A second half shutout allowed the Gold to race past the Blue for a thrilling 58-45 win at Notre Dame’s Blue-Gold Game on Saturday.
If you’re wondering how a defensive struggle could see a 58-45 final score, well, welcome to the world of spring games.
Notre Dame’s defense was credited with FIFTEEN sacks on the day and closed the game by limiting the offense to three three-and-outs and three stops after the halftime gun, which somehow equated to 27 points for the Gold squad.
Despite the second half shutout leading to a devastating loss, Notre Dame’s offense still produced before Saturday’s crowd of 30,000-plus. Ian Book was 16-of-21 for 220 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. Jafar Armstrong was the Blue’s star of the game, rushing for 85 yards and a touchdown while compiling 71 receiving yards and another score (though he did have a costly fumble, forced by the Gold’s Jalen Elliott), while Jahmir Smith rushed for 56 yards and two touchdowns. Chase Claypool caught four passes for 92 yards to lead all receivers.
On defense, Khalid Kareem led the bunch with three sacks, while Paul Moala added two sacks and a team-high nine tackles.
Notre Dame announced kick times for its 7-game home slate in 2019. The Irish’s home opener against New Mexico will kick at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sept. 14. Virginia (Sept. 28) and Bowling Green (Oct. 5) kick at 3:30 p.m. ET, while USC (Oct. 12) is a 7:30 p.m. ET kick. Home dates against Virginia Tech (Nov. 2), Navy (Nov. 16) and Boston College (Nov. 23) all begin at 2:30 p.m. ET. All seven games will be televised on NBC.
Wake up the echoes, Notre Dame is for real.
The No. 8 Irish passed their biggest test of the young season to remain undefeated on Saturday night, using several big offensive plays to scoot past No. 7 Stanford 38-17 in yet another fantastic rivalry game under the lights in South Bend.
Quarterback Ian Book picked up where he left off last week against Wake Forest, making his first home start and quickly winning over the crowd with pinpoint passes all game long. He finished an efficient 24-of-33 for 278 yards and four touchdowns in an offense that really felt like they were hitting on all cylinders at times. Just as important as the signal-caller’s arm were his legs too, with Book scrambling for several nice pickups and extending many more. Miles Boykin had a breakout game with 144 receiving yards and a score but Chase Claypool, Alize Mack and Nic Weishar all found the end zone as well.
Those kinds of plays were helped in part by another impressive effort by the offensive line up front. They allowed only one sack and opened up several big holes for Irish backs to run through. Senior Dexter Williams made the most of his first touches of the year in the absence of Jafar Armstrong, rushing for 161 yards and breaking off a 45-yard touchdown run on the second series of the game. Tony Jones added a further 40 yards as the Irish recorded 272 yards on the ground all told.
The fast pace that Notre Dame got off to was nearly matched by the Cardinal before falling off as the second half wore on. QB K.J. Costello made several big-time throws in keeping his team in the game but began to falter once the clock ticked over to the final quarter. He finished the game with only 174 yards and a touchdown, while his late interception seemed to seal the result as his team failed to pull off a magical comeback for the second week in a row.
Maybe more concerning to head coach David Shaw was the status of his star running back Bryce Love, who limped off injured early in the fourth quarter. Last year’s Heisman runner-up rushed for 73 yards and showed his trademark burst on a touchdown run, but injured his ankle down the stretch and was taken to the locker room for further evaluation.
The victory now will see even more national attention focused on Notre Dame as they can put two of their toughest tests of the year behind them in wins against Michigan and, now, Stanford. The Irish do have a tricky trip to Blacksburg next week at Virginia Tech but the only ranked teams left on the docket could be late November tests against Syracuse and USC.
Some will say it’s still too early in the closing hours of September, but it’s very much time to start talking about Notre Dame making a run at the College Football Playoff in 2018.
To all those billing a meeting of No. 7 Stanford and No. 8 Notre Dame as a heavyweight matchup, congrats because that’s a spot on description of the way the two rivals played in the first half on Saturday night.
