Game Observations: Notre Dame Defense In Win Over Louisville
Notre Dame earned a 12-7 win over Louisville largely due to great play from the Notre Dame defense. The Irish held Louisville’s talented and potent offense to just seven points, 233 yards of offense and 14 first downs. It was the fewest points and second-fewest yards in a game from the Louisville offense since Scott Satterfield took over.
It wasn’t a perfect game, but the Irish defense overall played quite well and kept the Cardinals in check. Below is my analysis of the Notre Dame defense from the win.
*** Notre Dame struggled mightily with backside contain in the 42-26 win over Florida State last week, and defensive coordinator Clark Lea and the rest of the defensive staff made the necessary adjustments against Louisville. Notre Dame handled the bootlegs extremely well, and with a few exceptions it kept the backside run lanes closed off.
*** Running back Javian Hawkins rushed for just 51 yards and 3.4 yards per rush, and 28 of that came on one run late in the first quarter. That was the fewest yards in a game from Hawkins since he entered the lineup, and his second lowest yards per rush. Remember, Hawkins came into this game ranked second in the nation in rushing yards, and he rushed for 1,525 yards in 2019.
*** The pass defense also stepped up from a coverage standpoint. Despite getting very little pressure on the quarterback, the Irish defense limited Louisville to just 123 passing yards on 22 attempts.
*** Up front, the play of the defensive line needs to be told in two different ways. One is how well it defended the run, the second is how well it rushed the quarterback. Against the run, the play of the defensive line was brilliant. As a unit, the front four consistently beat Louisville off the ball, they got excellent penetration up the middle, the ends did a great job setting the edge and there was very, very little running room for Hawkins. In fact, 42 of his 51 yards came on two carries, and both were cutbacks where second or third level mistakes broke him free.
*** Senior end Adetokunbo Ogundeji was the only edge player that gave much of a pass rush in the win, and he was excellent against the run. His up-the-middle pressure forced a key rushed pass by the quarterback in the second half, and his ability to punish the tackles in the run game made it impossible for Louisville to get its outside zone/stretch plays going. Ogundeji was a driving force in Louisville not being able to get any perimeter push, which constantly forced Hawkins either into the back of a blocker, or forced him to make his cuts way earlier than desired.
*** Senior end Daelin Hayes was better against the run than he was a week ago in the win over the Seminoles. His play seemed to be more sound from an assignment standpoint, and he made a couple of huge plays in coverage. He jumped a third-down out cut that forced the quarterback to scramble, and if not for a missed tackle by a linebacker it would have ended a Louisville drive. Hayes also perfectly read a swing pass late in the game, blowing up the running back for a 6-yard loss, which put the Cardinals in a 2nd-and-26 situation it could not recover from. The issue for Hayes was the lack of a pass rush.
*** Junior Justin Ademilola was stout against the run, setting the edge with force and showing good pursuit when the ball was run away from him. Ogundeji and Ademilola combined to dominate the strong side of the defensive alignment. Backup Vypers Ovie Oghoufo and Isaiah Foskey also played solid football against the run.
*** Inside, the defensive tackles absolutely dominated action all game long, at least that’s what I saw from the press box. After breaking down the film I might have a different story to tell, but it seemed they spent the entire game in the Louisville backfield.
*** From what I could tell, junior defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola had a strong performance and played a key role in the cutback run lanes being closed. Ademilola was quick off the ball and got good penetration throughout the game. Ademilola’s ability to close down his inside gap on runs away was a key reason for the inability of Louisville to cut the ball back. Ademilola and the rest of the defensive linemen must still do a better job getting off blocks in the pass game.
*** Senior nose tackle Kurt Hinish had a bounce-back performance after a rough game a week ago. He was stout and got a good push off the ball for much of the game. His snaps seemed limited, but veteran Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa was back in action and handled himself well when I saw him. Freshman Rylie Mills also got action in the win. There were some snaps where the young defender got knocked back, but he also had some impressive penetrations and did a great job reading the swing pass that Hayes blew up.
*** I’ll need to break down the film to get a sense of his entire performance, but every time I locked in on sophomore Jacob Lacey he made plays. He was active off the ball, got a strong push in the run game and seemed to be gap correct when I keyed on him.
*** Rover Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah was once again avoided by Louisville like he was Florida State, but when targeted the senior was impactful. He blew up several perimeter plays in both the run game and pass game, making quick and decisive reads, and then exploding to the football. His production when near the ball was excellent.
*** I’ll need to do more film study to really get a feel for both Mike linebackers (Drew White, Bo Bauer), but watching live I felt both played good football. White had a bounce back performance. His run fits were impressive, he timed up snaps well and he attacked downhill in aggressive fashion.
*** The Buck linebacker position was a completely different story. Starter Shayne Simon had a brutally poor performance. Simon made mistakes in every aspect of the game. His fits were inconsistent, he struggled to get off blocks all game, his tackling was poor and he had major missed assignments that proved costly.
*** On Louisville’s one scoring drive it was Simon who was responsible for most of the big plays. He whiffed on a tackle when the quarterback scrambled, resulting in a 3rd-and-5 instead of a 3rd-and-long situation. He got sucked inside and was blocked easily on the 4th-and-3 play, and he blew his assignment on the wheel route that set up a 1st-and-goal situation a play before the touchdown. These issues were prevalent throughout the game for Simon, who just doesn’t attack the ball effectively unless he’s executing an assigned run stunt.
*** Sophomore Marist Liufau had a couple of fits that were shaky, but overall he played much better in this game. He had two very good backside run fits that clogged up the cutback run lane and Liufau was aggressive on pressures and stunts. He did get sucked inside on the touchdown pass, at least from what I believe the coverage responsibilities to be. Liufau also got sucked inside and had a bad fit on a read zone in the second half that opened up a 3rd-and-6 conversation, so there's still a lot of room for improvement, but he took a step forward at least.
*** I’ve been very critical of the play of Shaun Crawford this season, but this was his best all-around performance of the season, by far. For the first time all season he looked comfortable playing safety, and start allowed him to be much better making plays on the ball. His one mistake that I saw live was not getting off the hash fast enough on the 28-yard completion against cornerback TaRiq Bracy, but other than that he was outstanding.
*** Crawford made plays in ever facet of the game. He was aggressive filling the alleys and tackling well in the run game, he did a good job with over the top coverage and he made multiple plays on the football. His perfect read and open-field tackle on a Louisville reverse early in the game was tremendous.
*** Sophomore Kyle Hamilton had a couple of misses filling in the alley, and at times he was a bit over-aggressive. That’s a bit of a nitpick, and for the most part I felt Hamilton played quality football, despite Louisville trying to avoid him as much as possible. His most memorable play was making a perfect read and jumping an in cut on the first drive of the game, breaking up the pass.
*** Junior TaRiq Bracy was a bit up-and-down. He got beat on a corner route by Tutu Atwell, but there were a lot more wins for Bracy in that matchup against Louisville’s standout receiver. Bracy did a good job coming down in run support as well, and his get off on perimeter runs graded out well. He did a great job jumping a corner route and getting his hands on the ball, and Crawford finished the play off.
*** Senior Nick McCloud had a solid game, but he needs to be less grabby when the ball is thrown his way.
*** Junior DJ Brown needs to do a much better job taking on blocks when coming down into the alley.
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