Getting the October portion of their schedule off to a strong start, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish thoroughly dominated the outmatched Bowling Green Falcons, rolling to a victory that was effectively clinched after slightly more than ten minutes of the contest. Any fears of the Irish looking past this game were dissipated, with the offense seemingly gaining yardage at will while the defense completely shut down their MAC opponents.
This was a game in which the Irish entered as 45-point favorites, so the result was hardly a surprise to any football fan. From Brian Kelly’s perspective, it’s another win that builds on last week’s momentum from the victory over Virginia, and it’s one that saw Nore Dame emerge mostly unscathed. The only blemish in the latter department was a first-quarter leg injury to Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa that proved to be minor.
Below are some critical aspects of this contest:
Book on Target
Bowling Green’s last three games offered up a sieve-like defense that Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book was able to easily exploit during his time on the field. He completed his first nine passes of the game and often found plenty of space between his receivers and their defenders. That helps explain why he was able to end his afternoon by completing 16-of-20 passes for 261 yards and also threw for five touchdowns.
Book left with the Irish leading 38-0 in the third quarter. The lack of a pass rush from the Falcons allowed him to work on one of his nagging issues that have dogged him since entering the starting lineup last year. He showed much less desire in taking off on a run when he did get some heat, which is hopefully the precursor to improvement in that area in the weeks ahead.
Keeping any opponent out of the end zone is always the goal of any defense, but Notre Dame’s defense managed to keep Bowling Green from scoring a point, marking the first shutout for the Irish since 2014. That win came in a 31-0 blanking of Michigan in the second game of a season that went off track following a 6-0 start, with the Irish finishing with an 8-5 record.
Irish defenders were rarely, if ever challenged, which might diminish the accomplishment in the eyes of some Notre Dame fans. From the outset, it was clear that it would be a long day for the Falcons as they gained minus two yards combined on their first three drives. While they did end up gaining 228 yards of offense for the game, most of that was because garbage time had begun during the first half.
A Host of Options
The lack of pass defense on the part of Bowling Green made every Notre Dame receiver or running back a potential target, with nine different players ultimately hauling in at least one pass. Five different receivers managed to collect multiple receptions during the contest, led by senior Javon McKinley. He’s had a checkered career with the Irish but surpassed his season output of three catches for 96 yards by grabbing five tosses for 104 yards and a touchdown.
Two of Chase Claypool‘s three receptions resulted in scores, giving him a team-leading 24 catches and four touchdowns on the year. Running back Avery Davis also snagged three passes, including one for a score. Finally, Notre Dame’s tight ends were heard from as Tommy Tremble and Cole Kmet combined for six receptions, with each finding the end zone once.
Road Testing the Talent
A non-competitive clash such as this one has one asset that closer games can’t offer, which comes in the form of the liberal substitutions. That’s something that Kelly began early when it became evident that Bowling Green wasn’t going to be putting up much of a fight.
Book came out during the third quarter, giving way to Phil Jurovec. He threw for 79 yards and a touchdown, while also rushing for 42 yards. The running game was paced by Tony Jones Jr., who quickly rolled up 102 yards on seven carries, with six different backs getting an opportunity to tote the ball. The defensive side of the ball also had plenty of players getting a taste of some action.
Excluding three years during World War II, the Southern Cal Trojans have been a fixture on the Notre Dame schedule since 1926. That storied rivalry is renewed next Saturday night, with the Irish hoping to win their third consecutive matchup in a series in which they lead 48-37-5.
The Trojans enter this game with a 3-2 record and will be coming off their bye week. They’re hoping that break will allow some injuries to heal, especially at quarterback, where three different starters have taken snaps.