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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, October 05, 2019 5:20 pm

Halftime: No. 9 Notre Dame 35, Bowling Green 0

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame has this game well in hand.

All the predictions of the Irish steamrolling the Falcons and moving on quickly to their upcoming rivalry matchups have turned out to be correct. Bowling Green just doesn't have the firepower to even compete with Notre Dame on most places and the Irish are picking their opponents apart. It was 21-0 within 10:16 of the opening kick and Notre Dame had four touchdown drives in the first half that lasted fewer than two minutes. 

One of the biggest developments in the first half was that the Irish seem to be trying to make a conscious effort to throw the ball down the field. Ian Book hit Chase Claypool with a perfect 34-yard touchdown pass on a go route and later threw a similar pass in the direction of Michael Young. That one fell incomplete (Book's first incompletion after nine straight on-target throws to start the game), although there was pretty blatant pass interference that went uncalled. The point remains that Book has been extremely skittish about throwing the ball deep this season and it would add another element to Notre Dame's offense if it is able to take the top off the defense every once in a while. Of course, Book has had clean pockets to throw out of all day today and that helps, but he's also shown some poise on the rare plays the rush has gotten near him, which is a positive development. Book is 15 for 17 for 255 yards and five touchdowns in the first half. He's already tied a career-high for touchdown passes, set earlier this season against New Mexico.

The offense has been very good against this Brian VanGorder-led defense, although it outmatches it so much physically it's difficult to see how much the scheme really matters. The idea of any Bowling Green defensive back trying to check Claypool, for example, is laughable.

The defense has not been quite as dominant, though the pass rush continues to wreak havoc. Bowling Green went three-and-out on its first three possessions, with Khalid Kareem and Julian Okwara in the backfield repeatedly. In the second quarter, however, Bowling Green began to move the ball a little bit. Backup quarterback Grant Loy came in and the Falcons started moving the pocket to give him some time to throw. Bowling Green still couldn't run the ball, but they picked up a handful of first downs with short passes, misdirection and good downfield blocking. The Irish were still fast to the football for the most part, but there were a few plays where they were out of position and gave up 10-15 yard gains because of it. Brian Kelly harped this week on attention to detail and for the most part the Irish have tightened up some of the loose ends that had plagued the team so far this season. Still, it wasn't a perfect half and there's still some improvement to be had in the second half. 

On the other hand, any worries that Notre Dame would be flat against an inferior opponent in the week before facing USC have been put to rest. The Irish came to play today.

dsinn@jg.net