A season ago, the Fighting Irish failed on numerous occasions to put away lesser opponents at home. Games against Ball State, Vanderbilt and Pittsburgh are a few notable examples. These contests saw Notre Dame heavily favored but unable to manage a double-digit victory. Fortunately for Fighting Irish fans across the country, there was no nail-biting against inferior opponents this time around.
Notre Dame beat Bowling Green in convincing fashion on a crisp October afternoon with a final score of 52-0. The offensive and defensive domination by the Fighting Irish led to the first Irish shutout since 2014, when Notre Dame defeated Michigan 31-0 at home. The victory was also the second time this season that Notre Dame defeated an FBS school by more than 50 points. While many believed that the team could be caught looking ahead to huge rivalry games against USC and Michigan, the Fighting Irish performed well all game, leaving little doubt of the outcome.
On the first possession of the game, the Bowling Green defense, under former Notre Dame defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder (certainly not a fan favorite) held senior quarterback Ian Book and the Irish offense to just six yards. Fans were forced to question whether VanGorder had finally figured out how to coach a collegiate defense, but what happened next would answer this question quickly. In what can only be described as the ultimate offensive efficiency, the Fighting Irish scored a touchdown on five of their next six possessions to take a 35-0 lead into the half.
While the second offensive possession for the Fighting Irish began quite run-heavy, it ended with two beautiful passes from Ian Book for the final 40 yards and the touchdown. Senior running back Tony Jones Jr. gained 40 yards on four plays before Book completed back-to-back passes to senior wide receiver Javon McKinley and sophomore tight end Tommy Tremble, an emerging star with a large catch radius and a bright future ahead of him in South Bend.
The next two Bowling Green possessions ended in similar fashion, both three-and-outs and both going for negative yardage. The run defense appeared impenetrable, racking up multiple tackles for loss while not allowing a run longer than three yards. Senior defensive end Jamir Jones added a sack of Bowling Green quarterback Grant Loy. After the two forced punts, the offense got right back to work.
On the next two possessions, Book completed all four of his attempts for 84 yards and two touchdowns. He threw a pair of completions to junior tight end Cole Kmet and senior wide receiver Chase Claypool, two leaders of the receiving corps, who each caught a touchdown in that span as well. Both were expected to be large parts of the offense, and both had lived up to lofty preseason expectations.
Continued defensive domination allowed the offense to get the ball back time and time again, and each time Book proved how potent the Notre Dame offense could be. On the final two drives of the first half, Book completed six straight passes across two drives that both ended in Fighting Irish touchdowns. Claypool added his second touchdown reception of the half, while McKinley added his first of the day. The half ended a little over a minute later when senior defensive back Jalen Elliott intercepted a pass in the endzone.
The second half did not produce the same offensive flurry as the first half, but the defense remained strong and the offense held the ball for extended periods of time on long drives that allowed the score to reach an impressive final of 52-0. After a missed Bowling Green field goal early in the third quarter, the Falcons would fail to advance the ball past midfield the rest of the game. A Jonathan Doerer field goal with 7:12 to go in the third quarter brought the score to Notre Dame 38, Bowling Green 0, capping off Book’s last drive of the day.
Sophomore quarterback Phil Jurkovec led the offense the rest of the way, adding a touchdown pass to Avery Davis and leading the team down the field to set up a one-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back C’Bo Flemister. On the day, Notre Dame outgained Bowling Green 573 yards to 228, further illustrating the Irish offensive and defensive dominance, as well as allowing for the 52-0 final score.
As the Irish look forward to games against rivals USC and Michigan, they found a certain groove against the Falcons that looked promising for the rest of the season.