Notre Dame vs. Cincinnati: First-Quarter Analysis

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As we expected, Notre Dame and Cincinnati have indicated that it won’t be easy to determine a winner in this game. There have been signs of both teams getting ready to take control, but it simply hasn’t happened yet. So it should come as no surprise that this contest is scoreless after the first quarter.

The Irish took the ball first and appeared to be headed for some early points, namely because of some strong gains by Kyren Williams and Michael Mayer that mainly came via the passing game. Mayer in particular made a nice catch on fourth-and-10 to give the Irish a fresh set of downs inside the Bearcats’ red zone. After another first-down catch by Mayer set the Irish up at the 6-yard line, it was time for the Bearcats’ vaunted red-zone defense to show up. It did just that on a questionable throw by Jack Coan that ended up in the hands of Ahmad Gardner, snuffing out what had been a productive drive until then.

Over the game’s next three drives, both teams picked up a first down before being forced to punt. Two defensive highlights for the Irish came during that sequence. One was when Kyle Hamilton blitzed Desmond Ridder and nearly picked off the ball as soon as it left Ridder’s hand. Another came when Ridder fired a 45-yard pass toward Alec Pierce in the end zone that was broken up by Clarence Lewis.

The Irish’s final drive of the quarter saw Tyler Buchner assume quarterback duties for the moment. He nearly helped the Irish pick up a first down but for a hold by Josh Lugg. Thus, the drive was doomed to the game’s first three-and-out.