NOTRE DAME, Ind. — Eighth-ranked Notre Dame (2-0) overcame a spirited effort by Ball State (1-1), winning the first meeting between the two schools 24-16 at Notre Dame Stadium.
Running back Jafar Armstrong paced the Irish rushing attack with 66 yards and a touchdown, and Tony Jones Jr. added a pair of rushing scores. Senior wideout Miles Boykin led all pass catchers in the game with 119 receiving yards on six receptions. The six catches and 119 receiving yards were both career highs for Boykin. Quarterback Brandon Wimbush also recorded a career high with 297 passing yards.
Strong safety Jalen Elliott was Notre Dame’s impact player on defense, registering two interceptions and seven total tackles, marking career highs in both categories for the junior. Linebacker Te’von Coney was the leading tackler for the Irish, finishing the day with 14 total tackles, three of which were tackles for loss.
How It Happened
After registering a touchdown on its opening drive, the Irish offense stalled, failing to score on its next four possessions. Kicker Justin Yoon also had a sluggish start, missing a second-quarter field goal wide right. Ball State failed to take advantage, however, as Notre Dame’s defense held the Cardinals to just three points on their first five offensive possessions.
Elliott eventually provided the spark that Notre Dame needed by snatching an interception after safety Nick Coleman tipped a pass from Ball State quarterback Riley Neal with 8:23 left in the second quarter. The Irish immediately capitalized on Elliott’s forced turnover, thanks to a touchdown run by Tony Jones Jr. on the next play from scrimmage. The 31-yard scamper by Jones was the longest rush of his collegiate career, and put Notre Dame up 14-3 midway through the second quarter.
Ball State threatened to cut the Irish lead to four on its following drive, owing to an 11-yard scramble by Neal that put the Cardinals inside the Notre Dame 15-yard line. The Irish defense again stood tall, and held Ball State to a 23-yard field goal. After the Irish offense failed to register a first down on its ensuing possession, they headed to halftime with a 14-6 lead over the Cardinals.
At the start of the second half, Elliott recorded his second interception of the game, setting the Irish up at the Ball State 44-yard line. After two pinpoint accurate passes from Wimbush put Notre Dame on the goal line, Jones registered his second rushing touchdown of the game — marking his first career multi-rushing-touchdown game — to give the Irish a 21-6 lead.
With just over two minutes left in the third quarter, Yoon atoned for his earlier miss by nailing a 46-yard field goal attempt, giving the Irish a 24-6 advantage. With his made field goal and three extra points in today’s game, Yoon moved into fourth place on Notre Dame’s list of career scoring leaders with 287 points, surpassing current running backs coach Autry Denson (282 points, 1995-98).
On its first possession of the fourth quarter, Ball State’s offense put together a 79-yard scoring drive, capped by a 10-yard touchdown pass from Neal to Nolan Givan. The Cardinals’ touchdown cut Notre Dame’s lead to 11 points with 12 minutes left in the game.
After Ball State linebacker Ray Wilborn intercepted Brandon Wimbush on the Cardinals’ 26-yard line, the Cardinals’ offense seemed poised to decrease its deficit even further. However, kicker Morgan Hagee missed a 46-yard field goal attempt wide left with 4:50 remaining in the contest.
Ball State’s ensuing drive led to a 49-yard field goal by Hagee, leaving Notre Dame with a 24-16 advantage. The Cardinals attempted an onside kick following their field goal, but Irish linebacker Drue Tranquill recovered the try. Brandon Wimbush dove for a first down following the recovery, allowing Notre Dame to run out the clock and seal the victory.
The Irish will return to action at Notre Dame Stadium next week when they take on Vanderbilt at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC. It will be Notre Dame’s third straight home game, and the third of four scheduled for September.