Jafar Armstrong

Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Syracuse QB Eric Dungey leaves game with injury as Notre Dame is pitching shutout in Yankee Stadium

Leave a comment

If Syracuse was going to pull an upset in the Bronx against Notre Dame, they likely needed quarterback Eric Dungey to play a key role. That is no longer in the picture after Dungey left the game with an injury early in the first half. Notre Dame, with Ian Book back at quarterback for the Irish, have shown no signs of a struggle so far, owning a 20-0 lead at halftime.

Dungey left the game on a non-contact injury as the Orange were lining up at the line of scrimmage to run a play. Tommy DeVito has taken over at quarterback for Syracuse as a result, and finding success in the passing game has not yet been possible. DeVito completed just four of 14 pass attempts for 25 yards with two interceptions as the Syracuse offense has lost a bit of the versatility Dungey brings to the table.

Book has been having a terrific outing back on the field. Aside from an interception in the end zone in the first half, Book has completed 18 of 29 passes for 253 yards and a touchdown. Justin Yoon has kicked a couple field goals and Jafar Armstrong has seemingly put this game well out of reach for Syracuse already with a nine-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

Notre Dame’s defense appears to have this game on lockdown, which will move the Irish one giant step closer to their first appearance in the College Football Playoff.

No. 4 Notre Dame sneaks away from Northwestern in second half to remain undefeated

Getty Images
6 Comments

No. 4 Notre Dame has proven to be a very good second half team this season, often turning the jets on after emerging from the locker room. That has not been the case for Northwestern on occasion in 2018, often struggling to put away teams after a good effort before the break.

Predictably in the pair’s 31-21 game on Saturday night in Evanston, it was the Irish who exploded with a trio of third quarter scoring drives to create just enough distance to hold off a Wildcats rally and remain undefeated on the year.

Ian Book led the way once again on offense for Notre Dame, overcoming that slow start to wind up throwing for 343 yards and two touchdowns to go with 56 yards on the ground and the game-sealing scoring run across the goal line. The offense really ran through his arm as the ground game was lackluster at best for most of the night. Dexter Williams ran for 56 yards and a score but it was otherwise tough sledding between the tackles. Jafar Armstrong did record 18 yards but only saw four touches.

That led to the Irish defense being on the field just a bit longer than they would have liked even though they did just fine. The linebackers in particular were quite active with Te’von Coney in particular stuffing the stat sheet with nine tackles, two sacks and a nifty pass breakup. Drue Tranquill showed few signs of that high ankle sprain he suffered last game and added several pressures to go with four tackles as well.

Still, as much as things felt like they tilted toward Brian Kelly’s team in the second half, Northwestern refused to go quietly into the night. A late blocked punt in the fourth quarter gave the team added life and Pat Fitzgerald was rewarded by going for it on fourth-and-goal from the one yard line with a touchdown off a QB sneak from Clayton Thorson. That cut it to a three point game with half of the final quarter remaining but it would be as close as the ‘Cats would come in this one.

Thorson finished with only 141 yards passing and had another touchdown through the air but it was tailback Isaiah Bowser’s 93 yards rushing that was probably the most encouraging offensive takeaway going forward for the team.

Even with the final result at home though, Northwestern still managed to capture a win on the day overall thanks to Iowa’s earlier loss in the final seconds to Purdue. The Wildcats play the Hawkeyes next week in Iowa City and would have at least two shots to sew up the division against either Illinois or Minnesota at the end of the month. While that 0-3 mark in non-conference play is not something Fitzgerald will be happy about, he’ll gladly take it if it means a trip to the conference title game with a berth in the Rose Bowl on the line.

The Irish, meanwhile, will all but assuredly move up a spot in the College Football Playoff Selection Committee’s rankings come Tuesday by moving to 9-0 (to say nothing of the results of the SEC showdown in Baton Rouge between No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 LSU). While there has been a tendency of playing up or down to the competition, Notre Dame has still passed all their tests so far this year and will move on unscathed heading into their game against Florida State next Saturday night on NBC.

No. 4 Notre Dame and Northwestern locked into tie game heading into halftime

Getty Images
2 Comments

Who is Chicago’s true college football team of choice?

It may very well never wind up being Northwestern but the plucky Wildcats are defending their home turf well against No. 4 Notre Dame, taking a 7-all tie into the locker room after a half of play on Saturday night.

The Irish can certainly blame missed opportunities for the scoreboard reading like it does, fumbling on their opening possession and then missing a field goal later on in the first quarter. The lone scoring drive was an impressive effort — 14 plays, 79 yards — but that was just about all there was as both sides were playing a bit of a throwback game.

Quarterback Ian Book was just 7-of-14 for 107 yards in the half as the offense was lackluster in converting just 1-of-5 chances on third down. Dexter Williams was responsible for the lone touchdown but, in limited carries, it appeared that Jafar Armstrong was a tad more effective running the ball with 13 yards.

As a result of all… that, whatever it might have been, perhaps the most notable thing that actually happened in the game came before the two sides even took the field in an interesting bit of gamesmanship between the two head coaches:

The Wildcats were able to move the ball as the game went on and surprisingly did so running the ball in the first half. Isaiah Bowser led the way in that department with a robust 51 yards on 14 carries to pick up the slack from QB Clayton Thorson, who threw for just 53 yards.

Needless to say, adjustments at halftime will be key and that’s an area where Notre Dame has excelled this season so far while it’s been a bit of an Achilles heel in non-Big Ten play for Northwestern. There’s plenty of local, regional and national interest in the outcome of this one with the Irish eyeing a bid for the College Football Playoff but both sides need to pick it up if they want a win after a rough first few quarters.

No. 8 Notre Dame passes biggest test yet, top No. 7 Stanford as Irish remain undefeated

5 Comments

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.

No. 8 Notre Dame moving the ball, No. 7 Stanford keeps counterpunching going into halftime

Getty Images
1 Comment

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.