Defense, Claypool Pace Irish

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.

Chase Claypool hauls down a scoring pass

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.

Tony Jones, Jr. celebrates a long scoring run

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.

37 thoughts on “Defense, Claypool Pace Irish

  1. ND showed up and played an efficient, all around game today…Claypool is a beast and Clark Lea’s defense was excellent throughout the game….I also thought that Tommy Rees called a balanced offense game led by Ian Book….a nice way to end the season after a strong November…Go Irish!

    • Aaron Koproski says:

      ND wins in this pathetic Bowl Game as it should be! Ended the season on a strong note as it should!!!! Keep getting those 5/4 star recruits!!!!! More athleticism on the O-Line will help for the future!!!!!! ☘️🏈💪👏👍🤙

  2. I was at the game today in Orlando and the IRISH came ready to play! This defense is a top 10 defense and Clark Lea should be well rewarded for this season. The offense stumbled at times but I think that Tommy was trying to keep status quo for the most part and not mix things up to much. As for Claypool….he is going to be a beast on Sundays next year!

    • Still would have rather played a team ranked ahead of us giving us a chance to finish in the top 10 with a victory. No chance now.

  3. The defense was the game. Total domination. The offense was OK, but Jones 84 yard run inflated the stats. Book was decent but the run game and offensive line were still sub par, sorry but I think a closer review of how many 1 and 2 yard runs there were is in order. Still a good season which we, hopefully, will come to expect as a norm. Go Irish!

    • I’m with you Hawk50. I don’t understand all this gushing about our play calling. I thought the O was rather pedestrian. Glad there was only one false start compared to the usual 4-5 per game. The D, on the other hand, was awesome. Glad to finish with a bowl victory!

  4. Beats the hell out of losing, which I thought was a real possibility, given what I thought would be an enthusiasm gap. Hats off to a solid all around effort, especially the D.

  5. Vegas usually gets it right but this time, I think it got it wrong. Irish were 3.5 point favorite heading into their bowl game against Iowa State but were clearly the better team. Lack of respect for Irish? Maybe. The 33-9 final could have been worse, Irish left points on the field with four field goals. Lots of conflicted emotions. Obviously good to end the season with a win, but it seemed almost anti-climactic, like Irish should have played a better opponent, played in one of the New Year’s Six games. Conference bowl affiliations prevented that so maybe not being in a conference hurt the Irish. That, and no real signature wins. Still, 23-3 over the last two seasons. Like I said, it’s a real weird feeling.

  6. Good article Johnny V. It was a good all-around game played by the Irish!!! Coach Kelly had them ready and well prepared. Already looking forward to a great next season!! Johnny I do agree with you that ND is not at the level of LSU, OSU,and Clemson ( not now). However, I strongly feel that ND is at the same level as OK! GO ND beat Navy!!

    • We would have done better than Oklahoma today, although I’d prefer not to return to the playoffs until we have a legitimate chance to win it all.

      • JV, so agree with your comment. I don’t want ND in the playoffs either until they can compete. They wouldn’t give up 63 like OK tonight but it would still be a 42-10 type game.

      • Agreed. We do have a lot of good talent returning and recruiting has been pretty good. Claypool …Difficult to replace. Hopefully, we can get to the playoffs next year with an improved team…. and a legitimate chance to win it all.

      • Excellent defensive performance. The offense is above average but clearly their impediment to competing for a title. I’m beating a dead horse here but Book isn’t elite at anything which shows in their toughest games.

        Overall a solid season and hopefully they can build momentum for 2020. Wisconsin and Clemson next season will provide 2 new opportunities to take the next step.

  7. Vannie,
    Thank you for the insightful analysis this year.
    Nice playcall balance led to the dominant performance.
    Will miss Claypool and Gilman.

  8. John The Gov Govreau says:

    Very good back to back seasons all things
    considered (like no 5 * players.)
    With hopefully a TOP FIVE recruiting class
    and definitely a BUS-TYPE fullback
    (for a change)!for short yardage situations.
    could put ND in the elite 4-team realm in
    better shape than the last two times.
    Hey! No problem wearing our ND caps,
    T-Shirts, hoodies, etc. showing IRISH PRIDE.

    • Frankly, I’m hoping Phil does transfer. Nice kid, but he needs to be in a mid level conference, never with the big boys. We’ve had plenty of reps to see the kid cannot throw. His mechanics are horrible. One of the youngsters needs to be mentored under Ian, who, in my humble opinion, will have a great last year with the Irish. I’m thrilled he’s coming back.

