Notre Dame turned in a relentless defensive effort to smother Iowa State’s potent passing game, and Chase Claypool delivered an outstanding performance in his final college game as the Fighting Irish breezed past the Cyclones by 33-9 on Saturday in the Camping World Bowl.
Claypool caught seven passes for 146 yards, scored one touchdown on a superb catch and set up another. He also recovered a fumble on special teams to get his team started in the early going. Kicker Jonathan Doerer added four field goals, and senior tailback Tony Jones, Jr. ran for 135 yards including an 84-yard scoring burst just after halftime that essentially put the game on ice .
Iowa State could not survive a shaky start. Two fumbles resulted in a 10-0 advantage for Notre Dame before the Cyclones finally got on the scoreboard with a field goal at the 9:27 mark of the second quarter. Doerer answered with a rocket-propelled 51-yard knuckleball for a 13-3 lead just two minutes later.
The game continued to slip away from Matt Campbell and the Cyclones moments later when they failed to convert a fourth down play at their own 45 yard line. The Irish took over and Book quickly hit Claypool on a pass that brought them to the half yard line. Jafar Armstrong scored two plays later and Notre Dame led by 20-3. Iowa State added another Connor Assalley field goal in the final minute before intermission to narrow the gap to 20-6.
Notre Dame’s defense forced a punt on the first series of the third period and the offense took over at its own 16. The Irish then ran a perfectly-executed sweep as Jones broke into the clear behind a Tommy Tremble block and lumbered down the sidelines. Jones used his patented stiff arm to ward off his pursuers over the final ten yards before crashing across the goal line.
There were 28 minutes remaining in the contest at that point, but the issue had effectively been decided. The teams traded field goals again later in the quarter, and it was 30-9 entering the final 15 minutes. Doerer completed a perfect afternoon by adding his fourth and final three-pointer for the 33-9 finish.
Quarterback Brock Purdy had a rough afternoon for the Cyclones, and left the field late in the game with a sprained ankle. He was 17 of 30 for 222 relatively meaningless yards, and failed to connect in the end zone.
Notre Dame out-rushed Iowa State by 208-45 and had 445 total yards against just 272 for the Cyclones. Book was a solid 20 of 28 for 248 yards and the one score to Claypool.
Let’s review the answers to our pregame questions:
Can Notre Dame’s committee of offensive coaches cobble together an effective running game? There were a few frustrating moments, but the Irish stuck with the plan and Jones’ long run made it all worthwhile.
Which secondary will be able to slow down the opponent’s dangerous receiving corps? Yes, the coverage was stifling all day. Defensive Coordinator Clark Lea is without question the unsung hero of this team.
Can the Irish bring enough pressure on Purdy to impact his performance? Notre Dame had several pressures and a couple of sacks, thanks in large part to the coverage downfield.
Will Book pick up where he left off in November by throwing the ball downfield? Book kept things short most of the time, but found Claypool on deep balls in key situations.
Which special teams will make a positive contribution? The early forced fumble deflated the Cyclones, and Doerer’s four field goals were more points than Iowa State managed all day.
Will the Irish be able to match Iowa State’s enthusiasm for this contest? It was hard for the Cyclones to maintain their excitement while getting pounded into submission.
Can Notre Dame win the turnover battle? It was 3-0, if you include ISU’s failed fourth down play that the Irish turned into a touchdown.
Aren’t we glad we’re not playing Clemson again? Yes, the Irish are still a level down from the elite teams that are playing later today.
An 11-2 season looks good on paper and should give the program positive momentum into the offseason. The two failed opportunities to win when the spotlight was the brightest are inescapable, however, and should serve as motivation to improve. The offense in particular must get stronger and faster. Finally, the task of replacing a warrior like Claypool will be extremely difficult. He could have opted to sit out this contest to protect his standing in the NFL draft, but he showed up and played a terrific game.