Instant Observations: Defense struggles as Notre Dame survives Seminoles in OT

Eric Hansen
ND Insider

Bottom Line

Notre Dame’s encore game to its second playoff appearance in three years was less about finding perfection and more about establishing a foundation from which to build and grow for the rest of the season.

What Florida State exposed in the season opener for both teams Sunday night in Tallahassee, Fla., were growing pains in an unexpected place, in addition to the predictable ones.

Florida State's Jordan Travis (13) gets tripped up in traffic during the Notre Dame-Florida State NCAA football game on Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021, in Tallahassee, Florida.

Marcus Freeman’s defense flashed plenty of its high-reward potential in the 41-38 Irish overtime Irish survival but gave up too many big-chunk plays and eventually wore down against first starting QB Jordan Travis, then inspirational tag-team partner McKenzie Milton.

► Noie column:Noie column: It never should've gone to overtime, but No. 9 Notre Dame survives

► Scoring:Notre Dame-Florida State scoring summary: Irish hold off Seminoles in OT

The latter was playing in his first game in 33 months when while at UCF he suffered a gruesome knee injury that was expected to end his career.

Particularly surprising/concerning was Florida State’s ability to run the football. The Seminoles averaged 5.6 yards per carry in amassing 284 yards on 48 carries. Jashaun Corbin led the way with 144 yards on 15 carries in regulation.  

Big Picture

There were enough wonky survivals and outright upsets among the top 25 teams this weekend to keep No. 9 Notre Dame from plummeting too far in the top 25,

More importantly is for the Irish to show real progress in two home games the next two weeks, against Toledo and Purdue, than it is to put up style points in those games.    

Questions Answered

Notre DameÕs Michael Mayer (87) gets stopped by Florida State's Renardo Green (8) during the Notre Dame-Florida State NCAA football game on Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021, in Tallahassee, Florida.

Jack Coan showed the poise and confidence that prompted Irish head coach Brian Kelly to pluck him from the transfer portal and eventually elevated him to the top of the depth chart.

Questions Lingering

How quickly can the Irish offensive line get enough chemistry for the running game to fully function? What happened to the ND defensive line that was so dominant through most of the first half?  

My Game Balls Go To

Offense: Jack Coan: In his first start in a Notre Dame uniform, the Wisconsin transfer completed 26 of 35 passes for 366 yards and four TDs with an interception on a Hail Mary to end regulation.

Notre DameÕs Jack Coan (17) hands off the ball to teammate Kyren Williams (23) during the Notre Dame-Florida State NCAA football game on Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021, in Tallahassee, Florida.

Defense: All-America safety Kyle Hamilton picked off two passes and added six tackles in an otherwise up-and-down night for first-year coordinator Marcus Freeman’s new defense.

The Road Ahead

The Irish received a waiver from the NCAA to skip their day off on a short prep week for Saturday’s home opener with Toledo (1-0). The Rockets pummeled FCS school Norfolk State, 49-10, in this past Saturday’s season opener. Former Irish linebacker Jonathan Jones was among the defensive standouts with six tackles.