GOLDEN CHRONICLES OF NOTRE DAME: The Cardinals overshadowed the sky at times
(By Omar Ureña)
The faith of two inspired teams collided at Notre Dame Stadium on a cloudy fall afternoon. The # 4 in the country, Notre Dame welcomed Louisville who appeared with wounds to the soul from defeats at the hands of the Hurricanes, Panthers and Yellow Jackets. Like the frenetic pace of Judas Priest, the Cardinals entered the gridiron ‘screaming for vengeance’ remembering that the Irish ran over them in 2014 and 2015.
They felt the need to annihilate to survive among ACC teams in their road to hell at midseason. This time the Cardinals had the honor of wearing a flaming uniform with a white jersey and a red helmet that featured “Louie”, the cardinal showing his fierceness on his teeth.
For coach Kelly it was imminent that Louisville would turn a game with difficult aspects:
“I thought they came in with a mindset that was such that they knew that this was not a 1-3 football team that they were playing today and Louisville played extremely well. Coach had them ready to play, they took care of the football“.
The Cardinals fumed as they entered the field and the fact that there were only 20,000 people in the stadium inspired them to fight, they were focused on stopping the Irish running and passing game. It was difficult for the Ian Book-led offense to gain yards in the first quarter, yet they were still determined to move the chains. Notre Dame scored first when Jonathan Doerer hit a 32-yard field goal and landed another nine minutes later, this time from 30 yards. Coach Kelly knew the Louisville defense was going to bring fire to the box, filling in the gaps and hitting blue and gold bodies. The Irish were surprised but not impressed.
By symbolic decree of its creation in 1913, the Cardinals’ mischievous grin became real as eight defenders covered all Notre Dame receivers, leaving Ian Book running aimlessly with the ball. The Irish game was broken by a cult of disciples of an intense defense.
“When you’re dealing with a team that loads the box, you gotta make some plays on the perimeter. Kevin Austin’s got to make more plays for us. Ben Skowronek’s got to make more plays for us on the outside. Javon McKinley has got to make more plays for us on the outside.
Louisville’s offense took to the field in the second half convinced to put points on the scoreboard, tight end Marshon Ford scored a touchdown after catching a 1-yard pass from Mali Cunningham in the middle of the third quarter.
The scenario for the Irish was worrisome when their defense gave up yards; the Cardinals dominated the Irish and held the ball for more than 11 minutes in the third quarter. There was no way the Irish would surrender. The offense was ready to fight smart.
“You’re making sure that you’re protected, your edges, you saw a lot of two tight ends because it’s a 3-4 defense, you want to protect your edges. We went with a lot more six man protections.”
Kyren Williams was inspired and the offensive line did what they’ve been doing all season, Liam Eichenberg, Jarrett Patterson, Robert Hainsey, Tommy Kraemer and Aaron Banks dominated the trenches by moving at an angle of direction allowing the number 23 to simply exploit any gap. Kyren Williams ran counter plays as usual, following Tommy Tremble’s blocking.
At the end of the third quarter, Book took advantage of the space Louisville gave him and rushed 13 yards for his 13th career touchdown on the ground, one away from tying Joe Montana and Everett Golson (14). The Irish defense played with more courage in the fourth quarter. They put pressure on the Cardinals offense. Owusu-Koramoah was taking down runners, Kyle Hamilton was covering receivers and tackling, TaRiq Bracy was punishing and Shaun Crawford was simply unbeatable.
The last episode was a fight and somehow the Irish emerged from the catacombs victorious in a two-team defensive battle putting their hearts on the field. The disciples in red and black exhibited the lack of precision and strength of the Irish attack that was at times crushed.
“It was, from our perspective, the inability to cash in in the red zone and then a couple of plays that we need to make. We’ve got to make a catch in the end zone. We got to make a third down stop. That’s kind of the difference in this ballgame or it looks a little bit different at the end”.
If the Irish believed this was not the most threatening defense on their schedule, there should be a hint of urgency to achieve consistency in their offense. The Cardinals had four sacks. LB Monty Montgomery had the best day of his career, adding 13 tackles and a couple of sacks. It was Montgomery’s third multi-sack game in his 18 games at Louisville. As we get closer to what we think could be the ACC championship battle, the Clemson Tigers (5-0) are hungry as # 1, causing the Yellow Jackets to be run over 73-7 on Saturday. That same Georgia Tech squad beat the Cardinals defense that limited the Irish to 338 total yards.
Ian Book completed 11 of 19 passes for 106 yards while Kyren Williams kept the fire alive by carrying the ball 25 times for 127 yards, the Irish rushed for 232 yards.
The inability to move the ball in the red zone was offset by the fighting mentality that Coach Kelly instilled in them and which ultimately allowed them to emerge victorious. In a battle for pride between the Fighting Irish and the Cardinals, Louisville’s defense came out to die on the field but the spirit of Ian Book and Kyren Williams was stronger with runs that gave the Fighting Irishmen the victory.
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