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  • FILE - In this Oct. 13, 2018, file photo, Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book (12) throws during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Pittsburgh, in South Bend, Ind. At a school that has produced its share of legendary quarterbacks, the 6-foot, 208-pound senior was told by coach Brian Kelly and offensive coordinator Chip Long to push the envelope this spring. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)

Saturday, April 13, 2019 3:40 pm

Defense beats offense, 57-45, in Blue-Gold Game

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

SOUTH BEND –

How it Happened

The first team offense, led by quarterback Ian Book, took the field first and put on a clinic in its opening series. In a hurry-up tempo, Book was content to check down on most throws, finding Chase Claypool and Michael Young for chunks of yards on short throws as the defense gave up large cushions. Sophomore Houston Griffith, the Irish's top recruit in the 2018 class, made a nice open-field tackle of Jafar Armstrong to save a touchdown inside the 5-yard line, but then Young beat Griffith on a simple in-route and Book found him for a 12-yard touchdown.

The defense got a couple of sacks of Phil Jurkovec and a 3-and-out to even the score at 7 under the Blue-Gold Game rules, but with Book back on the field the Irish moved again. Armstrong caught a pass out of the backfield for 14 yards and then broke off a 14-yard scamper around the left side on back-to-back plays to put Blue in scoring position. Book did the rest, rushing around the right side and beating the defense to the pylon for a 7-yard touchdown and a 14-7 lead.

The second-team offense under Jurkovec scored on the ensuing possession. Redshirt freshman Jahmir Smith broke a 28-yard run down the right sideline to move the ball into Gold territory and Jurkovec did much of the rest, completing a couple of nice passes over the middle to Kevin Austin and Lawrence Keys. True freshman running back Kyren Williams broke a nine-yard to get the ball inside the 5, juking linebacker Bo Bauer in the process, and then finished the drive himself with a one-yard touchdown to make it 21-7 late in the first quarter.

The second quarter featured more of the same, with the offense moving down the field under Book and Jurkovec with a combination of short passes and zone-read runs. Cornerback Temitope Agoro made a couple of nice plays in coverage on deeper passes to keep Blue out of the end zone and Khalid Kareem wreaked havoc in the backfield. The offense got a 1-yard touchdown run from Smith on the first play of the second quarter and Jonathan Doerer added 35-yard field goal to make it 31-19 midway through the quarter.

Screens were an important part of the offense because of windy conditions and Armstrong caught a couple of them for big games. On one second-quarter screen, the sophomore running back had a huge open space in front of him on a screen and scampered 22 yards before safety Jalen Elliott came up from behind him and punched the ball cleanly loose. The ball bounced free and corner Troy Pride Jr. picked it up for the defense's first turnover, bringing Gold within 31-22.

Offensive coordinator Chip Long said there would be an emphasis on "explosive plays" in the game, but Blue didn't try for a deep pass until late in the second quarter. When it finally did, the attempt was successful. Chase Claypool ran a long corner route and Book threw a jump ball along the sideline. The throw was well-placed and Claypool went up and got it for a 43-yard gain. Smith later capped off the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run to make it 38-25.

The offense went into halftime up 45-35, but the defense dominated the early parts of the second half, getting back-to-back three-and-outs as the offense continued to struggle pushing the ball down the field. The improved play on defense jumped Gold (defense) in front for the first time in the game bringing the score to 47-45. The defense scored 16 unanswered points spanning the halftime. The Ademilola brothers each made a couple of big plays in the backfield to stifle drives.

Shortly after, Blue brought in the third-string offense, led by quarterback Nolan Henry and it wasn't able to score again. The defense cruised down the stretch and scored the final 27 points of the game to win 58-45. 

Player of the Game: Jafar Armstrong

Armstrong was a force running the ball and catching it out of the backfield. He ran nine times for 85 yards (a 9.4-yard average) and a touchdown and caught four passes for 71 yards. His 163 total yards were easily the most in the game. He did have the game's only turnover, but that was less his fault than it was a great play by Elliott. 

Facts and Figures

This was the 90th Blue-Gold Game. ... Among those in attendance were former Notre Dame offensive linemen and NFL first-round picks Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey, as well as former offensive line coach Harry Hiestand. ... Running back Tony Jones Jr. did not play because of an injury. Jack Kiser, the 2018 Indiana Mr. Football and an early enrollee from the 2019 recruiting class, also did not play as he recovers from labrum surgery. ... Book was efficient, going 16 for 21 for 220 yards and a touchdown. ... Claypool caught four passes for a game-high 92 yards. ... The defense racked up 15 "sacks" (the quarterbacks had two-hand touch tackling rules for them), including three from Khalid Kareem. Sophomore Paul Moala led the defense with eight tackles, including two sacks. ... Smith had 93 total yards from the running back position. ... 

What's Next?

The Irish have 142 days until their season-opener against Louisville at Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, Ky. on Sept. 2. They will open fall camp in early August. 

dsinn@jg.net