No luck in South Bend: Louisville football falls short of upset against Irish

Sep 2, 2019; Louisville, KY, USA; Louisville Cardinals running back Javian Hawkins (10) carries the ball as Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive lineman Julian Okwara (42) prepares to tackle in the fourth quarter at Cardinal Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 2, 2019; Louisville, KY, USA; Louisville Cardinals running back Javian Hawkins (10) carries the ball as Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive lineman Julian Okwara (42) prepares to tackle in the fourth quarter at Cardinal Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports /

Louisville football fought hard but didn’t weren’t lucky enough to defeat Notre Dame.

It may not have been the easiest week to come into a game optimistic about Louisville football’s chances, but traveling to South Bend to face off against no. 4 ranked Notre Dame gave the Cards their first chance at a major upset.

After a 19-point loss to Georgia Tech, a lot of fans were just hoping to see Louisville avoid getting blown out in their first appearance at Notre Dame Stadium since their magical 2014 win. To win this game, Louisville was going to have to make major improvement in just six days time especially in the trenches. We talked on the podcast about being aggressive and doing things outside of the box, and while it didn’t result in a win the Cards did just that in a tough fought loss on the road.

Looking at the stats you wouldn’t think that Louisville had any business being in this game. The Irish played a fundamentally sound game, converting on 8/15 third downs, while limiting Louisville to just three conversion on nine attempts on the other side of the ball. The Irish controlled the offensive yardage situation, outgaining Louisville 339 yards to 234 yards while absolutely destroying the time of possession battle, holding the ball for 35:40 overall.

That started in the first half for the Irish. While running only four offensive plays in the first quarter isn’t typically the recipe to staying competitive, the Cards did just that and yet kept the game at a six point deficit all the way through the first half.

Bryan Brown coached his butt off in the first half as the Louisville defense easily played their best half of football of the season. Holding Notre Dame to no touchdowns and just six points, Louisville’s defense was efficient on third down (and displayed much improved abilities to tackle, cover the passing game, and get after the quarterback.

Despite holding the ball for 21:57 of the first half the defense never faltered. Led by Monty Montgomery, they kept everything in front of them, tackled efficiently. Penalties and dropped interceptions kept Louisville from taking complete control, but only giving up six points was a solid victory.

The offense had every opportunity to get Louisville the lead and build off the defenses solid play, yet they couldn’t. Questionable play calling, inability to open running lanes, and penalties kept Louisville from points, but they showed they were at least able to make plays against the highly regarded Notre Dame defense.

That continued into the second half, though Louisville’s defense wore down as Notre Dame’s offense continued to dominate the time of possession statistic all the way until the clock hit quadruple zero’s.

The offense came out firing in the second half, as they used the final eight play, 60 yard drive to end the first half to establish some solid momentum. They put together a beautifully executed 13 play, 83 yard drive that ended with a Marshon Ford touchdown, following a beautiful 29-yard pass to Javian Hawkins on a wheel route.

There was a lot of social media chatter about the vanilla offensive play-calling throughout the first half, especially the runs on first down time and time again Obviously as the play caller, Satterfield knows his team much better than we do and how to execute at a high level, but there were a ton of questionable calls that made you wonder what he saw.

That chatter was put to bed (at least temporary) early in the half. A surprise onside kick & recovery following the touchdown from Louisville was set to give them back possession with serious momentum until a rarely called illegal blocking penalty gave the ball back to Notre Dame and led to a touchdown.

Despite that touchdown, Louisville’s effort, tackling, and overall coverage was much better as they held Ian Book and the Irish to just one score on the day. After what we’ve seen the last few weeks and hearing all the talk about whether or not Bryan Brown was the right guy for the job, it was great to see his group flying around and playing at a high level.

Running plays that went nowhere on first down, penalties early in drives that forced the offense to move backwards, and a lack of big plays limited Louisville’s next two drives and led to punts. And as the defense started to wear down, the Irish rushing attack led by Ian Book and Kyren Williams proved to be too much.

Getting the ball back with seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter, the Irish put together a beautiful “four minute offense” that took up nearly seven minutes of game time and left no clock left for Louisville to have another drive.

I can’t begin to put into words just how much better the defense was today than any other game over the last three to four years. While Brian Kelly doesn’t coach up a juggernaut offense by any means, the fact that a defense that gave up 46 points to a freshman quarterback was able to put together a performance like this is truly a remarkable feat.

A major kudos goes out to Monty Montgomery, Kei’Trel Clark, Jared Goldwire, and even Isaiah Hayes, as all played extremely well and put Louisville in a place to pull off the massive upset when no one thought they could.

I hate to be that guy, but the reffing today was asinine and there’s no way around it. Notre Dame was guilty of countless holds, pass interference calls, and even helmet-to-helmet hits and yet, Louisville found themselves losing the penalty battle by a landslide.

The refs don’t keep teams from winning games, a lack of execution and winning plays is what does that, but today they definitely did their part to make things far more difficult than they should’ve been. And to the NBC broadcast ref who uttered the words “they made a mistake and we can’t go back,” following multiple missed calls on Notre Dame was absolutely laughable and the network should be ashamed of themselves for such homerism.

Rant over.

You have to love the performance from the Louisville defense, holding the Irish to just 12 points their lowest total since holding Syracuse to 10 points way back in 2017, and the fact that Malik Cunningham (and the Louisville offense) didn’t turn the ball over a single time. However, there are no moral victories, at least not on this site and losing a game that should’ve won against the no. 4 team in the country still hurts.

The offense still struggled to dominate like we saw last season but there was a lot to be encouraged about from Cunningham including the fact that he completed 84 percent of his passes, connected on a few down the field plays, and avoided turnovers.

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With that being the case, there’s still momentum for Louisville as they’ll return home to Cardinal Stadium next weekend to take on Florida State. Thanks to a close game, I really expect a great crowd on hand and for the Cards to get back on the winning side of things.