Irish Snapshot: No Let DownsBy Joanne Norell
If Dick Corbett Head Football Coach Brian Kelly wanted one thing out of his No. 9 Fighting Irish in Saturday’s contest against Bowling Green, it was a championship mindset. Four quarters of focus, regardless of what the numbers said about the opponent.
Kelly asked, and the Irish delivered. It wasn’t perfect, but it was as close to mistake-free as you’ll get in a game played by 18-to-22-year-olds.
- The Irish blanked the Falcons 52-0, marking the first Irish shutout since defeating Michigan 31-0 in 2014.
- Notre Dame kept Bowling Green out of the red zone for the entirety of the game. On the Falcons’ lone scoring chance, the Irish blocked the field goal.
- Quarterback Ian Book completed 80 percent of his passes.
- Four of Book’s five touchdown passes were of 20 yards or more.
- The Irish did not give up a sack and allowed just one QB hurry.
- Just one penalty was called against the Irish, to the tune of five yards.
The Irish could have looked ahead to rival USC, turned in an incomplete performance and still come away with a victory Saturday. But in locking in and dominating from start to finish, Notre Dame built valuable experience that will serve them through the familiar late-season challenges and beyond.
In finishing 16-of-20 with 261 yards and a career-high-matching five touchdowns, quarterback Ian Book recorded more touchdowns than incompletions against the Falcons. And while big numbers against Bowling Green won’t win you a Heisman, Book’s performance can’t be dismissed as merely inflated by an inferior opponent. In just over one half of play, the Irish captain looked every bit the quarterback the Irish will need him to be as the season progresses, even setting a program record with all five of his touchdown passes coming in the first half. No, Saturday’s game wasn’t season-defining for Book, but may just have provided the shot in the arm he’ll need to continue performing at a high level.
Playing His Role
Tony Jones Jr. continued to play his role to perfection with 102 yards against Bowling State, marking his second straight 100-yard rushing performance. The running lanes won’t always be as wide and — with Jafar Armstrong slated to return in the coming weeks — the snaps won’t always be as plentiful, but Jones showed why he’s just so enjoyable to watch. He does what he’s asked to do and he does it happily. You can’t help rooting for a guy like that.
Piling Up The Push-Ups
With 52 points, the Irish cracked the 50-point plateau for the second time this season, both occasions coming at home. That’s a lot of push-ups for the Notre Dame student section. With the number compounded by each scoring play, that puts the total amount of push-ups at 240 during Saturday’s victory (assuming the same person agrees to be flung into the air each time). With an average of 41.0 points per game, the Irish rank in the top 15 nationally in scoring, and that average jumps to 51.0 when playing at home. A rough calculation puts the Notre Dame student body at 720 push-ups on the year. Should that scoring trend continue, plenty will have the Irish to thank for the boost to their upper-body strength.
Tight End U
Irish tight ends — Cole Kmet, Tommy Tremble and Brock Wright — accounted for 109 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns Saturday, proving reliable targets as the unit continues to take shape. Tremble opened the scoring with a 17-yard reception in the first quarter and finished with 38 yards, while 21 of Kmet’s 31 receiving yards came on a touchdown on the next Irish series. Wright added 40 yards on a strike from Ian Book late in the second quarter. Irish tight ends are averaging 76.2 receiving yards per game, which ranks fifth among Power 5 teams, and their nine catches of 20 yards or more ranks second in FBS.
The Irish depth on defense was so clear Saturday that no one, in particular, stood out. Jalen Elliott led the squad with six tackles and an interception to end the first half. TaRiq Bracy added four tackles and a pair of pass break-ups. Jamir Jones had four tackles, a sack and two tackles for loss. And Julian Okwara had three tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss and a blocked field goal, the first of his career. Just a solid effort in Notre Dame’s first shutout since 2014. Not bad.