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Notre Dame Football: Bowling Green Falcons Preview

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Pat Rick quickly breaks down the Bowling Green game tomorrow, which should definitely not be close

NCAA Football: Bowling Green at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Welp, the weekend we’ve all been waiting for since 2016 is finally here.

Your Notre Dame Fighting Irish, ranked 9th in the country after suffocating the Virginia Cavaliers 35-20 last weekend, now play host to a dear old friend in a nice little tune-up game prior to playing the USC Trojans next weekend.

Brian VanGorder, former Irish defensive coordinator, is now the defensive coordinator for Scot Loeffler’s Bowling Green Falcons, and BGSU will come to Notre Dame Stadium tomorrow hoping to not get absolutely slaughtered, as they have in the past three games. BVG’s defense has surrendered 149 points to the Kansas State Wildcats, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, and Kent State Golden Flashes over the course of the last three games.

NCAA FOOTBALL: SEP 24 Duke at Notre Dame Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

So how will the Falcons defense handle a much more talented ND offense than any of the offenses they’ve faced to-date? And can the BGSU offense put up ANY points on Notre Dame’s very good defense?

Let’s dive into the details to find out.

Bowling Green Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense

Considering what Notre Dame’s defense has been able to do in slowing down the Georgia offense and in turning in a dominant 2nd half performance against UVA last weekend, it goes without saying that this match-up is a step down, in terms of challenges, from those contests.

Bowling Green’s offense, in fact, is ranked 127th in the country out of 130 in SP+ offensive ratings, and so it’s very likely they will have a rough Saturday.

NCAA Football: Bowling Green at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons offense is led by quarterback Darius Wade, who’s had mixed results as starter with 664 yards, 58% completion rate, 5.8 yards per attempt, 3 TD, and 3 INT on the year.

Wade has been sacked 4 times this season, and that figure stands to increase tomorrow as the Notre Dame defensive front continues to show up the way everyone expected them to from the beginning of the season. Julian Okwara (4 sacks, 2 FF, 1 FR) and Khalid Kareem (11 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 4 TFL) combined for 5.5 sacks against UVA last week, and so Wade will likely be running for his life in the early going as those guys, along with Adetokunbo Ogundeji (10 tackles, 1 FF, 1 FR TD, 2 QBH) and Jamir Jones (1 sack, 1 FF), continuously apply pressure off the edge. Jones’ time will be a new event for Irish fans, considering Daelin Hayes (6 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack, 1 FR) went down for the season with a torn labrum last weekend.

If the BGSU offensive line is able to create some time for Wade to potentially find receivers, he will be looking first and foremost for WR Quinton Morris, who leads the team in receiving with 16 catches, 218 yards, and 2 TD on the season. Other targets Wade will look for include Julian Ortega-Jones (8 rec, 118 yds), R.B. Marlow III (9 rec, 94 yds), Rodell Rahmaan (2 rec, 54 yds), and tight ends Austin Dorris and Christian Sims, who have combined for 10 receptions, 72 yards, and a touchdown in 2019.

Unfortunately for Wade, even if he finds time to throw, the Irish secondary is holding opponents to a 36th-in-the-country measure of 6.4 yards per attempt. Led by senior safeties Alohi Gilman (24 tackles, 1 PD, 1 INT, 1 FF, 1 FR) and Jalen Elliott (16 tackles, 2 PD, 1 INT), the ND DBs have been very strong this season, and even with starting corner Shaun Crawford (12 tackles, 1 INT, 2 PD) out with a dislocated elbow, the group should still be able to handle the BGSU receiving corps. Sophomore TaRiq Bracy (15 tackles, 3 PD, 1 FR) will step in as starter, Troy Pride Jr. (11 tackles, 2 PD) will continue to man the other corner spot, and freshman Kyle Hamilton will continue to provide ball-hawking play-making ability at safety (9 tackles, 2 INT, 1 TD, 2 PD).

NCAA Football: New Mexico at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

At just 3.9 yards per attempt, the Bowling Green rushing offense isn’t much better than their passing attack. RB Davon Jones leads the team with 205 yards and a TD while running for 4.8 yards per carry, and Andrew Clair adds a nice little punch of his own with 4.1 yards per carry, having accumulated 158 yards and 2 TDs so far in this young season. Bryson Denley (97 yds, 3.6 ypc, 1 TD) and Wade (97 yds, 3.2 ypc) could also see some rushing attempts against the Irish on Saturday.

It’s unlikely the Falcons will get much on the ground, though, as the Irish have shown significant improvement from the first couple games in terms of stopping the run, with Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah leading the charge at linebacker and with the defensive tackles beginning to pick up the slack on their end.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 21 Notre Dame at Georgia Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Owusu-Koramoah is tied with Gilman for the team lead in tackles with 24, and has added 4.5 TFL and 1 forced fumble to his list of accomplishments as well. His speed and aggression have made him an absolute force that’s constantly flying to the ball, and it’s rubbed off on fellow linebackers Drew White (21 tackles, 6 TFL, 1 sack, 1 PD) and Asmar Bilal (20 tackles, 2 TFL), as that triumvirate has really been quite good the past couple weeks.

Meanwhile, the defensive tackle position, which appeared fairly weak heading into the season and at the beginning of the year without Jerry Tillery to anchor it, has really done a good job of late at getting a push in the middle. The key names to know there are Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa and Kurt Hinish, who have combined for 14 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and Tagovailoa-Amosa’s long fumble return last weekend that nearly went for a TD. Jayson Ademilola (9 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 PD) and Jacob Lacey help round out the DT rotation with depth, strength, and youth.

Offensive Falcon to Watch

WR Quinton Morris

There is next to no chance the Bowling Green offense is able to do much of anything against Clark Lea’s squad, but if they are going to have any success, it might have to be with someone like Morris taking advantage of sophomore TaRiq Bracy having to play starter’s minutes. I don’t think that will happen, but it’d be needed for BGSU to hang around at all in this one.

Defensive Irish to Watch

CB TaRiq Bracy and DE Jamir Jones

With the injuries to Shaun Crawford and Daelin Hayes last weekend, Bracy and Jones will be asked to step up and help fill minutes — Bracy as the starting corner opposite Pride, and Jones as a heavier rotation guy off the edge. The Bowling Green won’t show us much of substance this weekend, but how these guys step into much more involved roles will be interesting to watch, no matter the opponent.

NCAA Football: Virginia at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Halftime Funtime

Best Names in the Game

  1. Notre Dame RB C’Borius Flemister
  2. Notre Dame LS Axel Raarup
  3. Notre Dame S Litchfield Ajavon
  4. Notre Dame TE Tommy Tremble
  5. Bowling Green WR PaSean Wimberly
  6. Bowling Green DL Tche Leroux
  7. Notre Dame DL Hunter Spears
  8. Notre Dame LB Ovie Oghoufo
  9. Bowling Green LS Gabe Skrobot
  10. Notre Dame DE Nana Osafo-Mensah
  11. Bowling Green DB Antonyo Sotolongo
  12. Bowling Green WR Cavon Croom
  13. Notre Dame CB Temitope Agoro
  14. Notre Dame DE Adetokunbo Ogundeji
  15. Bowling Green LB Eldridge Salguero
  16. Notre Dame RB Jafar Armstrong
  17. Bowling Green QB Labronz Davis
  18. Bowling Green OL Zach Dziengelewski

Notre Dame Offense vs. Bowling Green Defense

Notre Dame’s offense is 24th in the country in SP+, and Bowling Green’s defense is 118th. That’s more or less all you need to know about this match-up.

Brian VanGorder’s defense has given up 149 points in the last three games (all losses), and has yet to face an offense as talented as Notre Dame’s.

Despite some obvious limitations that have come to light in this first third of the season, Ian Book is still proving to be a fairly efficient and productive QB. Through 4 games (2 of which have been against great-to-good defenses in UGA and UVA), Book has passed for nearly 1,000 yards, completed 63% of his passes, picked up 8.3 yards per attempt, and thrown 8 touchdowns while only tossing 2 picks. Furthermore, he’s added 134 yards and 2 TD on the ground, just for good measure.

Bowling Green DBs like Jamari Bozeman (27 tackles, 4 PD), Jerry McBride III (24 tackles, 2 PD), Caleb Biggers (16 tackles), JaJuan Hudson (14 tackles, 1 PD), and Melvin Jackson III (10 tackles 1 PD, 2 sacks)) have all shown some ability to make plays after opposing players have torn through the front seven and gotten to the second level, but none of them likely have the ability to cover Notre Dame’s best receivers.

NCAA Football: Bowling Green at Ohio State Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Chase Claypool (21 rec, 286 yds, 2 TD) and Cole Kmet (13 rec, 173 yds, 1 TD) are both guys who would start for basically any team in the country, and their combination of size and athleticism makes them impossible to cover — corners and safeties are too small, linebackers are too slow. Look for Book to find those guys early in an effort to immediately put the Falcons away, and then also expect to see Chris Finke (9 rec, 113 yds, 1 TD), Michael Young (3 rec, 19 yds), and Tommy Tremble (5 rec, 98 yds, 1 TD) get several touches as well.

Notre Dame will also likely try to run the ball as much as possible in what should be a complete rout, as Tony Jones Jr. had himself a great game against UVA last week and is running well behind an offensive line that is finally starting to open some holes. Jones Jr. has 279 yards and 4 touchdowns this season and is picking up 5.8 yards per carry, establishing himself as the only real threat in the Irish backfield with Jafar Armstrong out until next weekend.

NCAA Football: Virginia at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

C’Bo Flemister looked solid in some reserve carries he got last weekend, so expect he and Jahmir Smith to get some backup carries while Jones Jr. catches his breath, and probably a lot of second half carriers with TJJ resting on the sideline.

Bowling Green’s front seven is not very strong against the run, but look for key guys like linebackers Brandon Perce (38 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 1 INT), Kholbe Coleman (33 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 FF), and Jerry Roberts (25 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 4 TFL) to do their best to hit gaps aggressively and shut down Jones Jr., forcing Book to beat them solely with his arm.

Bowling Green v Kansas State Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

The BGSU defensive line includes some decently-talented guys like David Konowalski (22 tackles, 1 sack, 5 TFL), Karl Brooks (13 tackles, 1 sack), and Nico Lautanen (12 tackles, 1 sack, 1 FF), but I do not see that group being able to hold its own against the Aaron Bankses and Tommy Kraemers on the ND side, and the Irish will likely pour it on and blow the Falcons out by Q2/Q3.

There should be a lot of garbage time for the Irish to give to young players for reps, so it should be fun to see Phil Jurkovec, Braden Lenzy, Joe Wilkins, and others get some PT and show off what could be the future of the program.

Defensive Falcon to Watch

LB Brandon Perce

Perce is one of the Falcons’ best play-makers, so if BVG’s unit is going to do much of anything against Book and co., he will need to be leading the charge.

Bowling Green v Kansas State Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

Offensive Irish to Watch

QB Phil Jurkovec

This is exactly the type of game Jurkovec should get some extended playing time in, so hopefully for most of the second half we will get to see Phil in action against a defense he should be able to lead the #2 ND offense in dominating.

New Mexico v Notre Dame Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Special Teams???

There’s not much to say here. Bowling Green’s kicker Nate Needham is 7-for-9 on extra points and 1-for-3 on field goals, so clearly kicking isn’t exactly a given for this BGSU team. Meanwhile, Notre Dame’s crew has been solid but not spectacular this year, as Jonathan Doerer has made all 19 of his extra points and has hit 2 of his 3 attempts on field goals.

Alright, Let’s Predict the Result of This One

Notre Dame 59, Bowling Green 10

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