Notre Dame’s talent was too much for Iowa State in Saturday’s Camping World Bowl as Brian Kelly’s Irish defeated the Cyclones 33-9 to earn their 11th and finish off the 2019 season in style.
There was a lot of noise heading into this game, ever since the matchup was announced during the Bowl Selection Show on December 8th. First, it was sort of anticlimactic that a 10 win Notre Dame squad would have to face off in this game, but it quickly turned into how well coached and good Iowa State was for a 7-5 squad — both of which were correct thoughts. Matt Campbell’s Cyclones had lost all 5 of their games by combined 21 points – which included one point defeats at the hands of Oklahoma and Baylor. Many were predicting a very close game or an upset.
As game day neared, there was plenty of talk in the Notre Dame media about how unmotivated and unexcited the team was to be in Orlando, and therefore, practices were lax and uninspiring. But in fairness, those media members also were very upfront about Notre Dame being the better team in almost all facets and sometimes teams are able to simply flip that switch.
And well, now that the game is over and the Irish won in convincing fashion, it is one of a few things — Brian Kelly’s post game press conference suggested that the team was read wrong, meaning they were prepared in focus to play. It is also completely possible the team got themselves focused and ready to go and flipped that switch.
Whatever it was, Notre Dame outmatched Iowa State and proved why this was never really a bowl game that should have been played in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, Iowa State is an ascending program under Campbell and are likely better than their final 7-6 record, but putting all biases aside, they simply ran into a superior team and quite possibly the best team they’ve played all season. The Irish won by 3 points more than Iowa State’s 5 previous losses, and they held a Cyclones team averaging in the mid 30s in points per game to zero touchdowns.
A couple of notes on a few Notre Dame players I thought interesting coming out of this game:
- With Tony Jones effort, especially his 84 yard scamper for a score, that was not only the longest run of his career, but it also pushed him over the 800 yard rush mark on the season and boosted his yards per carry mark on the season to 6.0. It it fair to say he was much better than maybe the eye test showed this year.
- Chase Claypool was our MVP in our end of season superlatives and he also won MVP of the bowl game, proving once again he was simply Notre Dame’s best player all year. His 146 yards put him in some elite company in the Notre Dame history books, as he is one of only a select few players to go for over 1,000 and 10 touchdowns in a single season. His final stat line reads 66 catches, 1,037 yards and 13 touchdowns — and he nearly had a 14th touchdown.
All in all, this was a season of defining moments for Notre Dame. A close loss to at Georgia and a disappointing blowout loss at Michigan tell a lot of the story and continue to haunt Irish fans looking for those season defining wins. However, six straight wins to close out the season — and by an average margin of victory of 4 touchdowns — is mighty impressive. At times this year, this could even be considered Brian Kelly’s most dominant team — with only 2 wins by less than 10 points.
Back to back 11+ win seasons including a 12-0 2018 regular season and 3 straight 10+ win season should not go unnoticed. Only 6 power 5 teams have matched 3 seasons in a row with the same totals, and this the first time since the 1980s that Notre Dame has two years in a row with 11+ wins. Say what you will, but those are the type of stats to hang your hat on. Overall, the program is 33-6 the past 3 season with losses only to Clemson, Georgia and Michigan the last two.
The arrow is pointing straight up on a program that is starting to bring in 5 star talent on an annual basis, and currently set to bring back its starting quarterback, entire starting offensive line and many of its top defenders. We will have to wait and see on a guy like Cole Kmet — who recently announced he received a second round grade from the NFL draft advisory committee. If he is back, Notre Dame returns likely the best TE in the country to go with the aforementioned list of offensive talent. The talent is there now and in the future to continue the climb for another championship in the Notre Dame history books.
It was a really good season, Irish fans — one that should have Notre Dame in the preseason top 10 and maybe even much better. It’s okay to be upset with the failures, but remember to enjoy and bask in the positives — because there are a lot of them. Until next year…