The Notre Dame Fighting Irish were dealt their second loss of the season on Saturday. A second half rally by the Irish fell short as they fell to the Oklahoma Sooners, 35-21
In the wake of the loss, Notre Dame (3-2) fell out of the Top 25 rankings and Oklahoma (4-0) was bumped up to 11th.
Old problems surfaced once again for the Irish. Offensive inconsistency, poor play calling, and general failure from quarterback Tommy Rees led to the loss. Defensively, the Irish failed to bottle up Oklahoma’s Blake Bell who was allowed to get away with whatever he wanted.
Brian Kelly has some tough games coming up and its very possible that a bowl game will be in question if the errors of the offense are not rectified.
Here are our takeaways from the game:
- Bad Tommy. Rees put the Irish in a hole early in the game. On Notre Dame’s first drive, he threw an interception return for a touchdown. Second drive, Rees immediately throws another pick that Sooners would turn into a touchdown. In under three minutes, the Irish were down 14 points. Rees would go on to complete just 9-of-24 passes for 104 yards a pair of touchdowns and three interceptions. He closed out the game with seven straight incompletions. That’s a pitiful effort when you consider the weapons the Irish have on offense. Most troubling to me are his pre-snap reads. He isn’t making adjustments at the line to set the team up for success. I’m fairly certain that Rees doesn’t know how to read a defense, even when a blitzer makes it clear he’s coming. Rees still appears to be the team’s starter, largely because they don’t have a better option.
- Iffy Defense. Bell couldn’t be stopped. While its not exactly easy to do so, Notre Dame struggled to stop anything Oklahoma did on the field. The defense gave up 28 points, still not enough to win the game. The Sooners had a very balanced approach, amassing 212 yards rushing and 238 yards passing. Notre Dame was unable to force a single turnover. The defense has been up and down all season, and while they held the Sooners to 5-for-14 on third down, they gave up too many big plays (like the back breaking 54-yard touchdown pass to Sterling Shepard to seal victory). This team is much better when it plays with a lead and struggles to come from behind against opponents.
- Silver Lining. Notre Dame finally found its rushing attack. George Atkinson finally proved why he should be the starting running back after gaining 148 yards on 14 carries. The Irish amassed 220 yards rushing. This is the sort of running game that Notre Dame was supposed to have all season. But the question remains: why didn’t Kelly rush the ball more late in the game? Down two touchdowns, the Irish had the ball twice with time in the fourth quarter, ran six plays and ran the ball once. Conventional logic says you need to pass more, but with the way Rees was playing running the ball was the safer option (and likely more effective).
- Penalties. The Irish were penalized eight times for 77 yards (and a few more that weren’t accepted). The week before, Notre Dame benefitted from a number of penalties against Michigan State (some fairly dubious). Many of Saturday’s penalties were on third down and kept Sooner drives alive. Ben Councell committed a bad one late in the game for targeting. That kind of hit is easy to avoid, and is inexcusable which is why the rule is now in place. There were three penalties that gave Oklahoma 15 yards each. The Irish were just giving away yards and its hard to bounce back from that sort of undisciplined mistake.
This is a tough loss for Notre Dame. A lot of problems this team has were exposed, while others performed fairly well.
The road doesn’t get any easier for the Irish either. Up next, is No. 22 Arizona State at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Notre Dame’s schedule is also in flux due to the government shutdown. If this idiotic shutdown lasts through the month, it will likely result in the cancelling of the Air Force and Navy games.
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