Notre Dame football: Stock report after Week 4
Rarely do games live up to the pregame hype, but in the case of Saturday night’s matchup between Ohio State and Notre Dame, the game more than delivered.
The Fighting Irish took a 14-10 lead early in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t stop the Buckeyes from going on a 15-play, 65-yard drive in the final 1:25 to score the game-winning touchdown with 1 second left.
The talk after the game was about the issue of having enough players on the field for the final play of the game. It is the kind of mistake that will haunt a fanbase for years to come.
Let’s take stock of Notre Dame after Week 4.
Player of the Week: TE Mitchell Evans
The junior tight end was by far the favorite target of Sam Hartman on Saturday night, catching 7 passes for 75 yards.
One of his catches was highlight-worthy, as he made a great one-handed catch.
👀 🔥 Notre Dame TE Mitchell Evans with an absolutely awesome catch. #CFB
— Football Scout 365™️ (@DraftDay365) September 24, 2023
On the drive when the Fighting Irish took the 14-10 lead, Evans had a huge 25-yard catch on 3rd-and-10 to keep the drive going.
He entered this game with 10 career catches in his first 2+ years, and nearly got to that number in the game against the Buckeyes.
Freshman/Newcomer of the Week: DL Javonte Jean-Baptiste
This game was circled by college football fans for a multitude of reasons on Saturday night. For Jean-Baptiste, this game was circled as he played his first four seasons at Ohio State.
Jean-Baptiste was outstanding in the game, as he tied for the team lead with 8 tackles. That was a key performance for a Fighting Irish defense that was very good for pretty much the entire evening, holding an explosive Ohio State offense to 17 points.
While the defense wasn’t able to get the job done on the last drive, Jean-Baptiste and this unit are good enough to help this team be in every single game moving forward.
Biggest surprise: Lack of preparation at the end of the game
While there were so many positives in the game, the lack of having the right number of players on the field is an unforgivable mistake.
On the last 2 plays of the game from the 1-yard line, Notre Dame didn’t have 11 players on the field. This was especially noticeable on the game-winning run by Ohio State, as Buckeyes running back Chip Trayanun ran right to the spot where another defensive lineman should have been.
Notre Dame had only 10 men on the field for the final two plays 👀 pic.twitter.com/mVnL87yrxV
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 24, 2023
Another issue on this was coach Marcus Freeman said they didn’t want to get a penalty trying to rush a guy on the field. Doesn’t it make more sense to have a 6-inch penalty in order to make sure you have all 11 guys on the field?
Regardless of how the rest of the season goes, this whole sequence will haunt Notre Dame nation for a long time.
Biggest concern: Inability to get off the field on defense
While fans are going to remember the end of the game, there were numerous times when the Fighting Irish could have forced the Buckeyes to punt the ball. Ohio State ended up converting 10-of-17 3rd downs, including going 3-of-4 on the final drive of the game.
The defense did so many good things on Saturday night, but the inability to get off the field is another thing that will have the team kicking itself.
Developing trend: Multiple receivers capable of being the go-to receiver on any given week
We are 5 games into the season for Notre Dame, and there has been a different leading receiver in all 5 of those games.
Matter of fact, no receiver on Notre Dame has been the leading receiver twice so far this year. Having the ability to rely on so many different guys makes it very difficult for teams to focus on 1 player.
Hartman has shown he has a ton of trust in all of his receivers, and that should bode well moving forward for the Fighting Irish.
Key Stat: 4.5 yards per carry
The Fighting Irish are at their best when they are able to establish the run game and then use the play-action fake. This was the first time Notre Dame was going up against a big-time opponent, and the team wasn’t able to run the ball nearly as effectively as they had been.
On the season, the Fighting Irish had been averaging 5.6 yards per carry. That stat dropped by a full yard against the defense of Ohio State.
Notre Dame is entering a huge part of its schedule with games at No. 17 Duke and a home game vs. No. 8 USC in 2 of its next 3 games. Being able to control the line of scrimmage and run the ball will play a huge role in whether Notre Dame can get back to its winning ways.
First impression about Week 5
It doesn’t get any easier for Notre Dame, as the Irish will be on the road at No. 17 Duke next Saturday. Duke is off to a tremendous start and has been dominant to start the year.
The Blue Devils are winning their games by an average of 27.5 points, with all 4 of the wins being by at least 21. Duke returned 17 starters from last year’s team, including talented junior quarterback Riley Leonard.
This is going to be another very difficult game for Notre Dame, as Duke is as good as it has been in a long, long time. Win on Saturday, and the team is right back on its path to making the College Football Playoff. A loss, however, and that dream is all but done.