Everything that could have gone wrong for Notre Dame today did. Fumble on the 1-yard line that was returned all the way for a touchdown? Check. A pair of interceptions inside the 10-yard line? Check. Seventy-three yards of penalties? Check.
All this added up to a 23-20 loss to South Florida in the Irish’s home opener. It wasn’t the start to the season Notre Dame expected. It wasn’t the start anyone expected, as several pundits had the Irish headed to a BCS game this year. That’s still not completely out of the question, but it sure seems like a longshot that this team can find a way to win 10 games.
Notre Dame was horribly prepared for this game, that’s the only way to explain what happened. If there’s one or two fluky/bad plays that cost you, that can be blamed on individuals. When it’s permeated throughout the entire team, that rests on the shoulders of the coaches. Brian Kelly didn’t have his team ready to play today, for whatever reason, and now the Irish are 0-1 in a season they were supposed to “return to glory.”
Making matters worse, Notre Dame dominated nearly every statistical category. They out-gained South Florida 508-254. They held the Bulls to three yards per rush (in reality, the defense played well, only allowing one touchdown despite being put in a bad spot multiple times).
One positive that comes from this is that Notre Dame found its starting quarterback for the rest of the season: Tommy Rees. The negative, Kelly maybe should have realized that before naming Dayne Crist the starter a couple of weeks ago. Rees led the Irish to a 4-0 finish last season. He’s more accurate and 10-bazillion times more poised. Crist struggled in the first half, throwing an interception in the redzone (Rees threw one there, too, but that one was on the receiver) and making a handful of poor throws that stalled drives. Rees took over in the second half and was 24-of-34 for 296 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Yes, there were two weather delays in the game, but if anything, those were beneficial to the Irish. There is nowhere other than Kelly and the coaching staff to pin this loss. When you’re Notre Dame, you have to be ready to go every week. This team clearly was not.