Game Observations - Offense: Notre Dame 52, Bowling Green 0
Notre Dame dominated Bowling Green today to earn a 52-0 victory. This game was as out-matched from a talent standpoint as I thought it would be. Notre Dame was clearly the more talented team and it showed, but there was a lot that must be cleaned up moving forward against opponents who won’t be so out-manned.
*** Notre Dame came out throwing against Bowling Green and the result was a quick three-and-out. On the next series OC Chip Long went to Tony Jones Jr. and the senior back took the drive over and got the offense rolling. For the rest of the game it seemed the Irish tried to force feed the pass game, and in most instances it worked against a pass defense that struggled to cover.
*** Notre Dame showed it has explosive players in this game at multiple positions, but it also capitalized against a defense that made a lot of assignment mistakes and simply could not match up from a personnel standpoint. It was the same mistakes against the off-tackle runs and over the middle pass routes that Notre Dame fans saw for three years (2014-16), but now the Bowling Green DC doesn’t have Jaylon Smith, Sheldon Day, etc. to bail him out.
*** There were some good moments from QB Ian Book in this game. He finished the game with tremendous stats, going 16-20 for 261 yards and five touchdowns. Like the Virginia game, he started fast, completing his first ten passes, including three touchdown passes. The biggest takeaway from Book’s performance was how calm he was in the pocket, although he had every reason with how the line blocked.
*** Early in the game Book went through his progressions effectively, which was a very good sign. His first touchdown pass was a snap in which Book looked left, didn’t see an open player than went backside and found his tight end (Tommy Tremble) open on a seam route for a touchdown. Later, Notre Dame ran an RPO that Book read perfectly. The read linebacker crashed, so Book pulled the ball and hit his tight end (Cole Kmet) up the seam for a touchdown. Book also did a good job reading and hitting a wide receiver on a Cover 2 hole throw and he was willing to attack down the field.
*** There were still too many read mistakes in the game, and those must get cleaned up. He made a good read throwing to Michael Young on a second quarter post route, but Book took multiple hops and waited until Young was well into his break before he threw the ball, which allowed the safety to play the ball. A smarter and better safety would have read that and possibly picked it off, but a quicker decision by Book gives his wideout a chance to make a play on the ball.
*** On his touchdown pass to Javon McKinley in the second quarter, Book missed a wide-open deep in cut, which came a play after he missed a wide open Avery Davis up the seam for a touchdown. Yes, he got the touchdown pass but it was a broken play against a poor defense, something you can’t hope to get against better defenses.
*** It was a step in the right direction for Book, no question, but when he goes through the film he’ll see there’s still plenty of room for growth.
*** Senior RB Tony Jones Jr. didn’t get the ball much, but when he did he made the most of it. Jones had his third 100-yard game of the season, rushing for 102 yards on just seven carries. Jones perfectly combined patience with decisiveness, and his ability to let blocks develop allowed him to then burst free for big plays.
*** Junior Avery Davis had three carries for no yards, but he would have had a huge play in the pass game if Book would have found him. That’s the part of his game where he can most help this offense. He’s just not physical enough to be a between-the-tackles runner. You could see this in the third quarter when he and QB Phil Jurkovec hooked up for a big-play down the seam and then he got free on a boot for a touchdown.
*** Senior WR Chase Claypool had a strong day, catching three passes for 61 yards and two touchdowns, with his second touchdown coming on a crossing route where he was wide open. Claypool made a really good play on his post route touchdown, which was under thrown a bit. Claypool was good on the perimeter as a blocker in the snaps I saw saw him in the run game.
*** It was a bit of a bounce-back game for fifth-year senior WR Chris Finke, who made a tough Cover 2 hole catch on a well-timed throw, but the throw was a bit too much on a line and allowed the defender to get a bit closer. Finke also had a good day returning punts, including a 25-yard gain.
*** WR Javon McKinley used his size and athletic skills to dominate Bowling Green. He caught 5 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown, and his two back-shoulder catches set up other touchdowns. He had a drop on a crossing route in the third quarter and his release on vertical routes needs work. He was able to out-play defenders today, but we saw against Georgia that he can get jammed up when he does that against better players. But I loved how McKinley played the ball and how he blocks. If he can clean up his releases against tight coverage he’s going to continue being a big weapon against good teams as well as the bad ones.
*** TE Cole Kmet had an early bad block on a RPO pass, but other than that he played well from what I could see. I didn’t see much of Kmet in the run game, but the two snaps I did see he got good movement, played with good angles and finished well. One in particular allowed Jones to cut inside and then bounce back out for a big gain. Kmet was impactful in the pass game, quickly getting upfield on the RPO touchdown I mentioned earlier. He also converted a 3rd-4 with a TE under screen, which is a play we saw the offense constantly fail at executing in 2017 and 2018, so it was great to see that work.
*** TE Tommy Tremble had another strong game, but this time he was able to get involved in the pass game. He had 4 catches for 38 yards, which included a 17-yard touchdown to start the game’s scoring. Tremble, Kmet and junior Brock Wright combined for 7 catches, 109 yards and two touchdowns. Wright had the big play, hauling in a 40-yard reception on a wheel route in the second quarter.
*** I wanted to see the offensive line dominate an inferior Bowling Green defense and that’s exactly what we saw. There were a couple of miscues here and there, but overall the unit was dominant. They got excellent movement in the run game, the interior of the line got a much better push and the movement blocks were top notch. Both sides of the line had impressive counter blocks for big gains today. When Bowling Green tried to pressure the offense the line did a good job giving Book a lot of time to throw.
*** As always I’ll have more on the offensive line specifically after grading the film, but the movement they got was a positive. Yes, Bowling Green is bad on defense, but so was New Mexico and they didn’t get a push against New Mexico.
*** On to the backups ….
*** You saw today why QB Phil Jurkovec is a player that has such a bright future if he can put it all together. This is a talented young man that continues to improve and develop. He played with poise and looked calm today, and you saw him go through his reads and keep his eyes downfield. By staying poised and patience in the pocket there was also room for Jurkovec to run once he scrambled. He finished the game 5-7 for 79 yards and a touchdown to go with 42 rushing yards on 4 carries. He made plays in the pocket, on the move and with his legs.
*** I liked how sophomore RB Jahmir Smith ran today, both early in the game when he burst forward for a 24-yard gain and how he ran late in the game. He didn’t get a lot of carries, but he was quick, decisive and ran with authority.
*** Sophomore WR Braden Lenzy didn’t get much action from a touches standpoint, but he did some other things in this game that make me think he could very well get more playing time in the final seven games. Lenzy competed in the run game today, showing a willingness and ability to stay locked on defensive backs. This was true late in the game against Bowling Green’s backups but I also saw it early in the game when he got snaps with the first team offense.