Notre Dame football: Thoughts following the disappointing Clemson loss

Notre Dame football didn’t expect to be in this situation today, but after it’s devastating loss on the road to Clemson 31-23.

The Irish fell in both polls, but that is the least of their current problems. Although they are still ranked, it’s not the ideal spot to be in and that will reflect when the college football playoff rankings are updated on Tuesday.

It wouldn’t shock me to see the Irish not being ranked there, as they didn’t look like one of the top 25 teams in the country on Saturday.

Like every Sunday, I have plenty of thought’s following Notre Dame’s performance and here they are.

Is this season a disappointment?


When you look at the whole season, which isn’t even over with, it is a big disappointment. There should have been a win over Ohio State, the Louisville loss may very well could have still happened, but this loss to Clemson might sting the worst. The Tigers were reeling, 4-4 entering this game, losers of two straight. That team had everything against them, but turned it around a soundly beat the Irish. Now, on to Notre Dame’s problems…

Not hiring the right offensive coordinator


This social media post sums up the issues in a nutshell. Many of us were told to believe in what Gerad Parker brought to the table, I don’t think they are any believers anymore. The Irish missed out on its top targets this offseason, and it’s haunting them. As solid as Sam Hartman was with Wake Forest, he looks absolutely lost in this offense. I’ve complained about his regression for weeks, it has to do with coaching, not talent. The offensive issues fall directly on Parker and Freeman.

Offensive play calling


Not being able to hire who Freeman wanted and having to settle for Parker has seen this offense look like it’s being called by a first-time play caller. That’s because it is, Parker didn’t call many plays during his time at West Virginia, but giving him that role under more scrutiny was a massive mistake. He looks completely lost, his reluctance to feed Audric Estime against Clemson is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s not like in years past when there was a lack of receiver talent, it’s there but virtually zero production from the group. They’re using a former lacrosse player Jordan Faison instead of Rico Flores or Chris Tyree. He’s a solid player, but there’s a reason why he wasn’t recruited as a football player. It’s been very hard to make sense of the offense the Irish have deployed this fall.

How to fix it


There were some rumors that Freeman was going to scale back Parker’s role following this game, with another bye on the horizon. Is there really a choice now? There isn’t anyone on the current staff that make sense to promote or move around. Quarterback coach Gino Guidugli has almost the same amount of experience as Parker, while offensive line coach Joe Rudolph has a bit. Running back’s coach Deland McCullough and wide receiver coach Chansi Stuckey don’t have any play calling experience. If there is an in-house option to make a change, it has to be Rudolph, but do you really want to take him away from the line? This most likely won’t get fixed until the season ends. When Pete Bevacqua takes over for Jack Swarbrick, he is going to have to open up the university’s wallet to make a big time hire.

Effort against Clemson


Flat is the only way to put it. When I previewed the game with my keys for an Irish victory, one of them was to come out swinging and bring the juice early. Well, the Irish didn’t do that. The first drive, they settle for a field goal, which I hated. You don’t win by being passive. The next two drives went three-and-out, followed by Chris Tyree’s fumble on a punt. Two field goals, sandwiched with Hartman’s pick-6, was the first half offense. You won’t win playing passive against a talented team. This again is on the coaches.

Playing not to lose


Back to the field goal on the first drive, what irked me the most was that Estime was running hard and gashing the Clemson defense, his first three carries resulted in 49 yards. After his 25-yard run into Clemson territory, Estime didn’t touch the ball again. Who knows why not, but on third-and-10, the Irish opted to run the ball. Gi’Bran Payne gained six and my immediate thought was, they’re going for it due to the previous play call. Sure, Spencer Shrader made the field goal, but that set the tone for the Irish. Playing to not lose is how you actually lose, and that’s what happened to Notre Dame.

Is it time to play another quarterback?


My initial thought is no, and you might think that’s a bit out there, but I have a legit reasoning why not. You have to expect that Parker will either have a reduced role or be gone next season, so a new offensive voice will be leading the Irish. It makes no sense to me for any of the backups to get accustomed to running this offense any more than they already have. Who knows if Guidugli will be around next year as well. We could be seeing a good amount of changes on the offensive staff come January or even earlier.

Where does this team go now?


This bye week will be very telling as to the future of the Irish. Does Freeman stand pat and do nothing? Will they make a much needed change at offensive coordinator? Having a week off this late in the season is a bit odd, but it’s coming at a great time. Losses help you reevaluate everything, which is exactly what Freeman should be doing. I still believe that he was the right choice to take over the program, he needs to gain the coaching experience that he didn’t get as an assistant. The Irish will be favored in their last two games, and hopefully finish 9-3 heading into a bowl.

Contact/Follow us @IrishWireND on X (Formerly Twitter), and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Notre Dame news, notes, and opinions.

Follow Mike on X: @MikeFChen

Story originally appeared on Fighting Irish Wire