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Notre Dame Cole Kmet
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Notre Dame TE Cole Kmet changes course, declares for draft

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A day of departures at Notre Dame continues as Cole Kmet has taken an early leave of Notre Dame.  Like the first, this one would qualify as a surprise.

In mid-November, Kmet indicated that he would be returning to Notre Dame in 2020.  At the time, the tight end stated that he plans “on coming back and playing baseball in the spring, and then being here for my senior season.” When asked if his plans could change, Kmet, who would’ve been one of the top tight ends available for the 2020 NFL Draft, stated that “I don’t really see that changing right now.”

The key words there were “right now” as, in the here and now, those plans have done a complete 180-degree turn as Kmet announced on Twitter that he is leaving the Fighting Irish early for the draft.

“This was an incredibly difficult decision because while I am ready for the NFL, I was not sure I was ready to say goodbye to Notre dame,” Kmet wrote. “It is hard to say goodbye to so many amazing people.

“However, the University of Notre Dame provides its students with the tools necessary to leave South Bend and make a positive impact on the world.  Declaring for the 2020 NFL Draft is the first step in that direction.  I do so with great faith that Notre Dame has prepared me to succeed and make my own impact in this exciting next stage of life.”

broken collarbone cost Kmet the first five games of the 2019 season.  Despite missing what would be nearly half of an entire regular season, Kmet finished second on the Irish in receptions (43), receiving yards (515) and receiving touchdowns (six).

Kmet is the second Irish player to leave early.  New Year’s Eve, running back Tony Jones confirmed that he is entering this April’s draft.

Those decisions came shortly after Notre Dame wrapped up its 2019 campaign with a Camping World Bowl win over Iowa State.

RB Tony Jones leaving Notre Dame for the draft

Tony Jones Notre Dame
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As expected, Tony Jones has decided to take his leave of Notre Dame early.

Earlier in the week, there were rumblings that Jones had all but made up his mind on his football future.  Tuesday, Jones confirmed that future will be at the next level as the running back will enter the 2020 NFL Draft.

“The last four years at Notre Dame have been greater than I ever imagined,” Jones wrote on Twitter. “This university has helped me grow as a player, but more importantly as a man.”

Jones’ announcement came two days after quarterback Ian Book confirmed he would be back in 2020.

This past season as a redshirt junior, Jones led the Fighting Irish with 857 yards rushing and six rushing touchdowns.  Included in that was a record 84-yard touchdown run in the Camping World Bowl win over Iowa State.

For his career, Jones has totaled 1,481 yards and 12 touchdowns on 271 carries.

No. 15 Notre Dame dominates Iowa State in Camping World Bowl blowout

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The 2019 season may not have ended where No. 15 Notre Dame (11-2) wanted at the beginning of the season, but the Irish ended the season on a high note with a dominating performance against Iowa State (7-6) in the Camping World Bowl. Notre Dame’s 33-9 victory over the Cyclones of the Big 12 gave the Irish the fifth bowl victory under head coach Brian Kelly and sends Notre Dame into the offseason looking for a way back into the playoff mix in 2020.

Ian Book passed for 246 yards and a touchdown and Tony Jones Jr. led the Irish running game with 135 yards and a touchdown. Chase Claypool had a stellar showing as a receiver with seven catches for 146 yards and a touchdown. It was Notre Dame’s defense that carried the team in the bowl game with a bend-but-don’t break performance that saw Iowa State get some chances but also saw Iowa State fail to finish drives. A pair of early turnovers by Iowa State allowed Notre Dame to take a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, and Iowa State’s settling for field goals never gave Brock Purdy and company much of a chance to make up enough ground.

Notre Dame ha snow won four striaght bowl games not associated with the College Football Playoff dating back to 2013. But the Irish were in the playoff last year and will hope a win like this helps fuel the fire to get back to the big stage a year from now. That will mean moving forward after some key roster changes due to graduation and the NFL draft.

