EVANSTON, Ill. — Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book appeared to have a short memory Saturday night.
After struggling in a first half in which Northwestern wrestled No. 4 Notre Dame to a 7-7 deadlock at intermission, Book’s second-half performance provided the Dr. Jekyll antidote to the Mr. Hyde of the first two quarters as he led the Irish to a 31-21 triumph at Ryan Field.
Following halftime, Book led an Irish offense that outscored the Wildcats 14-0 and outgained them 209-32 in the third quarter. The Wildcats responded with 14 points to open the fourth, but it was Book that sealed it for the Irish, scoring on a 23-yard run with 2:45 remaining.
Book finished 22-of-34 for 343 yards and two passing touchdowns while contributing 56 yards on the ground. Chase Claypool caught eight passes for 130 yards, while Michael Young hauled in two for 60 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown reception. Miles Boykin accounted for the other receiving touchdown in addition to 54 yards, while Dexter Williams paced the rushing attack with 56 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.
Notre Dame registered 464 yards of total offense to Northwestern’s 249, edging the ‘Cats in both rushing (121-108) and receiving (343-141) categories.
How It Happened
A lost fumble on the first possession in Northwestern (5-4) territory proved inconsequential as the Irish defense forced a field goal attempt that Wildcat kicker Charlie Kuhbander ultimately sent wide right.
The Irish (9-0) responded with a methodic 79-yard drive, resulting in a one-yard scoring rush by Williams with 6:28 left in the first quarter.
After a Northwestern punt, Notre Dame looked to make it a two-score game after driving to the Northwestern five-yard line. False start and offensive pass interference penalties backed the Irish up to the 27, however, and a Justin Yoon field goal missed to the left after the Irish failed to make up for lost ground.
The Wildcats capitalized on the next drive, melting 8:36 off the clock on a 73-yard drive spanning 18 plays. Quarterback Clayton Thorson rushed for the one-yard touchdown to tie the game at the 8:04 mark of the second quarter.
Book was just 7-of-15 for 107 yards in the first half and, though the Irish owned a 165-116 edge in total yardage, they managed just 18 in the second quarter.
Looking for some momentum, the Irish found it with a quick start in the second half. After forcing Northwestern to punt on its first possession, they took over at their own 20-yard line, from which Book captained an 80-yard drive in which he went 7-of-9 for 77 passing yards, including the 20-yard scoring strike to Boykin at the quarter’s halfway mark.
A Coney sack effectively ended the ensuing Wildcat drive, and the punt pinned the Irish at their own two-yard line. But Book pulled from the same playbook as the previous scoring drive, connecting on three passes of at least 14 yards and ending with a 47-yard downfield strike to Young to give the Irish a 21-7 lead with 2:33 left in the third.
Yoon’s 43-yard field goal less than two minutes into the fourth quarter put the Irish up 24-7.
Northwestern responded just 1:49 later when Thorson hit Riley Lees for a 27-yard touchdown pass that ended a 70-yard drive. And after forcing an Irish fourth down, the Wildcats blocked the punt and recovered it at the Irish 17. Five plays later, Thorson was in the end zone on a one-yard rush to pull within 24-21.
With 6:59 remaining in the game, the Irish began their next drive at their own 11 with an objective to burn clock. Eight of their next 10 plays went for rushes, culminating in Book’s 23-yard scamper off a fake handoff to Williams.
The Irish will return to Notre Dame Stadium for the final time this season when they face Florida State (4-5) next Saturday. The game will kickoff at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC.