It Was Over When…Senior kicker Kyle Brindza and redshirt-freshman holder Malik Zaire mismanaged a potential game-tying field goal from the Louisville 32-yard line with fifty-one seconds remaining and Brindza shanked the kick right of the uprights.
"I don't think it was executed at the level it needed to be," said head coach Brian Kelly post-game. "I didn't see it. I'll have to watch it on film, but in talking to Kyle, it did not appears to be handled cleanly."
Said Kelly later when asked to look ahead to 2015, "Well, we've lost back-to-back games because we couldn't put down a ball and kick it 32 yards…"
Brindza missed a go-ahead 42-yard attempt in overtime last week in a loss to Northwestern.
Notre Dame has lost three consecutive games for the first time since Kelly's Irish lost games No. 2, 3, and 4 in his initial season, 2010.
Offensive MVP -- Tarean FolstonFinished the contest with 134 rushing yards on just 18 carries, the fourth time in the last five outings the sophomore eclipsed the 100-yard mark. Curiously, the Irish have won just one of those four contests. (Folston ran for 98 yards and two touchdowns against North Carolina prior to the streak.)
Folston's biggest impact carry came on Notre Dame's final drive when he took a 3rd-and-2 stretch run to the right for 26 yards after shaking a Louisville defender in short space down the right sideline. Consistent throughout, Folston provided runs of 6, 9, 20, 6 (TD), 12, 22, and 8 yards on the afternoon.
"I felt like I did okay. My O-Line opened up holes and I had great opportunities as a result," Folston said.
Offensive Game Balls-- Sophomore Will Fuller again led the charge on the perimeter, scoring his 14th receiving touchdown of the season, one short of tying a program record. Fuller's touchdown came courtesy a carom off of intended receiver Corey Robinson, a third-down play that, coupled with an Everett Golson two-point conversion run, cut Louisville's lead to 24-20 11:17 remaining.
Fuller finished with a game-high five receptions for 109 yards, his fourth game in excess of 100 receiving yards.
-- Junior Chris Brown played his best game of the season to date, finishing with four catches -- each of which gained first-down yardage -- and 49 yards. His 25-yard leaping one-handed grab early in the third-quarter set up Notre Dame's first touchdown of the second stanza. Brown also helped the Irish convert on 3rd-and-10, securing an 11-yard comeback route for the catch.
Defensive MVP -- Cole LukeThe sophomore cornerback was outstanding in his assignment vs. one of the nation's top receivers, 6'3" senior DeVante Parker. Parker finished the day with four receptions for 65 yards and a touchdown, but the touchdown catch came when Parker was matched one-on-one vs. Luke's classmate Devin Butler.
"We had matched them (Luke and Parker) up all day and didn't get that match-up and they threw a touchdown," said Kelly who called Luke's efforts, "outstanding" post-game.
Luke held the future first-round NFL Draft pick to three receptions for 44 yards over the course of the contest. He broke up two passes intended for Parker and finished with three tackles.
Defensive Game Balls-- Sophomore linebacker Jaylon Smith led all tacklers with 11, including one for lost yardage while adding two QB pressures and a pair of pass breakups. In addition to his TFL, Smith registered three stops of two yards or fewer.
Smith wore injured senior Joe Schmidt's No. 38 to honor his teammate. Smith did the same for graduating senior Danny Spond on Senior Day 2013, wearing No. 13 in honor of the upperclassmen that remained with the team after being forced to retire due to a migraine condition.
"We didn't get the job done, but it was an honor to wear Joe's number," Smith said. "It was a great feeling, even though Joe's coming back (for a fifth-season in 2015)."
Asked to evaluate the defense's play, Smith offered, "Great effort. The effort was there. It's just about having the physical and mental mentality to the point where we're not going to be denied. That's where age plays a picture. We had two rookies playing in their first-ever game, when Jarron (Jones) went out," Smith continued, referencing Jacob Matuska and Jay Hayes. "They gave it their all. We just have to find a way to keep improving."
-- Defensive end Andrew Trumbetti made a difference in his platoon role with junior Romeo Okwara. The true freshman registered three tackles including 3rd-and-10 tackle for loss, a third-down pressure that resulted in an interception by teammate Drue Tranquill, and a third-down quarterback hurry that aided a Isaac Rochell sack. Trumbetti also broke up a pass and made 1st-and-Goal stop of Cardinals running back Brandon Radcliffe that helped deny what would have been a game-sealing touchdown march by the visitors. Louisville missed a field goal attempt three snaps later after backup middle linebacker sacked quarterback Reggie Bonnafon on third down.
-- Sophomore defensive end Isaac Rochell notched three tackles, each at or behind scrimmage including a third-down sack of quarterback Bonnafon. Rochell added a pass breakup and a force play vs. RB Michael Dyer that resulted in no gain.
-- First-time regular Jacob Matuska finished with five tackles and his first career sack. The redshirt-freshman nose tackle entered the contest with one career tackle in limited action.
Special Teams MVP -- The Returners-- Redshirt-freshman Greg Bryant made his biggest impact since September, and it came on one play, a 61-yard punt return the third-string runner took down the left sideline before stepping out of bounds at the Louisville 3-yard line. It was the longest punt return of the nearly completed five-season Brian Kelly era and longest since Charlie Weis' penultimate road game, a 27-21 loss at Pittsburgh when Golden Tate returned a Panthers punt 87 yards for the score.
-- With the exception of a sky-kick misjudged near the 11-yard line (brought back to just the 18), senior kick returner Amir Carlisle was outstanding (intermittent help from his blockers notwithstanding), taking five other Louisville kickoffs 29, 25, 28, 36, and 26 yards to provide consistent quality field position.
Just the Facts-- Quarterback Everett Golson fumbled once, fumbled a snap he didn't expect from center Matt Hegarty (the Irish recovered both) threw an interception, and was sacked three times. He's been part of 20 total turnovers including seven lost fumbles. Golson has fumbled five additional times recovered by either the quarterback or a teammate.
On the positive side, Golson threw for 236 yards and two touchdowns, hitting 16 of 24 pass attempts.
-- Golson technically lost 48 yards rushing on the day due largely to his aforementioned fumble and subsequent 28-yard loss that resulted when neither he nor Nick Martin could secure the bouncing pigskin. Golson's final touchdown toss of the day was the 41st of his career to tie Rick Mirer for fifth all-time at Notre Dame.
-- Notre Dame has combined to have both a rusher and pass-catcher in excess of 100 yards for the second straight game, both contests ending in defeat.