After two stiff challenges in a row, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish now face what should be a breather for the next date on the 2019 schedule. They host the Bowling Green Falcons, who are coming off a bye week with a 1-3 record and with those three defeats resulting in the Falcons being outscored 149-27.
In many ways, this contest is similar to the New Mexico matchup from a few weeks ago. Like that clash, Notre Dame’s only real concerns deal with the possibility of players looking ahead to next week’s Southern Cal game or injuries.
Below are the matchups to watch for this week’s contest:
Notre Dame Defense vs. QB Darius Wade
After struggling to find their footing during the first half against Virginia, Notre Dame’s defense took over after the break. A swarming pass rush that resulted in eight sacks was the driving force behind that push, a performance that could possibly be topped in this game, given the steep drop when it comes to the talent on the respective rosters of Virginia and Bowling Green.
After the Falcons’s expected starter behind center transferred to West Virginia, Boston College transfer Wade took over the job. While’s he completed 58 percent of his passes on the year, he hasn’t found the end zone over the past three games, but has thrown three interceptions. He doesn’t offer much of a running threat, which adds to the burdens faced by the offensively-challenged Falcons.
CB Troy Pride vs. WR Quintin Morris
Pride had his problems against Virginia, trying to neutralize the Cavaliers’ main passing-catching threats. He picked up an ill-advised pass interference penalty in that clash, with this contest once again serving as a challenge against a much taller receiver. BG may try to zero in on the other side against less-experienced TaRiq Bracy, but Pride needs to stay aware of his own man.
Morris leads the Falcons with 16 catches on the season, but isn’t much of a deep threat. Still, as a lanky 6-foot-4 wideout, he does offer a challenge to the defenders in the Irish secondary, especially since he will occasionally line up as a tight end. One recent drawback for him has been that he hasn’t found the end zone since BG’s opening blowout win against Morgan State..
OT Robert Hainsey vs. DE David Konowalski
Hainsey has the size the control the line of scrimmage and also open up holes for Irish runners. The problem is that he, as well as others on the line, continue to be dogged by false start penalties. That’s not likely to matter in this contest, but sharpening his game in this area is something that needs to take place soon.
Konowalski sat out last year after blowing out his Achilles during the preseason, but has offered the Falcons at least some resistance against opposing offenses. He’s made 22 stops in the Falcons’ first four games, including five behind the line, with one of those coming on a sack. Those numbers make him someone to watch, even if his smaller size doesn’t measure up against Notre Dame’s line.
RB Tony Jones Jr. vs. Brandon Perce
After gaining just 38 yards in 15 carries over the past two games, Jones paced the Irish running game against Vrginia by gaining 131 yards and scoring three touchdowns. He also received some badly-needed assistance from other Notre Dame backs. Ultimately, however, his numbers will serve as the key determinant of just how well the running game is performing, with this week’s opponent offering him the chance to have a big day.
Perce enters this contest as the Falcons’ leading tackler with 38 stops and is coming off a 15-tackler performance against Kent State. He also has the dubious distinction of being the only BG player to pick off a pass this season. Like Konowalski, he knows how to get into an opponent’s backfield with 4.5 tackles-for-loss to his credit, though how he does it against Notre Dame remains to be seen.
TE Cole Kmet vs. SS Jerry McBride
After missing the first two games, Kmet has emerged as one of Ian Book‘s favorite targets, collecting 13 receptions over the past two contests. He’s a player who doesn’t need to extend the field to be dangerous, since he’s a punishing blocker who can pick up key yards when needed.
As bad as the Falcon defense has been over the past three games, McBride has offered some solid contributions with 24 tackles, including one behind the line. He’s also swatted away a pair of passes. He had more than enough practice in the tackling department with 118 stops last year and may be on his way to another big year in that category, a bad sign for BG.