), and 16 points to Ball State, a team picked to finish last in the MAC West, and still be considered good at defense. I’m not sold on Clark Lea, and there’s nothing “Elite” about Notre Dame’s defense this year. It’s just not there, despite all the talent.
On the other side of the ball, the offense was atrocious. Brandon Wimbush was under pressure the entire game and the running game was kept in check, save for a few big plays. Wimbush actually played well, given how little protection he had and the drops by the Notre Dame receivers. He still threw three interceptions, but given his coach’s history, it’s probably more on Brian Kelly than it is Brandon Wimbush. That’s just my opinion. Wimbush finished 17-31 for 297 yards and three interceptions. Boykin had six receptions for 119 yards, and Jafar Armstrong had 66 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown.
If you’re Notre Dame, a win is a win is a win is a potentially terrible sign moving forward. I’m of the opinion that the Notre Dame vs. Michigan opener was a lot closer to the Notre Dame vs. Texas game in 2016, rather than being more like Notre Dame vs. Georgia in 2017. I may yet be proven wrong, but it just looked like two bad teams playing each other close.
The Irish prevailed in the end on Saturday afternoon, 24-16, disappointing Notre Dame fans nationwide. The Irish host the Vanderbilt Commodores next weekend, who have blown out Middle Tennessee State and Nevada in their first two games.