A strong second half helped No. 9 Notre Dame to a 35-17 win over Louisville on Monday night to conclude the first full week of the 2019 college football season.
The Irish easily marched down the field on the first drive of the game to take a quick 7-0 lead and make it seem that Louisville was going to get its doors blown off again like had happened so many times in 2018. But the Cardinals showed some fight in Scott Satterfield’s first game as the team’s head coach.
Louisville got the game tied at 14-14 in the second quarter before Notre Dame took a 21-14 halftime lead and then cruised in the second half.
There are a few extremely early questions about the Irish if you consider them to be a College Football Playoff contender again. Namely, the team’s rushing defense.
The Cardinals averaged over 5.5 yards a carry and gashed Notre Dame, especially in the first half. Remember, Notre Dame has Georgia, one of the best rushing teams in the country, on the schedule in Week 3.
QB Ian Book wasn’t too crisp either. But he was good enough to make the score of Monday night’s game look comfortable.
Book was 14-of-23 passing for 193 yards and a touchdown and also rushed for 81 yards. His best throw of the night came on the game-clinching score when he found TE Tommy Tremble slicing through the middle of Louisville’s defense for a 26-yard catch and a 28-17 lead in the third quarter.
The Irish entered 2019 needing to replace RB Dexter Williams and he wasn’t missed on Monday. Notre Dame scored four rushing touchdowns and RB Tony Jones, the guy who started behind Williams last season, averaged over seven yards a carry and finished with 15 carries for 110 yards.
Louisville should be improved
Louisville looked far better than the 2-10 disaster it was in 2018 under Bobby Petrino. A bowl game may be out of the question in Scott Satterfield’s first season with the Cardinals but it’s fair to say that Louisville should have a much more competitive 2019 even if it was clear that the Cardinals are still a work in progress. The defense has a lot of work to do and Jawon Pass struggled throwing the football.
There was also simply some general sloppiness. There was a three-play stretch in the second quarter with the game tied at 14-14 that featured three fumbles. Two of them were by the Cardinals and the second one, a bad shotgun snap, led to the go-ahead touchdown for the Fighting Irish.
The Cardinals lost three fumbles overall and also recovered two of their own.
But with Eastern Kentucky and Western Kentucky coming up, Louisville has a chance to get those mistakes fixed before eight straight ACC games.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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