I usually give out grades position by position following every game, but this week let’s not pretend it’s anything other than A’s all around. Notre Dame outgained their opponent by just under 350 yards, averaged 9.4 yards per play to 3.3, had one penalty for five yards, and won 52-0. More than just the raw numbers, it was beautiful football. The offense was crisp and efficient; the defense was aggressive and sound. They allowed no daylight to the outmatched Bowling Green Falcons on offense or defense. After big games against Georgia and Virginia and upcoming contests against USC and Michigan, the fear of a letdown always persists. However, that didn’t materialize, and Notre Dame heads into the season-defining stretch of the schedule relatively healthy and beginning to peak.
So much has been written about the play of quarterback Ian Book so far this season, and not in a positive way. There is no way to see his performance against Bowling Green as anything other than a great sign heading into October. The numbers were phenomenal–16-20, 261 yards, five touchdowns–but more than that, it was how those numbers were achieved. There weren’t any touch passes that went for huge gains as we saw against New Mexico. Book was finding the open player and delivering strikes. He also took the types of chances we hadn’t seen earlier in the year, taking the opportunity to throw players open, as we saw on the first two Javon McKinley receptions. If this is the Book we get for the rest of the season, this offense can be extraordinary.
In his last two games, Tony Jones Jr. has 25 carries for 238 yards and three touchdowns. Very good running! Following Georgia, there were fears the running game might be non-existent till Jafar Armstrong returns from injury, but Jones Jr. put those fears to rest the last couple of weeks.
C’Bo Flemister and Jahmir Smith combined for 11 carries and 59 yards and a touchdown, while Avery Davis caught three passes for 39 yards and a touchdown. All the backs ran with purpose, the pass blocking was excellent, and there weren’t any glaring mistakes.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Notre Dame definitely has the two tight end feeling right now, something that has offensive coordinator Chip Long in his comfort zone calling plays and game-planning an offense. His tight ends caught six passes for 69 yards (nice), two touchdowns, and were heavily featured throughout the day.
Javon McKinley continues to destroy the weaker teams on the schedule, hauling in another five passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. He looked terrific again on the back shoulder throws, and Book showed a level of comfort throwing to him that was reminiscent of Book to Boykin last season. Chase Claypool and his game remains at an extremely high level. This group looks excellent right now.
When Notre Dame wanted to run, they ran it. When they tried to throw, they had plenty of time. That’s pretty much what you’re looking for. We can say, “well, it was Bowling Green,” and that’s correct, but we’ve seen a sloppy line against inferior teams before, and this was not that. They picked up the pressure, they opened up running lanes, they moved the line of scrimmage, and they finally stopped with the false starts. Hopefully, this trend continues because they’ll need it for the next couple of weeks.
Two weeks ago, Jamir Jones was on the scout team. Since then, he wrecked the game against Virginia, and he picked up a couple more tackles for loss yesterday. He was set to redshirt, now he’s a mainstay on the defense, and he’s making plays. That’s where things are on the defensive line for Notre Dame.
This entire group is playing at an elite level. Kurt Hinish and Myron Tagovailoa Amosa have taken their games to new heights, Julian Okwara and Khalid Kareem are finding their stride, and they send in waves and waves of players to get after the quarterback and stifle the running game. Bowling Green had nothing for them, which was no surprise, but even so, 118 yards on 42 carries will get it done.
The biggest surprise on the team turned in another strong performance, albeit against a weak opponent. But, like Ian Book, it’s not that they stopped Bowling Green due to errors by the opponent. The defense, with the linebackers at the forefront, gave them nothing. There was no room to do anything; they were assignment sound, they didn’t miss tackles, and they arrived with fury.
Shayne Simon looked good in relief, as did Bo Bauer, who continued to destroy souls on special teams. What an fabulous and fun group this has turned into.
In case you didn’t know, Kyle Hamilton can also tackle, as he showed off a couple of thunderous hits, to make sure anyone who thought his game had a weakness was corrected. The only player, perhaps on the field, who had anything resembling a rough game was safety Jalen Elliott. He had a tough time with tight end Quentin Morris, who caught 10 passes for 92 yards (not all on Elliott, but a lot were). Beyond that, this just wasn’t a team that could challenge the secondary. They don’t have the players, and even if they did, they wouldn’t have had the time. Again, just because Bowling Green is terrible doesn’t mean Notre Dame had to play this well. This is a good group and will continue to get better.