All offseason we heard about the potential of Notre Dame's defense to dominate it's opponents especially at the defensive end position. Unfortunately through the first 3 games (Louisville, New Mexico, Georgia) the defense only had 3 sacks combined with none of them coming from preseason All-American candidates Julian Okwara and Khalid Kareem. Something needed to change and oh boy did it vs Virginia last Saturday.
8 sacks total for the Fighting Irish defense led to a dominating 2nd half in which ND beat 18th ranked Virginia 35-20. Okwara and Kareem finally broke through with a combined 5.5 sacks with numerous forced fumbles and recoveries to shake the confidence of talented Virginia QB Bryce Perkins. Perkins was for all intended purposes flawless in the 1st half leading Virginia to a 17-14 half time lead. In the 2nd half though the defense stepped up and forced Perkins into multiple fumbles and two interceptions from Alohi Gilman and freshman sensation Kyle Hamilton.
If Notre Dame is going to in fact win out and give themselves a chance to make the playoffs at 11-1 they will need to rely heavily on Clark Lea's talented and deep defense. Some of that depth on defense will be tested with senior DE Daelin Hayes out for the season now with a torn labrum and senior nickel back Shaun Crawford out at least a month with a dislocated elbow. The good news is Hayes has already announced he will come back for a 5th season next year and Crawford's injury looked much worse than the initial prognosis. Crawford will be back in November for big road games vs the likes of Duke and Stanford.
Before the season started a lot was made about the weakness of the ND defense up the middle with the departures of DT Jerry Tillery and LBs Te'von Coney and Drue Tranquill to the NFL. Last year the defensive tackles combined for an impressive 10 tackles for loss on the season. This year the starting combo of Kurt Hinish and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa along with Jacob Lacey and Jayson Ademiloloa have already combined for 8 TFL through only 4 games.
The linebacker core was suppose to take a huge hit this season but so far Asmar Bilal, Drew White and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah have combined for 13 TFL this season. Last year the starting LB core of Tranquill, Coney and Bilal combined for 21 TFL for the whole season. For everyone wanting to say this year's defense is worse up the middle I have to say the stats and numbers so far through the first month of the season simply don't back that assumption or observation up. The DT and LB cores are way more athletic and fast this year in my opinion. Kudos goes out to Lea and defensive line coach Mike Elston for developing these players. Scary thing is everyone up the middle can come back next season with the exception of Bilal.
As the season progresses I expect Lea's defense to be even more dominate. The 2nd half vs both Louisville and Virginia was where they set the bar. They kept elusive QB in the pocket and punished them into turnovers. The tackling in the UGA game was fundamentally sound through out giving the offense a chance to win the game. I expect Lea will continue to dial up the pressure with the front 7 because he knows with the back end of the defense (Gilman, Hamilton, Jalen Elliott, Troy Pride, Tariq Bracy, etc.) they can play on islands and not get burned for big plays.
With Okwara and Kareem emerging as the All-Americans we thought they could be going into the season and a group of DE backups (Ade, Jamir Jones, etc.) more than capable of holding their own I expect to see a ton of battered and bruised offensive backfields. Team them up with a stout middle of the defense along with a swarming and fast LB core not to mention a secondary as good as any in the nation I have full confidence this defense will be even better than the 2012 unit that carried them to a National Title game.
Our Drink Like A Champion Today T-shirts were front and center at the biggest college football game of the year UGA vs Notre Dame
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ICYMI our “Drink Like a Champion Today” shirt was front and center on the @cbssports broadcast in primetime for @notredame vs @georgiafootball game. BTW it was a great experience in @visitathensga this Saturday. UGA fans returned the favor in class and respect to all the Irish fans I saw visiting including myself. #sportscrack #UGAvsND #DomersvsDawgs #sicem #DLACT #drinklikeachampiontoday #goirish #godawgs #classiccity #collegefootball
No big deal.. just the most watched college football game of the year this past weekend in Athens GA as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish visited the #3 ranked Georgia Bulldogs in an epic battle which also featured our classic Drink Like A Champion Today t-shirt.
