The Notre Dame Fighting Irish ended their year on Saturday with a convincing 33-9 victory over the Iowa State Cyclones in the Camping World Bowl. The win gives them a final record of 11-2, the fifth time that the Irish have finished with 10 or more wins in a season during the Brian Kelly era.
There were some pre-game fears that a lack of motivation on the part of Notre Dame might spark an upset bid. However, it was clear from the outset that the Irish were in control of the contest.
Below are some of the key aspects of the game:
Notre Dame only held a three-yard advantage in total first-half yardage and actually trailed in first downs, 10-7, yet held a 20-6 advantage at the half. The chief reason for that oddity stemmed from the Irish taking advantage of two first-quarter errors by the Cyclones and converting them into 10 points.
The first of these came after Notre Dame began the game with a three-and-out before a punt which was fumbled following a hit from Alohi Gilman. The Irish recovered and put together an eight-play drive that only managed to gain 21 yards, but that was good enough for a 39-yard field goal from Joanthan Doerer. Then, after Iowa State fumbled the ball again, Ian Book hooked up with Chase Claypool on a 24-yard scoring pass to boost the margin to ten points.
No Stretch in the Rubberband
Iowa State had their chances to put points on the board, but in the end, finished with only three field goals on the afternoon. The Cyclones gained only 227 yards of offense, with 111 of those yards coming in a second-quarter that saw them score two of their field goals.
Each time Iowa State came close to scoring, Notre Dame effectively shut the door. In the final minutes of the first half, the Cyclones and 1st-and-goal at the Irish three, but only came away with three points. Then, midway through the final quarter, a sack on fourth down ended Iowa State’s final scoring threat.
Leaping Into the Claypool
Just over half of Notre Dame’s first-half yardage on offense came courtesy of senior wideout Chase Claypool, who had four grabs for 112 yards and one touchdown. The first of those was a 13-yard grab that helped set up the first points of the game, while Claypool himself contributed the second score himself with a leaping endzone grab.
In the second quarter, another 32-yard catch in which Claypool used his 6-foot-4 frame against an opposing secondary to help set up Doerer’s booming 51-yard three-pointer. Finally, Claypool narrowly missed his second touchdown of the first half with another grab that helped set up Jafar Armstrong’s scoring run. Claypool finished the game with seven catches for 146 yards and the one score, winning game MVP honors in the process.
A Minor Glitch
Not everything went smoothly for Notre Dame, with the Irish struggling to convert on their third-down opportunities. They only managed to be successful on three of 13 occasions, though they did manage to keep the ball on a pair of fourth-down calls.
Of course, Iowa State was no better by only converting five of their 15 chances in this category. The good news for the Irish was that Doerer’s leg was in fine form as he finished the day with four field goals.
Back in the Saddle
Entering this contest, Tony Jones Jr. had only gained 165 yards total over the previous five games, averaging just over three yards per carry. That rut was largely attributed to the rib injury he had suffered against Michigan. However, having nearly a month to fully heal, Jones showed just what he could with 135 yards on just 11 carries and one touchdown.
That scoring dash came early in the third quarter when Jones broke off an 84-yard scamper which included impressive speed and stiffarms as well. Jones’ performance reduced the necessity of Ian Book once again pulling double-duty, with the signal-caller matching C’Bo Flemister in the rushing category with 30 yards on the ground.
Closing the books on 2019 with a win was what Brian Kelly and his staff wanted and while Notre Dame will be losing some key personnel, the incoming recruits are looking to make a quick impact when they arrive for training camp. Some of those names are already known, with others being corralled in February.
The next time that the Irish will do battle on the field, the contest won’t even be taking place in North America. That’s because their 2020 opener will be on August 29 in Dublin, Ireland against their longtime rival, the Navy Midshipmen.