  9. I was happy for the win and surprised ND played as well as they did. Thank you John for great articles all year. It was nice to end on a winning note, but it would still be nice to be back to where the elite programs are and win it all. It was interesting to see the camera crew film Urban on the sidelines right before Clemson picked off OSU to win the game. Looks like Urban can’t keep away from OSU. Glad to see OSU go down. Their fans are awful, and it was great to see U$C get clobbered by Iowa. Now I hope Bama takes it to the Skunkbears so they will have a two game losing streak.

    GO IRISH, Beat Navy and have a great 2020.

      • I just looked that up. I did not know that, just thought he was at Fox Sports. Well, that makes me even happier to know that he was there to see OSU lose. Happy New Year.

        • Thank you, and Happy New Year to you as well, sir. Yes, it was sweet seeing that he was there on the sidelines to see them lose at the end.

  10. I know I should be more positive with a season ending win like this…. My hat goes off to the team redeeming themselves after the Michigan meltdown! They can only do so much with the players we are allowed to recruit. After watching Clemson and OSU last night, we will never reach the promised land again. We’re not even close. Yes, we’ve had 3 good seasons, but no real wins against a top quality opponent. Until the egghead, ivory tower elites and Fr Jenkins lower entrance exams for all, the best players will continue to go elsewhere. ND prides itself with feel good commercials during games, to show how it is helping the less fortunate throughout the world. Well, let’s call out the big elephant, right in our own living room! Give those elite players from less fortunate backgrounds a chance to earn a degree from Notre Dame. That will never happen though, with the admin so worried about protecting their graduation rate. We can only pray for an early snowstorm in Nov next year for the Clemson game.

    • I don’t see next year as a downer. Recruiting has been very good in spite of the entrance restrictions. We rank high in recruiting for this year and next 2 years. I am optimistic about our home team advantage against Clemson. We have won 18 home games in a row. Let’s play the best. Then they cannot whine about weak schedules.

  11. Minus the at Michigan meltdown and a near win in Georgia. This team had a great season. Defense is awesome and I look forward to seeing them in action next year. Claypool will be missed and I can’t wait to see him in the NFL!!

  12. Clark Lea should win coordinator of the year, I think it is the Broyles award!!! This guy is worth his weight in gold for ND!!! He consistently made changes throughout the year to shutdown opposing offenses. ND and Brian Kelly need to make sure that Mr. Lea gets his just reward in his paycheck going forward!!! The defense should continue to be a tone setter with young outstanding talent like Kyle Hamilton!!! That kid is a beast!!! Fans should give Tommy Rees a pat on the back. He called a good game and showed that the stage is not too big for him!!! Last August, it was said repeatedly, by many different publications, that Claypool was a man on a mission this year and will put up All-American numbers this year!! Given Claypool’s past where he sometimes would lose focus, I was skeptical!!! Chase, my hat goes off to you!!! You were playing like a man possessed!!! GOD, COUNTRY, AND NOTRE DAME!!!

  13. Great to hear that Ian Book is coming back for another year as ND’s starting quarterback!! He has always been “THE QB” to give ND the best chance to win!! GO IRISH BEAT NAVY!!!

  14. This was a bowl win albeit against a highly overmatched ISU squad. I thought ND would play a little uninspired and allow ISU to hang around all game but alas that didn’t happen. 11-2 is a good season but they lost both “big” games, getting embarrassed by the wolverines in one of them. If it wasn’t for the 45-14 beatdown they would have been in a January 1st bowl.

    Kelly now says he will focus on making ND elite. Better late than never and I guess he was just pacing himself the last ten years but while promises are great I’ll believe it when I see it. If it was possible for Kelly to deliver greatness and elite football we would have seen it by now. We will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory against Clemson in 2020 just like we have against elite teams the last ten years.

    • Donnie Domer says:

      The Clemson game next year will be a shoot out. I believe our defense will be up to the task. I am guessingI Clemson will be favored by 10 points or so but they are playing in our stadium and it will be rocking. Could be a classic.

      • But will it be rocking in orange…the last time a powerful team from the south played at ND Stadium, there was nearly as much red and black as there was green, blue and gold. Irish fans, don’t sell your tickets. We will need all of you to make Trevor Lawrence and Co. feel uncomfortable.

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