SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame beating Bowling Green, 52-0, Saturday afternoon in South Bend didn’t surprise anyone. Some of the updates to the Fighting Irish record book, though, were a bit of a shock.
Most notably, redshirt junior quarterback Ian Book broke the record for most pass touchdowns in a half, throwing five in the first half against the Falcons. It was the second time Book has thrown five touchdown passes in a game this season, the other being in the home opener against New Mexico. The single-game record is six, which Brady Quinn did against BYU in October 2005.
Book came out for the first drive of the second half, where the offense moved down the field with ease once again. The drive stalled, though, and Notre Dame had to settle for a field goal from Jonathan Doerer. It was the last game action Book saw. Book attempted three passes from the Bowling Green 15-yard line but was only able to complete one for 6 yards.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly was asked after the game if they were trying to get Book a tie of the single-game program record.
“In terms of thinking about (the record), we weren’t going to throw it unless there were the right opportunities,” Kelly said. “(The starting offense) had one series, (Book) knew he had five (touchdowns). I told (offensive coordinator) Chip (Long), ‘You have one series with them. If it works, fine. If it doesn’t, then no big deal’ because it’s tying the record. Tying the record is ‘eh,’ you know? If you’re going to break the record, then maybe we’ll do something about it.
“So, we weren’t going out of our way to get a tie here. I think if it were to try to break the record, we probably would’ve been more trying to get him a record.”
It wasn’t just Book rewriting the record books Saturday. There were updates to the record book in all three phases of the Irish football team.
Book threw for 261 yards, redshirt junior running back Tony Jones ran for 102 yards and senior wide receiver Javon McKinley had 104 yards receiving. The last Irish trio to do that were Book (271 yards passing) Dexter Williams (178 yards rushing) and Miles Boykin (117 yards receiving) against Virginia Tech last October.
Notre Dame rushed for 233 yards and threw for 340 against Bowling Green.
“That’s what you’re looking for. If you could be somewhere near 200 yards rushing and 300 yards passing, that would be the perfect balance to your offense,” Kelly said. “We were certainly superior in terms of our personnel. We’re not going to get many of those opportunities. But whatever those numbers are, whether it’s 150 (rushing) and 275 (passing), you’re looking for that kind of ratio where you’ve established a running game and have a big-play opportunity in the passing game. We want to continue down that road.”
The last time Notre Dame held an opponent scoreless, the two quarterbacks were Everett Golson and Devin Gardner.
On that night, Golson’s Irish shut out Gardner’s Michigan Wolverines, 31-0, in 2014 at Notre Dame Stadium. Since then, Notre Dame has held four opponents to seven points or less but wasn’t able to get a shutout until Saturday.
Irish senior defensive end Julian Okwara wasn’t going to start celebrating the shutout until the game ended, though.
“When the clock hit zero in the fourth quarter,” Okwara said of when he thought the shutout was possible. “Obviously, anything can happen. They can get a fumble, pick it up and run. You don’t stop playing until the last down and the clock hits zero. That’s when we for sure knew.”
SPECIAL TEAMS STRONG
On Dec. 30, 2014, in the Music City Bowl against LSU, Notre Dame defensive lineman Isaac Rochell blocked an attempted 40-yard field goal from Tigers kicker Trent Domingue. Notre Dame hung on to win, 31-28.
Nearly five years later, Okwara decided to update the Notre Dame special teams record book. He blocked a 40-yard field goal attempt as well — this one from Bowling Green’s Nate Needham — with 8:54 left in the third quarter, preserving the shutout for the Irish defense.
Notre Dame has blocked an extra point more recently, as Jerry Tillery blocked one that was returned for 2 points by Julian Love last year against Florida State. In terms of blocking a field-goal attempt, though, the Irish hadn’t done that since the 2014 Music City Bowl against LSU.
It was a good day for the Notre Dame special teams as a whole following a subpar performance against Virginia in that department.
“I thought they were solid in all areas,” Kelly said. “We expected, obviously, it be a tilted event in terms of what we were able to do. We limited their kickoff return situation. The kickoff return was good. Our net-punt was in the low 40s. We had two different punt returners out there.
“In all of those areas, we were really solid with a lot of young players that played for the first time. No glaring mistakes. We were able to learn about a lot of young players by getting them some first-time experience out there.”