Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 26, 2019*

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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24 OCT. 26, 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED TURNING POINT While building a 3-0 lead after the first quarter, the Trojans were doing a superb job of winning the field position battle. Notre Dame's three se- ries in the first quarter began from its own 20-, 20- and 13-yard lines, all resulting in punts. Then its initial possession in the second quarter with 11:09 remaining began way back at its 3-yard line. Notre Dame proceeded to march 97 yards on nine plays in 2:32, culminated by a 10-yard touch- down pass from senior quarterback Ian Book to junior tight end Cole Kmet on a crossing route at the 8:37 mark of the second quarter. On third-and-seven from the Irish 6-yard line, Book completed a nine-yard pass to senior wide- out Chase Claypool. Senior running back Tony Jones Jr. followed with back-to-back 12- and 43- yard runs. That sequence began a run of 20 straight Notre Dame points (17 in the second quarter) that the Trojans could not quite rally from the rest of the way. STAT OF THE GAME Notre Dame entered the contest averaging 164.8 rushing yards per game to rank 62 nation- ally among 130 Football Bowl Subdivision teams, and the 14 carries for 46 yards in the 23-17 loss at Georgia Sept. 21 was particularly disheartening. Against USC, the Fighting Irish nearly doubled their season average with 308 yards on the ground that averaged 6.4 yards per carry. Spearheading the production was senior Tony Jones Jr.'s career- high 176 yards, but sophomore wide receiver Braden Lenzy added a 51-yard touchdown in the form of a counter reverse, senior quarterback Ian Book efficiently sprinkled in scrambles and de- signed runs for 49 yards, and sophomore running back Jahmir Smith added a much needed 32 yards on five carries while Jones received a rest. The work by the offensive line since the fourth quarter of the Virginia game — when Notre Dame rushed for 120 yards on 15 carries to put away the game — has been stellar under second- year line coach Jeff Quinn, and will especially be needed on the road versus Michigan Oct. 26. A 'SPECIAL' PERFORMANCE After the graduation of 2015-18 starter Jus- tin Yoon, Notre Dame's all-time leading scorer and most accurate kicker with a minimum of 50 attempts, junior Jonathan Doerer, who had struggled with kickoffs and even lost his job there in 2018, was considered a shaky replacement from the outside looking in. He displayed remarkable improvement in the final two weeks of spring practice, and performed with Yoon-like consistency throughout August camp … but the question remained how he would hold up when the lights came on in a pressure- packed situation. That was answered with a superb 3-of-3 per- formance on his field goal attempts, while also battling windy conditions, in the 30-27 victory versus the Trojans to earn the game ball. What's more, the makes were from 45, 52 and 43 yards. We'd have to do more research, but our bet is no Notre Dame kicker has ever converted three field goals in a game in which the shortest distance was from 43 yards. THREE OBSERVATIONS BY LOU SOMOGYI OFFENSE: RB TONY JONES JR. The senior running back continues to be a workhorse for the Notre Dame ground attack. Jones ran for a career-high 176 yards on 25 carries (7.0 yards per attempt) and sur- passed the 100-yard mark with just less than three minutes remaining in the first half. Jones' effort included six runs of 10 yards or more, high- lighed by a 43-yard scamper in the second quarter. This marked his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the year, which is tied for 14th all time in a single season in Irish history. It also is his third straight contest surpassing the century mark. Per usual, he also had a solid game in pass protection. DEFENSE: LB ASMAR BILAL The fifth-year senior Buck linebacker had a huge game and consistently showed the instincts that allowed him to be in the right place at the right time, including in the USC backfield. Bilal notched a game-high 11 total tackles and eight solo stops. Per Pro Football Focus's initial grades, Bilal had only one missed tackle. He also helped set the tone early, re- cording five tackles (two for loss) in the first quarter. He set a new career high with the 11 total tackles, topping his previous mark of nine. SPECIAL TEAMS: K JONATHAN DOERER The junior kicker was Blue & Gold Illustrated's top special teams player last weekend against Bowling Green, but he far exceeded that performance against USC. In a tight three-point game, Doerer converted three field goals from 45, 52 and 43 yards. All three kicks surpassed his previous career long of 36 yards, which he set earlier this year against New Mexico. After the contest, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly awarded Doerer the game ball. TOP PLAYERS OF THE GAME BY ANDREW MENTOCK Senior Buck linebacker Asmar Bilal (No. 22) led all defenders with 11 tackles and eight solo stops. PHOTO BY ANDRIS VISOCKIS

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