5 Takeaways From Notre Dame's Season-Opening Win

No. 9 Notre Dame opened with a 35-17 win at Louisville.

Nick Shepkowski
September 03, 2019 - 8:01 am
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(670 The Score) No. 9 Notre Dame opened its season with a 35-17 win at Louisville on Monday evening. It was the Irish's eighth win in 10 tries in season openers under coach Brian Kelly.

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Here are my takeaways from the game.

Book produces mixed performance

Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book was 14-of-23 for 193 passing yards and a touchdown and added 14 carries for 81 yards and a rushing touchdown. It was a stat line that jumps off the page, but Book stepped up when he needed to That was the good news.

The bad news? Book had big issues with Louisville’s pressure, tucking and running much quicker than he should've like multiple times. At times, it was reminiscent of his showing in the loss to Clemson in the national semifinals last year.

Book had issues a couple of times with his pre-snap awareness too, missing some favorable matchups. The most notable was when he forced a throw to Chase Claypool in the first quarter when Book’s right side offered two more favorable looks.

Book bounced back after a poor start, finishing the first half with the go-ahead touchdown run. He answered the bell in the second half, and most impressive were his back-to-back plays that saw a crossing route to Claypool gain big yardage, which set up a Tommy Tremble touchdown reception the next play that was made possible by Book looking off a safety and creating more room to make the throw.  

Once Book settled down, he was fine, but it wasn't his best game. The criticism about his lack of development will remain a story.

Jones, next man up

After running back Jafar Armstrong left early with a reported groin injury, Tony Jones Jr. filled in admirably. He doesn’t have breakaway speed, but Jones showed signs of being a star. He rushed for 115 yards, the second 100-yard game of his career (he also did so against Vanderbilt in 2018), the Notre Dame running game was great most of the night. The only trouble for the Irish came in going 5-of-13 on third-down and fourth-down conversions, as Louisville found some success stacking the box in such situations. That seemed to be more of an offensive line or play-calling issue than having anything to do with Jones.

Missed tackles

Poor tackling didn’t cost the Irish much Monday, but it was too present far too often. Plenty of guilty parties were involved too. Notre Dame got away with it in Louisville. That won't be the case against No. 3 Georgia on Sept. 21. Part of the reason the Irish got away with it was due to a young defensive line interior that looked more comfortable as the game went on,

Gilman, exactly what the doctor ordered

Safety Alohi Gilman led the Irish with 10 tackles, including receiving credit for 0.5 tackles for loss. His biggest play was the fumble he forced late in the first half that came at a key time. Book then gave the ball away literally on the next play before linebacker Jack Lamb helped get it back, but it was another example of Gilman showcasing his ability to take away the football in big moments. It's something he did time and time again in 2018.

1-0 > 0-1

It wasn't the prettiest of games, but it was a win for Notre Dame -- and a rather comfortable one after Louisville's quick start. An inexperienced group of Irish linebackers needs to grow up fast, but they did take positive steps Book seemed to relax a bit by the time the second half came around, making a few nice throws and plays to put the game on ice.

Week 1 on the road can get strange -- just ask Arizona, Purdue or Missouri fans how their weekend went -- so it's always good to start 1-0 and overcome some issues in the process of doing so. This victory will make Notre Dame a better football team than beating up on a cupcake at home would have.

Nick Shepkowski is the executive producer of the McNeil & Parkins Show on 670 the Score in afternoon drive. Follow him on Twitter @Shep670.​ He also hosts the Notre Dame Pregame Show on Radio.com Sports, which you can listen to here.