For a look at the detailed questions presented in our "Who and What to Watch?" preview, Click here.
1.) Wither the Weather? Cold conditions likely contributed to the low-quality of play from both teams, with Northwestern experiencing at least four dropped passes on well-thrown balls (including two touchdowns) and the Irish another three.
Notre Dame turned it over four times but that's par for the course -- hard to blame mother nature on a two-month, program-wide regularity.
A bobbled snap by rookie holder Malik Zaire could have been due, in part, to cold hands catching a hard snap, but I'm certain I've seen holders catch footballs in November before. Both kickers struggled with kickoff depth, a regular late-season occurrence in the midwest.
In summation, the weather didn't help anyone, but it wasn't wet or overly windy -- it was just ugly. Across the board.
2.) What if Golson fumbles? The question, and my follow-up pre-game answer, posited that if Everett Golson fumbled the football for the tenth time this season, that he should be removed for the remainder of the contest. He did, he was not, and the Irish lost anyway, in part to a pair of fumbles from players not named Golson, Chris Brown and Cam McDaniel, the latter as the Irish tried to run out the clock.
Golson also threw an interception, the direct result of contact from a blind-side pass rusher as the quarterback's throw intended for a crossing Corey Robinson was redirected off right tackle Christian Lombard's helmet and into the waiting arms of Northwestern linebacker Anthony Walker -- who returned the offering from the Northwestern 26-yard line to the Irish 4-yard line, setting up a Wildcats touchdown one snap later.
Golson's aforementioned fumble occurred with the Irish staked to 1st-and-Goal at the Northwestern 4-yard line. He pulled a read-option handoff out of running back Tarean Folston's waiting arms but mishandled the faked exchange, bobbled, then lost the football.
(Did I mention this is Game 10, not the season-opener?)
It's clear Golson will not be held accountable for continual mistakes through the threat of lost playing time in any capacity.
3.) How much progress can they make? (Morgan, Cage, Tranquill, Trumbetti, Butler…) The question focused on Notre Dame's freshmen and relative rookies, and Saturday in South Bend, the collection endured its share of struggles.
True freshman safety Drue Tranquill made his first start but was predictably not effective as a communicator in the last line of the Irish defense. Said Kelly of Tranquill and middle linebacker Nyles Morgan working in tandem: "The reality is that we're struggling with our communication with the loss of those two guys (Austin Collinsworth and Joe Schmidt) because we've put it on Drue Tranquill who's a true freshman, and Nyles Morgan who's a true freshman."
Morgan struggled throughout, though Kelly deferred to film review for a full assessment. Cage injured his knee (MRI pending) and Trumbetti played his normal rotation with Romeo Okwara, but unlike a standout Saturday in the desert on Nov. 8, Trumbetti did not distinguish save for one unofficial snap (detailed in Question #5 below).
Backup cornerback Devin Butler continued to progress. He took the loss especially hard post-game after filling in for most of the second half for Cody Riggs, the 5th-year senior who was forced to limit reps with a foot injury.
Our weekly film review will detail the overall efforts of each mentioned above, but it's notable the Irish defense allowed 43 points to a Northwestern offense that had scored a combined 16 over the previous two outings.
The film is unlikely to reveal stellar play from many among the Irish defense.
4.) Will Game Pressure Present Late? Yes, courtesy the Wildcats inspired play and the sloppiness of Brian Kelly's squad. Plus, and this is most important, egregious fourth-quarter coaching errors.
"Saturday was a Notre Dame loss that could be described as 'Weis-ian' in nature."
And as expected by anyone that understands the role of the road underdog, it was the home team that played tight, as if it had everything to lose and little to gain.
Perhaps most troubling on a long day wrought with head-shaking occurrences, is the reality that Saturday was a Notre Dame loss that could be described as "Weis-ian" in nature.
-- From left to right: Somewhat, ouch, yes, yes, ehh...
Martin continued his ascent as did Luke (a crucial late interception to set up Notre Dame's final touchdown), but McDaniel's second carry of the game resulted in a game-changing lost fumble while both Trumbetti and Carlisle offered nondescript efforts from scrimmage, though Trumbetti made one of the game's most important plays -- staying home backside against a reverse to force an errant throw on Northwestern's game-tying conversion. Unfortunately, Drue Tranquill was called for pass interference and the Wildcats were able to capitalize on the ensuing second chance.
It should be noted that Carlisle looked much more confident in the kick return game.
6.) Will Patience be Tested, or a Virtue? Golson didn't force much into Northwestern's defense, in fact, he found mid-zone holes when necessary in the passing game and did not commit an error consistently throwing into a Cover 2 or Cover 4 -- bend-but-don't-break -- scheme. Total yardage was well over 500 for the Irish, but Notre Dame committed far too many physical mistakes to win. (Chris Brown fumble at the goal line, Golson fumble at the goal line, McDaniel fumble running out the clock.)
The Irish offense was patient -- but it was still felled by the season-long bugaboo, the turnover.