The 2019 Notre Dame football season kicked off Monday night, the unconventional game day making the opener at Louisville a national focal point. The Irish certainly had some rust to shake, but settled in to dominate over the final three quarters en route to the 35-17 victory.
With a healthy mix of veterans and new faces making contributions in the season debut, the Irish saw glimpses of what kind of team they can be in 2019. Indeed, the rookies who stepped up Monday night — tight end Tommy Tremble, running back Jahmir Smith, safety Kyle Hamilton and linebackers Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Drew White, among others — looked solid in their first significant minutes, showing they can fill the gaps left by graduation and injury.
They sometimes even filled in where their veteran counterparts up the depth chart struggled in the first game out.
“We actually need our veterans to step up another level of their play, which I’m certain they will,” Dick Corbett Head Football Coach Brian Kelly said. “The good news for me tonight as the head coach is that I think the younger players showed themselves, and that now with all of them together, moving forward, this can be a pretty good football team.”
Let’s take a look back at how those personnel questions shook out Monday, through the photos that tell the story of the game.
Photos by Ryan Meyer
Gilman is the Glue
A year after joining the Irish and elevating the defensive backfield, safety Alohi Gilman returned as Notre Dame’s leading returning tackler. On Monday, he led an Irish defense that allowed just three Louisville points over the game’s final three quarters — pacing the team with 10 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Rise of the Rookies
Jahmir Smith scored the first two touchdowns of his career. Tommy Tremble was Notre Dame’s second leading receiver, with 49 yards on three catches and a touchdown. Kyle Hamilton came through with four tackles and two pass break-ups, even subbing in for Gilman for an entire drive at one point. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah was second on the team with nine tackles, including two for losses. Drew White added five tackles and Lawrence Keys III grabbed a pair of receptions. Long story short: the kids can play.
Won on the Run
Tony Jones Jr. picked up 78 of his 110 yards on one drive in the first quarter, with his 11-yard scoring rush pulling the Irish even at 14. It was the second 100-yard rushing game of his career, a milestone made all the more significant by an injury to Jafar Armstrong in the first half. Jones anchored the Irish run game when Notre Dame needed it, a natural by-product of fully embracing his role within the Irish scheme. If Monday’s performance was any indication, it’s a role that has the potential to expand.