The naysayers were out in force on Saturday as well as the critics of Notre Dame Quarterback, Brandon Wimbush. This was especially the case in the world of social media. It somewhat reminded of some of the negative reactions after the Notre Dame Citrus Bowl win last season. This was no surprise given the Irish sub par performance in a 24-16 win over Ball State at home.
Coming on the heels of a stellar performance against Michigan, I figured the bandwagon would have a few fewer members on Saturday Night. Before I delve into a couple of legitimate points, let me remind people of the climate of college football. The most important thing that needs to happen each week is winning. The voters and writers deciding national titles is largely a thing of the past. If the Irish finish undefeated they will be in the playoff…period. I would argue this season, an 11-1 Notre Dame football team probably makes the playoff. Lets also remember since the start of this season Penn State needing overtime to win against Appalachian State…AT HOME! Purdue getting knocked off at home by Eastern Michigan! Florida State needing a rally to beat….Samford! That is the craziness of college football. Not to mention Villanova beating Temple and East Carolina crushing North Carolina! There will be other upsets as the season goes along. Yes, Notre Dame was at home, yes they played poorly, and YES they won. In all the greatness of the Michigan win, we sometimes forget the impact it has on young people. The Irish were probably told by everyone from their grandmother to the campus security guard that they were “GREAT”. You have to be able to handle that. It will be a good lesson for the team going forward.
Now the legitimate concerns. Though I have enormous respect for the MAC Conference, Ball State was coming off a 2-10 season the year before. I think I had the Irish winning this game in the pre-season 42-10. The question then, what went wrong on Saturday? If I’m Brian Kelly, there are two things that are probably keeping me up at night this week. The running game/offensive line. Ok I get it, the Michigan defense is great so the 2.8 yards per carry and 132 net rushing yards in week 1 was a product of that. However, against Ball State it was 117 rushing yards and just 2.9 yards per carry. Secondly, Brandon Wimbush through two games is completing roughly 55% of his passes but he has thrown four interceptions. The better teams are coming, and the latter half of the Michigan game and Ball State game the Notre Dame offense looked eerily similar to the one we saw in the November slide last season. There is no way the Irish can navigate this schedule if they cannot run the ball more effectively and if their quarterback continues to turn the ball over.
I’m still going glass is half full here! The Irish will get projected starting running back Dexter Williams back after week four. He will add another dimension to the offense. The defense has played well and will likely continue to improve. As fans we tend to get too high when we win and think the world is ending when we lose. At the end of Saturday Notre Dame was 2-0 that should not be forgotten on a day when they were not at their best.