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Instant Analysis: Sluggish Defense and Penalties Define Irish's Week 3 Victory over Central Michigan

By Liam Farrell|Senior Staff Writer|Twitter @LiamFarrell_IT


Via Notre Dame Football


Notre Dame's test against Central Michigan was one of the most frustrating performances in recent memory. The Irish offense started out strong out of the gates, but faded away over time. The Notre Dame defense was getting gashed in the running game, and the absence of JD Bertrand and DJ Brown were felt. The narrative about the undisciplined Irish defense continued this week, where numerous penalties advanced Central Michigan drives, and put Notre Dame behind the 8-ball. The officiating crew today was another factor that made this game completely unenjoyable to watch. Let's breakdown some quick hitters from today's game.


Offense

Via Notre Dame Football


Sam Hartman. Hartman started off strong and had two beautiful deep balls, in which he found receivers Chris Tyree and Tobias Merriweather. On the day, Hartman was 16/26 with 330 yards and 3 touchdowns. He missed Jaden Greathouse a couple times on the last drive of the 3rd quarter, but for the most part, the graduate quarterback made the correct reads and played a very sound game. There was a scary incident when a CMU defender twisted Hartman's knee after bringing him down, but Hartman returned and looked unfazed in the grand scheme of things.


Offensive Line. The Offensive Line struggled a bit today, in which they had some penalties derail a drive. The holding call by Blake Fisher was terrible, and it forced Notre Dame into a 3rd and long, deep in their own end. On the flip side, the run-blocking was alright, but the Chippewas maintained pressure and even got to Estime in the backfield a couple times.


Run Game. Today was the first time where the Notre Dame running game looked a bit stagnant. Some of the plays took forever to start, which resulted in losses behind the line of scrimmage. Estime had a good touchdown run on 4th and inches, and continued to display his ability to get yards after contact. You could tell that the Notre Dame coaches wanted to wake the Irish up in the 2nd half, which is why they called three straight physical runs.


Wide Receivers. Tobias Merriweather finally had the big break most fans were waiting for, with his 75-yard touchdown catch on Notre Dame's first drive of the day. Chris Tyree had another big play touchdown, this one an over-the-shoulder catch, dropped beautifully in the bucket by Hartman. Jayden Thomas made a couple good plays in space, as well as his big 39-yard catch.


Tight Ends. Holden Staes had a big drop on 3rd and long, which would've put the Irish in a better position for the field goal kick. He also had a holding call that brought back a 70-yard Audric Estime touchdown. To make up for these blunders, he made a sick one-handed touchdown catch to put the nail in the coffin in this one.


Defense


Via NBC Sports


The Irish Miss their Captain. The Irish defense was getting absolutely torched on the running game effort by the Chippewas today. The linebackers were nowhere to be found, and were hitting the wrong gaps. The absence of JD Bertrand was seismic, and the young linebacker, Jaylen Sneed, wasn't being physical at all.


Penalties. Penalties. Penalties. This defense commits a stupid amount of unnecessary penalties. The two that stand out are the two roughing the passer penalties on Josh Burnam and Rylie Mills, which were both on incompletions. These two penalties gave Central Michigan significant momentum, resulting in touchdown drives. The pass interference on Jaden Mickey was a bit ticky-tack, where it appeared the receiver fell down, but still, it can't happen.


Thomas Harper. The biggest bright spot in my opinion today was the play of Thomas Harper. The kid was everywhere, from being great in one-on-one coverage in space, along with blitzing the quarterback that caused a fumble. The Oklahoma State transfer had a great day, and was my defensive MVP of the game.


JJB. Jean-Baptiste was another player who stood out today with his hustle. Jean-Baptiste was one of the only players on the defensive line who got to the quarterback, and disrupted a couple run plays behind the line of scrimmage. This is a progression Notre Dame desperately needs from the defensive line.


Miscellaneous


Kicking Game. I respect the confidence that the coaching staff has in Spencer Shrader, but I think the limit for the kid has to be 55 yards. In a percentages game, I would much rather go for it on 4th and 10, then kick a 59-yard field goal, which just gives Central Michigan great field position.


Officiating. The first half lasted about an hour and a half, primarily because of the terrible officiating by the on-field crew. The officials were indecisive, and just bad. The waived off pass interference call when Rico Flores Jr. got tugged to the ground was horrendous, and then the review of the review on the 1st down spot was even worse. ACC officials.


Coaching. While I love Freeman trying to burn timeouts to give Hartman enough time before the half, I would've just let Central Michigan score. They were on the half yardline with 46 seconds left. CMU burned 30 seconds by not scoring, and that in turn, gave the Irish no time to get a scoring chance before halftime.


Jason Garrett. I'm not a fan. At all. Garrett brings nothing into the broadcasting booth, and much like one of his predecessors, Doug Flutie, often roots against the Irish at all costs. He also is the most "captain obvious" analyst I have ever watched in my life. Having Garrett in the booth makes watching Notre Dame games significantly less enjoyable. NBC, please figure it out.


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