When Notre Dame posted 66 points on New Mexico earlier this year, it was a weird blowout in a sense, because amazingly there were a few things not to like in it. This past weekend wasn’t the same story. Notre Dame won 52-0 over Bowling Green, and finding five things I didn’t like for this weekly column was a stretch. I’m committed to doing this column every week though damnit, so I thought long and hard on this one.
Note: it was even hard to find a picture for this column this week, so I just used one I thought we might be able to reuse at some point.
1. Notre Dame fans complaining this game was even scheduled
This is one from before the game even started. Notre Dame fans have been complaining about this game for a while – pretty much from the moment it was announced. There was a school of thought that Notre Dame should have never scheduled this in the first place since Bowling Green is just a lowly MAC team.
But guess what? Notre Dame needs a couple of games like this a year. They offer a chance to work on weaknesses and to get reserves valuable snaps that they otherwise wouldn’t have gotten until being thrown into the fire. They are a bit of a necessary evil, and it’s not like Bowling Green is an FCS school. As a reminder, Notre Dame has ever scheduled one of those – one of just two programs remaining who haven’t done so.
It also wasn’t that long ago that Bowling Green had a 10-win season. In 2015, Dino Barbers led the Falcons to a 10-3 season. Two years before, Dave Clawson did the same. This game was announced in September 2016 – fresh off a ten-win season.
In short, the fans who are all bent out of shape over this game, need to get over it. Notre Dame gained a lot in playing this game.
2. Bowling Green’s pretty gutless game plan
Bowling Green is a pretty bad football team. They were a 45 point underdog for a reason. Still, the Falcon’s gameplan left a lot to be desired. It didn’t appear as though they were even trying to try and make this one interesting. They were running clock whenever they could and didn’t even try to get tricky to get some points on the board.
Then there was that field goal in the 3rd quarter. Bowling Green called a draw on 3rd and long. That usually suggests a team is setting up a fourth-down attempt. Instead, they attempted a field goal – a kick that Julian Okwara ultimately ended up blocking to preserve the shutout. Okwara flat out destroyed a helpless Bowling Green lineman before getting his hand on the kick.
No one expected Bowling Green to make this one interesting for very long, but they didn’t even really try.
3. Notre Dame getting just a bit tricky in the second quarter
While it was surprising to see Bowling Green not get tricky, it was equally striking to see Notre Dame get just a bit gimmicky in the second quarter with more of those misdirection little pop passes that worked so well against New Mexico. Those plays kick-started a struggling Irish offense at the time. That wasn’t needed against Bowling Green, though.
Just like it wasn’t great Notre Dame needed those against New Mexico, I didn’t necessarily like seeing Notre Dame using them again this weekend. That is unless the Irish put them into use to set something else up this weekend against USC. If we see Notre Dame run some misdirection off a similar play for a significant gain, then this is a poot point.
Again, I’m reaching here because there wasn’t a lot not to like here.
4. Ian Book and Javon McKinley dropping what would have been a 6th passing touchdown
Okay, this one is ticky-tack, but again, that’s how little there was to not like about this one. Ian Book had a chance to connect on a 6th passing touchdown, which would have tied a Notre Dame single-game record. He had Javon McKinley WIDE open for a walk-in touchdown on a crosser, but the pass was just a bit behind him. Now, McKinley still had both hands on it and certainly should have come down with, but there was fault on both for why the pass hit the turf instead of entered the record books.
McKinley and Book did connect on an earlier touchdown, and McKinley did notch the first 100 yard game of his career, so there was still a lot to like in his performance. In fact, I am hoping that we start to see more and more of McKinley down the stretch. He and Book are developing the same kind of chemistry that Book and Miles Boykin had a year ago.
5. Chase Claypool playing this game when he was hobbling early
Our last point on the list this week might seem minor, but I wasn’t a fan of Chase Claypool even playing in Saturday’s game when NBC reported that he was hobbling a bit on a balky ankle he injured against Virginia. Notre Dame did not need Chase Claypool to beat up on Bowling Green, so why even risk having him in the game at all with USC on tap this weekend and Michigan on the horizon in three weeks?
Notre Dame absolutely needs Claypool to get by USC and Michigan victorious, so I don’t quite understand the logic in playing Claypool when it seemed like his ankle might not be 100%. Even it was, last Saturday would have been a good time to get a younger receiver reps while letting Claypool rest up for this weekend.
So there you have it. I made it through this column this week, even though there wasn’t much not to like about the blowout we saw last weekend.