An old saying in coach speak after a tough loss is, “Don’t let the same team beat you twice.” In other words, a tough loss can often turn into two or even three losses when the lingering stink/hangover endures into the next week. Good football teams reboot quickly after tough losses and stay grounded after big wins. I was really worried about this going into Notre Dame’s match-up with Virginia last Saturday. A tough, physical game and a Notre Dame team that seemed a little beat up having to reboot quickly against a good Virginia team. The Irish answered those questions with flying colors.
A defense that forced five turnovers that directly led to 28 points and a rejuvenated running game that accounted for 192 yards and four touchdowns paved the way for another home win. The Irish are 14-1 since 2017 at home and have won 13 in a row in Notre Dame stadium. On Saturday I remarked on twitter that the Irish are trending towards “elite” status. After have a couple of days to digest Saturday, I’m not willing to move off of that statement.
I vividly recall the Lou Holtz era, when the Irish at home just didn’t lose very often. Holtz had roughly a .780 winning percentage at home. The last three seasons thus far looks a lot like that. Another reminder of happy days as a kid, was the performance of Tony Jones, Jr. on Saturday. When the Irish really had it going during the 1980s and 1990s it didn’t matter who was running the ball they were virtually unstoppable.
Consider the 1990 roster that featured future NFL players Rodney Culver, Ricky Watters, Rocket Ismail, Tony Brooks, Jerome Bettis, Dorsey Levens, and Jeff Burris all vying for time in the crowded Notre Dame backfield. For my money, that is the greatest cast of running back talent at one time in NCAA history. This team obviously doesn’t have that type of depth, but Jones, Jr. gave them a much needed lift when they really needed it.
Another element of those “elite” Notre Dame teams was the relative ease in which they handled ranked teams. If there is an area that Notre Dame could improve it would be to improve against ranked opponents. Since 2017 the Irish are 22-5 however all five losses were to ranked opponents. During that same stretch, they are 8-5 against ranked opponents. Something they will need to improve upon to reach that “elite” status.
Last Saturday was a step in the right direction. The Irish were physically dominant and perhaps showed that Georgia was no fluke. The next step in the process is dominate Bowling Green and then remain focused for an up down USC team which will take them into the bye week hopefully sitting at 5-1.