Saturday, December 28, 2019

No. 15 Notre Dame 33, Iowa State 9: Amidst changes, Irish storm past Cyclones with ease

Photo Credit: Jenna VanHoose- The New Notre Dame Network

By: Jon Opiela
Twitter: @jonopiela24

ORLANDO, Fla.— An overcast and rainy afternoon in the sunshine state did not bring down the glow of the No. 15 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (11-2). The Irish headed south and blew past the Iowa State Cyclones (7-6, 5-4 Big 12) in the Camping World Bowl, 33-9.

Notre Dame began dealing with personnel changes as Chip Long was let go as offensive coordinator. Earlier this week, Brian Kelly announced that quarterbacks coach Tom Rees would be calling the plays in the Camping World Bowl.

With all eyes on the offense, the Notre Dame defense managed to shine in the early going and maintained the strong efforts throughout the afternoon.

“All three phases were outstanding today. I thought the defensive performance, when you hold an offense that put 40 points on a team that’s playing in the playoffs in Oklahoma, to no touchdowns, you know, you can’t hide from that,” said Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly. “A team that is a prolific offense, to not score a touchdown today, they had plenty of time to prepare.”

With the help of a few defensive takeaways, Rees’ offense got going early and jumped out to a 10-0 lead over the Cyclones. Following a forced fumble by Alohi Gilman on a punt, Jonathan Doerer opened the scoring with a 39-yard field goal. On Iowa State’s first drive, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah stopped the quarterback before recovering for the Irish and Ian Book found Chase Claypool for a 24-yard highlight-reel touchdown not long after the mistake.

The Cyclones and Irish traded field goals on consecutive drives to push the score to 13-3. Iowa State’s Connor Assalley split the uprights from 41 yards out before Doerer connected from 51 for the Irish.

On 4th and 1 at the ISU 45, Breece Hall was stuffed by a wall of Notre Dame defenders. Book received an outstanding pass blocking effort from his offensive line, allowing him all afternoon to find Claypool for a 44-yard gain. After a review took the touchdown off the board, Jafar Armstrong snuck in from inside the one-yard line to extend the Notre Dame lead.

Tony Jones Jr. opened Notre Dame’s second half with an 84-yard touchdown run, which is now the longest in Notre Dame bowl game and Camping World Bowl history. Jones’ previous career long was a 43- yard run against Southern California on Oct. 12.

“You saw him today break down the sideline and have the longest run in Notre Dame bowl history as well. So, you know, another record that will probably not be given enough credit to a guy,” said Kelly of Jones. “But he doesn’t really care about that stuff. He was just excited about the ability to, you know, run the ball today effectively. And he ran physical and did what he normally does: Help us win.”

On special teams, the Cyclones would cut off a few points off of the deficit with Assalley’s third field goal of the game— a new Iowa State bowl game record.  Notre Dame quickly responded with a field goal of their own.

Claypool finished the game with 146 receiving yards, a touchdown, and a fumble recovery en route to a Camping World Bowl MVP trophy. With the big game, Claypool finishes his senior season with 1,037 yards and 2,159 yards throughout his collegiate career. 

“It’s not something that I was trying to reach. I mean, it’s a goal I had. It was
definitely a goal I had. So, it’s nice to kind of reach that goal. But, you know, you don’t really play the game for statistics,” stated Claypool on reaching the 1,000-yard plateau. “So, it’s nice, but I’m not going to remember getting to 1,000 yards this game. I’m just going to remember going out with these guys.”

When asked about what they’ll remember most about their final collegiate game, Khalid Kareem and Claypool had plenty to say about the experience. 

“I would just say the fun we had throughout the week,” said Kareem. “the relationships that we've made this whole week, going to Universal Studios, just having fun with the guys -- because at the end of the day, that's what it's all about. I mean, I haven't had fun like this since high school. This is what it felt like, just out there, playing on Friday nights. Like, that's legit what it felt like, so that's what I'm taking away from it.” 

“When you know it's your last year and your last ride with the guys, you kind of do stuff and you're like, ‘Wow, that's the last time ever that I'm going to be able to do that,’ so then you really cherish it. So, every little thing we did, from going to Shake Shack, going to Universal, doing everything,” Claypool said fondly of his final ride. “It was really special because, you know, you're not going to get those moments back. And when you're a senior and it's your last time, you understand that and you realize that so you cherish it a little more.”