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irish insider

Head to Head: Bowling Green

| Friday, October 4, 2019

Irish passing

Four games in and it’s still hard to determine the identity of this Irish offense. With the run game depleted due to injuries, Brian Kelly has looked to Ian Book and the receiving corps to step up. While improvements have definitely been made — helped in large part by the addition of Cole Kmet and Michael Young to the lineup — the pass game still leaves something to be desired. The 266.8 average yards throughout four games puts the Irish at 45th in the FBS, and that’s with considerable amounts of questionable “passing” yardage against New Mexico. The Falcons have allowed their opponents an average of just under 450 yards per game, evenly split among the pass and run game. This should be a chance for Book, Phil Jurkovec and maybe even Brendon Clark to get some looks downfield in preparation for USC.

EDGE: Notre Dame

 

Irish rushing 

Running back is far and away Notre Dame’s deepest position, and the Irish need to use this week to get reps in for each of their role players on the ground, taking advantage of Bowling Green’s weak line with some jet options and RB dives. 

After struggling on the ground against Georgia, things were much better last week against Virginia with Tony Jones Jr. pounding in three touchdowns behind 131 yards and C’Bo Flemister adding in a score of his own (the first of his career). That performance bodes well for this week’s matchup. Notre Dame must get the ball out of Book’s hands often, avoiding any possibility of injury for him while fine-tuning the pieces of their ground game. 

EDGE: Notre Dame

 

Irish offensive coaching 

The Notre Dame defense has stepped up the past two weeks against ranked opponents while the offense has lagged behind. That won’t be an issue this week. Bowling Green is not good. They’re 1-3 on the year with the lone win coming over Morgan State. They were shut out by Kansas State 52-0 and gave up 62 points to Kent State. They’re 111th out of 130 FBS teams in total defense, giving up 448.5 yards per game, 100th in red zone defense, allowing 88.2% conversions in the red zone and 120th in scoring defense, giving up 38 points per contest. By contrast, Notre Dame is 21st in the nation in scoring offense (38.3 points per game) and has scored a touchdown in all 14 of their redzone trips, tying them at first in the country in red zone offense. Not to mention the level of competition has been far greater for the Irish, and they have far superior talent all the way down the roster. Oh, and Brian VanGorder is the Falcons’ defensive coordinator. If Chip Long and the offensive staff don’t coach circles around the Falcons, they may feel their seats getting a tad warm.

EDGE: Notre Dame

 

Irish offensive special teams 

After an excellent week against Georgia, the Virginia game was one to forget for the Irish special teams. A Chris Finke fumbled punt return set Virginia up with excellent field position at a key juncture in the second half, and Jonathan Doerer missed his first field goal of the year, although it was a lengthy try from 47 yards. Still, the junior kicker is yet to miss an extra point, and the Falcons have already missed two this season. Finke and Doerer had been solid until last Saturday, and they will look to rebound against a poor special teams squad in Bowling Green. Jay Bramblett’s 41.2 yards per punt put him at 68th in the nation — unremarkable but extremely solid for a true freshman. If the Irish can just be mistake-free on special teams, they will have the edge.

EDGE: Notre Dame 

 

Bowling Green Passing 

The Falcons are 110th overall in passing offense on the season, and the competition they’ve faced isn’t necessarily the cream of the crop. Senior quarterback Darius Wade has struggled against defenses who are vastly outmatched by Notre Dame’s defense, and the Falcons have posted only five passing touchdowns on the season. The Falcons put up a mere seven points on Louisiana Tech, which is ranked 89th in overall defense. The Irish rank 53rd in overall defense having faced a schedule miles tougher than that of Louisiana Tech. So if Bowling Green’s 35-7 loss to LA Tech is any indication of its ability to pass the ball efficiently, the Irish pass defense should have a field day. 

EDGE: Notre Dame 

 

Bowling Green rushing 

Notre Dame’s unwavering defense has been their strength all season, and it will be tough for the Falcons to get things started against a line that’s already recorded 12 sacks. Leading Falcon rusher Davon Jones clocks in at just under 5 yards a carry for 94th in FBS, but Bowling Green has just 5 rushing touchdowns on the year. If the Irish can contain D’Andre Swift, they should be able to keep things clean on the ground against Bowling Green. 

EDGE: Notre Dame

 

Bowling Green offensive coaching 

The Falcons are a rushing team first, keeping the ball on the ground 56% of times. This is especially notable considering how often they are losing in games, a scenario where most teams would prefer to pass to make up that deficit quickly. Perhaps their reason for rushing is their dismal 5.6 yards per passing attempt, which is among the worst in FBS. Senior running back Davon Jones poses the largest threat in the running game, getting 4.8 yards per carry in their first game. Quarterback Darius Wade was replaced by backup Grant Loy in the last game, and Loy is far more dangerous on the ground. He has picked up 81 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries this season, so if it is Loy who starts, expect to see him looking for running room against the Irish defense. I don’t believe he’ll find much, but that may be the Falcons’ best bet given how they pass the ball.

EDGE: Notre Dame 

 

Bowling Green offensive special teams

Most of the time there’s only so much a team can do defensively on special teams. Against almost any other opponent, the Irish would be disadvantaged in terms of what they could do to prevent special teams scores. Bowling Green does not fall into that category. They have only converted 1-3 field goals this season, missing one from 50+ yards and going 1-2 between 20-29 yards, with the lone make coming from 24 yards out. Also, they are 8-10 on point after attempts this season. The Falcons have not allowed a blocked kick this season, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Notre Dame manages to get to the kicker in this one. Coming into Notre Dame Stadium, redshirt junior kicker Nate Needham will have to feel some of the pressure of the moment — if his team can even get him within range of the uprights.

EDGE: Notre Dame

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