The 2020 season will begin for Notre Dame on Aug. 29, 2020 with a game against Navy in Dublin, Ireland. The Irish will open its home schedule two weeks later after a bye when they host Arkansas on sept. 12. Notre Dame has some difficult games coming up in 2020 with a game against Wisconsin in Lambeau Field in Green Bay and a home game against Clemson in early November.

Iowa State will open the 2020 season at home on Sept. 5 against South Dakota.

USC fights, but No. 9 Notre Dame moves on to third rivalry win in a row

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We don’t yet know when the Clay Helton era at USC will officially end but we might be able to point to a chilly South Bend Saturday night in mid-October providing the final nail in the coffin for the embattled head coach.

The Trojans did their best to fight on against No. 9 Notre Dame but it was not enough in the end as the Irish held off the visitors from Southern California for a 30-27 win in the greatest intersectional rivalry in college football.

Veteran quarterback Ian Book continued to look calm and collected under center, throwing for 165 yards and a touchdown while rushing for another 49 yards with a score on the ground. He picked up several key third down conversions down the stretch in the 4th quarter and helped open things up with intermediate passes to key a rather impressive rushing attack.

Tony Jones Jr. paced that effort with 176 yards though it was speedy wideout Braden Lenzy who had the best play of the game, taking an end around 51 yards to pay dirt in the second quarter to help break things open a bit. Cole Kemet was the top target through the air to nobody’s surprise with six catches, 61 yards and a nifty score in the first half.

USC did what they could to keep things interesting throughout. Freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis, making his return to the starting lineup, didn’t seem phased by the big stage or cold conditions in throwing for 255 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He formed quite the combination with fellow frosh (and Indiana native) Markese Stepp, who showed the natives at Notre Dame Stadium what they missed out on with 82 yards and a touchdown on just 10 carries. Amon-Ra St.Brown was dangerous out of the slot with 112 yards plus a score at his older brother’s former home field as well.

Still, it wasn’t meant to be for the Trojans as they lost three straight in the series to the Irish for the first time since 1999-2001. Brian Kelly ran his record to 7-3 in the game as well as Notre Dame hits the off week with plenty of momentum before heading to Ann Arbor for their toughest remaining game at Michigan.

Not all is lost in 2019 for USC despite the hot seat talk surrounding their head coach though. The Trojans remain in contention in the Pac-12 South and still have the carrot of potentially reaching the Rose Bowl down the road. They’ll face surprising division leader Arizona next and then travel to Colorado after that.

No. 9 Notre Dame overcomes slow start to score comfortable halftime lead over rival USC

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The greatest intersectional rivalry in college football got off to a slow start but both USC and No. 9 Notre Dame seemed to find their footing on both sides of the ball as things wore on before the Irish took a 17-3 lead into the break at halftime.

Leading the way was not surprisingly Ian Book and the ND passing attack, which saw the quarterback throw for 93 yards and a nifty touchdown strike to his new favorite target — tight end Cole Kemet.

That wouldn’t be the only big play for the home side under the watchful eyes of Touchdown Jesus though, as the team got the ball in the hands of perhaps their fastest player on an end around and let Braden Lenzy do the rest for a 51 yard rushing score to continue the onslaught in the second quarter.

Not to be outdone, Tony Jones Jr. rushed for 120 yards and Book added 18 more on the ground as ND averaged a robust 11.5 yards per carry in the first half.

While the defensive issues for the Trojans were quite apparent as the game went on, Clay Helton’s embattled squad was pretty solid on the offensive end despite the lack of points. They came close to the midfield logo on nearly every drive but sustaining such efforts proved to be tougher than it looked. Making his first start in nearly three weeks, Kedon Slovis didn’t completely rattled by the environment in throwing for 74 yards on 17 attempts, but did take three sacks. The hard-running of Indiana native Markese Stepp (39 yards) was also pretty notable but with the score where it is, it seems unlikely he’ll get a lot more carries down the stretch.

It goes without saying that Helton needs a win in this one badly to keep his job but Notre Dame is not cooperating in the matter so far.