The Irish did all they could to keep the offense rolling from last week’s big win but ran into a counterpunch from the Cardinal on just about every drive as the home team took a 21-14 lead into the locker room in South Bend with a whole bunch of College Football Playoff hopes hanging in the balance the rest of the way.
Making his second start of the season, quarterback Ian Book continued to look impressive throwing the football and went 12-of-14 for 149 yards through the first two quarters. While he was forced to move around the pocket a little more than he did against Wake Forest last week, the promising signal-caller was able to find Nic Weishar for a six-yard touchdown early and Chase Claypool for another with the clock winding down late. Book also scrambled several times for 27 yards as well.
The Notre Dame ground game benefitted from the defense having to defend things from the air. Tailback Dexter Williams (99 yards total) hit the jets right up the middle on his first touch of the season that appropriately became the first score of the game, capping off an 85 yard drive in the end zone. It was quite a moment for the senior, who missed time earlier this year with a suspension but seemingly had no issues taking a bigger share of snaps due to the absence of Jafar Armstrong.
Opposite number Bryce Love was not one to be upstaged under the lights however and promptly answered with a long run past the goal line of his own, making a sharp cut to score from 39 yards out in the first quarter and showing a bit of burst that hasn’t really been there for the Heisman runner-up so far this year. The tailback finished the half with 69 yards and appears to be playing off the Cardinal passing attack well.
Speaking of that attack, K.J. Costello appeared to really find success on intermediate routes while racking up 130 yards on 17 attempts. While he spread the ball around for the most part, it was no surprise to see him find jumpball machine JJ Arcega-Whiteside for a touchdown throw — with the massive wideout straight up posting up a defensive back for what seemed like his millionth score in that manner in 2018.
This is game is more than living up to the early billing and is shaping up to be yet another classic between two rivals who have staged their fair share of those games over the years. An inside track to the College Football Playoff awaits the winner so there should be a fun second half in store on NBC upcoming.
As Oprah would say, “you get a suspension! You get a suspension! You get a suspension!” And, finally, “you get a suspension!”
Notre Dame officials have confirmed that sophomore running back Deon McIntosh has been suspended for the New Year’s Day Citrus Bowl game against LSU. The only reason given for the suspension is an unspecified violation of team rules.
McIntosh, who is third on the team in rushing with 368 yards and five touchdowns, is the fourth Fighting Irish football player, and second running back, to be suspended for the postseason game.
A little over a week ago, the football program announced that two players, wide receiver Kevin Stepherson and running back C.J. Holmes, had been suspended for the bowl game. It was subsequently learned that the suspensions stemmed from shoplifting arrests.
A day later, Brian Kelly confirmed that another Fighting Irish player, tight end Alize Mack, has been suspended as well. Mack’s suspension, though, is unrelated to the incident involving his two teammates and instead attributed some vague “internal team matter.”
Thanks to the suspensions to Mack and Stepherson, as well as an injury to Chase Claypool, Notre Dame will be without three of its top four pass catchers for the game. Claypool is second on the team with 29 catches, while Stepherson’s 19 are tied with Mack for third. All told, the Irish will be down 67 receptions, 927 receiving yards and eight receiving touchdowns for the bowl game against the Tigers.
Notre Dame’s receiving corps will likely have a decidedly different look the next time they take the field.
Over the weekend, Notre Dame confirmed that wide receiver Chase Claypool will not play in the New Year’s Day Citrus Bowl matchup with LSU because of an injury to his right shoulder. Four days later, the football program has announced that two players, including fellow receiver Kevin Stepherson, have been indefinitely suspended from all football-related activities.
Running back C.J. Holmes is the other suspended player.
Stepherson currently leads the Fighting Irish in receiving touchdowns with five and yards per catch at 18.9. His 19 receptions and 359 receiving yards are both good for third on the team.
Combining Stepherson and Claypool’s numbers, the Irish will likely be down 48 catches, 761 yards and seven touchdowns for their bowl game.
Holmes, meanwhile, has 32 yards on eight carries this season.