Rapid Recap: No. 4 Notre Dame 31, Northwestern 21

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Rapid Recap: No. 4 Notre Dame 31, Northwestern 21

The ball squirts away from Flynn Nagel. The senior receiver and the Wildcats struggled in Saturday's loss to Notre Dame.

The ball squirts away from Flynn Nagel. The senior receiver and the Wildcats struggled in Saturday's loss to Notre Dame.

Allie Goulding/Daily Senior Staffer

The ball squirts away from Flynn Nagel. The senior receiver and the Wildcats struggled in Saturday's loss to Notre Dame.

Allie Goulding/Daily Senior Staffer

Allie Goulding/Daily Senior Staffer

The ball squirts away from Flynn Nagel. The senior receiver and the Wildcats struggled in Saturday's loss to Notre Dame.

Joseph Wilkinson, Reporter

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Football


Notre Dame’s path to the College Football Playoff continues unabated after the No. 4 Fighting Irish pulled out a 31-21 victory over Northwestern on Saturday evening at Ryan Field.

Quarterback Ian Book and the Notre Dame (9-0) passing attack were just too much for the Wildcats (5-4, 5-1 Big Ten) to handle. The sophomore quarterback threw for two touchdowns and 343 yards, with 130 of them coming on connections to receiver Chase Claypool, while adding 56 yards and a game-sealing touchdown on the ground.

After a competitive first half, the visitors took control in the third quarter with two impressive touchdown drives, the second a 98-yarder capped by a 47-yard pass from Book to Michael Young that put the Fighting Irish up 21-7.

A blocked punt by cornerback Cameron Ruiz and ensuing rushing touchdown by Thorson got NU as close as 24-21 in the fourth quarter, but an impressive following drive from Notre Dame put the visitors up 10 and the game on ice.

NU’s passing attack struggled against the fierce Fighting Irish pass defense, as Thorson completed 55 percent of his passes for 141 yards. He wasn’t the first quarterback to struggle against Notre Dame’s secondary, which has now allowed fewer than 200 yards passing in five games this year.

Takeaways

1. Notre Dame is good. The Fighting Irish have now turned in dominant performances in five of six games with Book under center and look primed to claim a spot in the College Football Playoff. The quarterback was the star of the show, but the visitors’ defense was just as impressive as advertised. Thorson took four sacks and was flushed from the pocket numerous times as the Notre Dame defense — led by linebacker Te’Von Coney with his team-high nine tackles and two sacks — was purchasing real estate in the NU backfield throughout the evening.

2. Injuries in the secondary proved costly for the Wildcats. NU, already down freshman cornerback Greg Newsome in the secondary, dealt with injuries to senior safety Jared McGee and junior cornerback Trae Williams that allowed Book to pick on inexperienced backups as he racked up yardage. That was especially evident in the Fighting Irish’s third quarter touchdown drives, when Book piled up 195 passing yards and threw for two touchdowns.

3. Despite the loss, Northwestern is in the driver’s seat to win the Big Ten West. NU’s game against Notre Dame had the prestige, but it was the Iowa-Purdue contest that held more importance for the Cats’ Big Ten West title push. With the Boilermakers handing the Hawkeyes their third conference loss, NU needs only two wins in its final three contests to clinch a spot in Indianapolis. In other words: Even with a loss in Iowa City next Saturday, the Cats would secure the division title with victories against lowly Minnesota and Illinois in the two subsequent weeks. NU is the the odds-on favorite to make its first appearance in the Big Ten Championship game.

Email: josephwilkinson2019@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @joe_f_wilkinson

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