Thank you CBS for providing millions of eyeballs to see our glorious creation!
Also big thanks to all the people who attended this week in Athens who were sporting some SportsCrack swag. We saw tons of Tailgate Like A Champion Shirts and Book It shirts along with a few Domers Vs Dawgs tees.
We also saw a ton of red representing the SportsCrack with our new RBU Run The Damn Ball shirt making the rounds around all the Athens bars and tailgates.
UGA won the game 23-17 in front of a record breaking crowd that came down to the final possession. While Notre Dame didn't pull off the victory they did manage to give UGA all they could handle. This game had the feel of a real playoff game atmosphere and it wouldn't suck to see these two programs run the table the rest of the season and give us a rematch on a neutral field.
Georgia Tech Head Football Coach Geoff Collins wore the SportsCrack "Hamilton: All-American" shirt to his press conference
Big tip of the cap to Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets head football coach Geoff Collins wearing our Hamilton: All-American t-shirt at yesterday's press conference. It's been a tough go so far for the Yellow Jackets this season with the transition to a new offense but Collins will surely get them turned around. If anything the Hamilton shirt should be good luck this week as Collins goes back up to Temple where he came from last season to take on the Owls as a 8.5 underdog.
By god he's only a freshman with a baby face but there is no doubt Hamilton is an All-American ball player already.
Check out this play:
Get your very own Hamilton: All-American t-shirt exclusively at SportsCrack.com
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RBU: Run The Damn Ball Shirts shipped today! Get the exclusive #SportsCrack 🏈 tee at SportsCrack.com #RBU #RunTheDamnBall #RunningBackU #TailbackU #RunningBackUniversity #SECThreads #classicgeorgia #georgiathreads #classiccity #athens #herschelwalker #toddgurley #nickchubb
From Herschel to Rodney Hampton to Garrison Hearst to Terrell Davis to Knowshon Moreno to Todd Gurley to Sony Michel to Nick Chubb and now to the stable of 5-star running backs in Athens there is no doubt who the real RBU is. Now you can show the world what "RUN THE DAMN BALL" means when it comes to RBU.
Get the exclusive RBU t-shirt at SportsCrack.com. These heather red shirts are ultra soft and will be a hit at any tailgate, party, game, frat house, etc.
Since arriving in Oklahoma the QB play in Norman has been so good it hurts! Get the SportsCrack exclusive "Hurts So Good" t-shirt today to display your future Heisman winner pride.
It was not the most well played season opener for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on the road at Louisville last night but they did come out with the W 35-17.
Offensively QB Ian Book looked uncomfortable all night with his "happy feet" in the pocket leading to a lot of questionable reads and inaccurate throws. Book was locking in to his first read and not going through his progressions when given the time. Book often was seen tucking the ball and running instead of letting his receivers get open.
The good news is senior RB Tony Jones Jr. stepped it up with a tremendous game rushing for 112 yards on just 15 touches including a TD. Jones along with WR Chase Claypool and sophomore TE Tommy Tremble (huge TD catch on a seam route) came up with some huge chunk plays to help ease the offense lack of ball movement throughout the game. While Tremble got the ball of the game from head coach Brian Kelly I thought Jones Jr. was the MVP of the game.
Defensively it couldn't have been much worse for the Fighting Irish in the first two Louisville possessions. The Cardinals marched down twice with holes the size of Charlie Weis socks opening up everywhere in the ND defense. The defensive tackles and most notably the linebackers looked like they were playing on skates as Louisville took a 14-7 lead.
But then Clark Lea and the Notre Dame defense made adjustments on Scott Satterfields new offense. After that Louisville could only muster up 3 points in the final 12 possessions as guys like Julian Okwara, Khalid Kareem and Daelin Hayes took over the defensive front. Linebackers Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Drew White started playing more downfield making multiple tackles for loss and the secondary led by All-American candidate Alohi Gilman and freshman sensation Kyle Hamilton asserted their dominance.
Gilman was particularly impressive all game while leading the defense in tackles with 10 and having a forced fumble and fumble recovery on his stat sheet. For his all around performance Gilman earns the defensive MVP of the game.
