No. 10 Notre Dame’s dreams of a College Football Playoff berth were almost certainly dashed when it lost 33-20 to No. 25 Louisville on Saturday night.
This was the Fighting Irish’s third primetime game in three weeks, and it showed. The game lasted three quarters, but the newcomers Cardinals took advantage in the second half and claimed a physical victory.
With the win, Louisville improved to 6-0 in Jeff Brohm’s first season coaching his alma mater, entering the ACC title game and the national conversation in the process. The Irish, meanwhile, fell to 5-2, their 30-game regular-season winning streak in ACC play coming to an end before a much-anticipated showdown with USC next weekend in South Bend.
The game was tied at 10-10 midway through the third quarter until Louisville running back Jawhar Jordan finally broke free. Jordan completed a 45-yard touchdown run with 5:45 left in the third quarter to give Louisville a 17-10 lead.
Notre Dame responded with a field goal to cut the deficit to 17-13, but that was as close as the Irish would get the rest of the way.
On the ensuing drive, Louisville surged into Notre Dame territory and Jordan scored another touchdown from 21 yards out to extend the lead. Notre Dame was assessed a face mask penalty on its third and long possession that would have forced Louisville to punt. Instead, it resulted in an automatic first down and opened the door for Louisville to build a two-point lead.
Trailing 24-13, Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman made a desperate decision on his team’s next move. Perhaps sensing his team’s fatigue, he held the offense on fourth-and-11 during his 35-point drive with 9:49 left in the game. Louisville brought pressure, attacking the weak interior of the Irish offensive line. Hartman was forced to escape the pocket and forced a throw, but it fell incomplete and the ball was returned to Louisville.
An error in the fall nearly sealed the Irishman’s fate. The Cardinals will continue to shoot. After Hartman notched his second interception of the game on the Irish’s next possession, Brock Traversted’s third of four field goals put Louisville within five seconds of the game. Leading 30-13 at minute 02 seconds.
Notre Dame has no answers. Hartman did a great job leading the Irish to a last-second road win over Duke last week, but he had a rough night. He didn’t throw an interception in a Notre Dame uniform, but he did throw one on the Irish’s first possession. This is a sign of hard things to come. Hartman finished the night with 254 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. He was also sacked five times as the Irish allowed 298 yards of offense (many of them in garbage time) and was limited to 13 yards on third down.
Hartman didn’t get much help. The Irish’s strength should have been concentrated in the trenches, but the offensive line was overwhelmed by the UL front — both in run and pass protection. Notre Dame’s running backs were limited to 57 yards on 17 carries. Audric Estime entered the weekend with 672 yards rushing, leading the nation, but he was limited to 20 yards on 10 carries. The Irish have some of their better receivers coming back from injuries, but that won’t have any impact on Louisville’s defense.
Louisville’s offense wasn’t too impressive on a case-by-case basis, but veteran quarterback Jake Plummer avoided the mistakes that have been prevalent throughout his career. He has six interceptions heading into Saturday night’s game but did not commit a single fumble against the Irish. His touchdown pass to Jamari Thrash gave Louisville a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. But most importantly, he took control of the game, with Jordan rushing for 143 yards in 60 minutes and the Irish defense overwhelming their opponents.