Alohi with the forced fumble and recovery!— SportsCrack Apparel (@sportscrack) September 3, 2019
Admiral Crunch 11 Shirt https://t.co/hdL6ORCGnS
The most impressive throw of the game might have been this Ian Book throw away that broke a Louisville cheerleader's nose on the sideline.
Hopefully not the last one Book nails this week. Go Irish! https://t.co/Bzd0dkuCjK— SportsCrack Apparel (@sportscrack) September 3, 2019
The Irish will have a bye this week and will hopefully get Book back to his old self before he got injured last season in Northwestern. If ND is gonna hang with the likes of UGA in less than 3 weeks they need Book to step up his game and be poised in the pocket while reading his progressions and making downfield throws with ease.
Now I'm even more ready to run through a wall. It's been a long 8 months for Notre Dame this offseason and what's worse is they don't play until tonight unlike the traditional Saturday game day. Pretty cool listening to Notre Dame captain and senior safety Jalen Elliott narrate the video. This team is absolutely loaded. I just can't see them losing more than one game this season. Tonight they start the journey back to the playoffs with a road game in Louisville.
PREDICTION: Notre Dame 42 Louisville 24
I agree with everything Chris Simms says here except I don't think Notre Dame loses 2-3 games. The floor on this year's team is 10-2. Right now I feel like they go 11-1 with a loss on the road to UGA. Will it be enough to make the playoffs will remain to be seen.
I'm surprised Simms isn't high on Jake Fromm at all. Simms doesn't think Fromm is a high NFL draft pick because the talent level isn't there. I've seen Fromm play live and while I don't think he's on the same level of like an Andrew Luck or Trevor Lawrence I do think at worse he's a 2nd round pick. Fromm beat out two 5-star QB's and basically forced them to transfer. That has to say something in regards to his talent and understanding of the QB position.
The Irish Illustrated guys had some interesting thoughts from Brian Kelly's press conference today. It looks like we don't have much clarity involving Kevin Austin's status for the team other than he is still on the team. Whether Austin is serving a 4-game suspension or season suspension remains to be seen and it looks like we won't find out till October at the earliest. Right now we know Kelly isn't going to tell us more than he has to due to privacy issues.
Here is the depth chart ND officially released for this week's Louisville game:
QB: Ian Book, Phil Jurkovec
RB: Jafar Armstrong or Tony Jones Jr. Jahmir Smith
X Receiver (Wide): Chris Finke, Braden Lenzy
Z Receiver (Slot): Lawrence Keys III, Joe Wilkins
W Receiver (Boundary): Chase Claypool, Javon McKinley
Tight End: Brock Wright, Tommy Tremble
LT: Liam Eichenberg, Josh Lugg
LG: Aaron Banks, Trevor Ruhland
C: Jarrett Patterson, Colin Grunhard
RG: Tommy Kraemer, John Dirksen
RT: Robert Hainsey, Andrew Kristofic
SDE: Khalid Kareem, Ade Ogundeji, Jamir Jones
DT: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, Jayson Ademilola, Howard Cross III
NT: Kurt Hinish, Jacob Lacey, Ja'Mion Franklin
Drop End: Julian Okwara, Daelin Hayes, Justin Ademilola
Mike LB: Drew White, Shayne Simon or Bo Bauer
Buck LB: Asmar Bilal, Jordan Genmark Heath or Jack Lamb
Rover: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Paul Moala
Boundary CB: Troy Pride Jr., Houston Griffith or Donte Vaughn
Field CB: Shaun Crawford, TaRiq Bracy or Avery Davis
SS: Jalen Elliott, D.J. Brown
FS: Alohi Gilman, Kyle Hamilton
Kicker and Kickoffs: Jonathan Doerer, Harrison Leonard
Punter: Jay Bramblett, Leonard
Holder: Bramblett, Nolan Henry
Long-Snapper: John Shannon, Michael Vinson
Punt Returns: Chris Finke, Alohi Gilman
Kick Returns: Jafar Armstrong, Kyren Williams
Here is the Brian Kelly Press Conference - Louisville (8/28/19)