Ball State versus Notre Dame: ND Wins, But Questions Remain

On the heels of last week’s performance, there were high expectations for this week’s game against Ball ST.  Fans were upbeat on the performance of the quick scoring offense and the enduring strength of the Fighting Irish defense. While the need for improvement stated by Coach Kelly last Saturday. Many anticipated a high scoring offense to take the field on Saturday. I am not going to mention the game’s Las Vegas spread, many folks were looking for a high scoring game. The unexpected part was the pocket presence of Brandon Wimbush versus the check down and run as seen last week. There is much to discuss about Saturday’s game. Let’s jump into it with both feet.

First Quarter

The high-octane offense returned on the first possession for the Fighting Irish. A Chris Finke reception from Wimbush for 27 yards, and a series of rushes by Jafar Armstrong totaling 46 yards. Armstrong scored from the one-yard line. The offense covered 74 yards in five plays in a 1:54 time frame. Strike fast, appears seems to be the fundamental idea on offense. BSU responds with an aerial assault of their own and chews up 6:49 of the clock. 19 defensive plays are the key here. Both teams defenses tightened up after the first scores. The team’s ended up with two (3 and out) possessions. Te’von Coney sacked Neil Riley to end one of the possessions.

Second Quarter

The quarter opens with the Irish on a drive from the BSU 37-yard line. after two incomplete passes to Miles Boykin, Wimbush connects with Chase Claypool for 23 yards and the Irish march on. A Wimbush sack leads to a 43 yard FGA by Yoon that goes wide right.  After BSU goes 3 and out, the Irish drive to the BSU 26-yard line, and BSU defense to take back possession on downs. Once again, DEFENSE is stout. Third play of the ensuing possession, Jalen Elliott intercepts Riley Neal and sets up the offense on the BSU 33. the next play Tony Jones Jr takes it to the end zone on a 31-yard rush. Once again strike fast on a rush.

After stopping the defense stops the short drive of BSU, the ball goes right back to BSU after an INT from Wimbush, BSU takes over the ball from where they just punted. Again, the defense bends, but doesn’t allow BSU into the end zone, BSU settles for a field goal that puts them down 14-6. The half comes to an end after another Irish offensive 3 and out. In the first half the Fighting Irish defense was on the field for 50 plays. the offense was on the field for 37 plays.

Third Quarter

BSU opens the third quarter possession and moves the ball at will. Enter Jalen Elliott for his second INT of the day. The Irish go back on offense and make BSU pay for the INT. Six play later, after passing to Boykin twice for a total of 31 yards, Jones again rushes for a one-yard TD.  Both defenses tighened up again and exchange 3 and out plays. BSU ended one of the Irish possessions with another INT by Wimbush. The stout Irish defense makes sure that BSU can’t capitalize on the turnover and forces the BSU to punt.

Late in the third quarter, the Irish drive 33 yards on a combination of catches by Alize Mack and Boykin to set up Yoon for a 46 yard FGA. Yoon converts on the attempt to put the Irish up by 18, 24-6. BSU is driving to end the quarter as time expired.

Fourth Quarter

BSU continues the drive that started at the end of the third quarter. Pay dirt in the end for BSU. Their first touchdown of the day was a pass from Neal to Nolan Given for 10 yards. The defense broke for the first time in the game. BSU wasn’t going to go down without a fight. The BSU had gained confidence by keeping it a close game. Their confidence grew as Ray Wilborn intercepted the pass from Wimbush. BSU tries to make the turnover a profitable one, but the Irish defense stands tall again and stops the BSU offense after a missed 46 yard FGA. BSU doesn’t give up on itself as they showed signs of resilience. After a 3 and out by the stalled Irish offense, BSU marches 26 yards and converts on a 49 yard FGA, to pull within 8 of the Irish.

In the end, it’s survive and move on. The Fighting Irish defense put the team on their backs and carried the team to a 24-16 win over BSU.

Brandon Wimbush Press Conference

Media Question: Sort of walk us through the game plan. Was it designed to get you more comfortable passing the ball and running it less?
Brandon Wimbush: No, I think — speaking of game plan, I think we were able to watch one game of their defense where they implemented and incorporated their new defense that they had this year. So we thought we would be able to take the gimmies and the
easy throws and then make big plays out of them, and we had a good game plan in terms of running the ball. Some things sometimes just don’t work as effectively as you may wish, but I think we did a good job of kind of mixing it up.
Media Question: Did you talk to the offensive line at all? Both Sam and Alex said that they were going to be better down the line and some of that you probably feel it was mutual. Talk about the pressure that their defensive line put on them?
Brandon Wimbush: Yeah, we spoke about it. I think we all have to do our part in being better, it’s me protecting myself, getting us the right protection and I have no doubt that my guys up front are going to do their job and that’s never an issue for me. So those
guys are leaders up front and I know they will take it as a responsibility to get better and improve each week.
Media Question: How about your own performance, how would you grade that and where were you say your confidence is coming out of this game?
Brandon Wimbush: Three picks, I mean, I don’t give myself an A, a B, I would say D, D plus. You can’t throw three interceptions and win games that are going to be vital to the team’s success. So we got to clean it up on all parts. So, I mean, confidence-wise, I’m not
going to lack confidence, but I got to be better.

Coach Kelly Press Conference

Coach Kelly opening statement: “Well, we’re happy to win the game. This is about winning games. That would be our second win. Winning for us is what the goal is each and every week. So we accomplished that. Now, let’s look at the things we have to do, which
there’s a number of things we have to do better.”
“First of all, is we got to coach better. We got to prepare our football team better, and that starts with me. I got to prepare our team better.  I think Ball State did a great job of coming into this game and doing exactly what they needed to do: possess the football. I think they had 90 something plays, ball control. They ate up clock. They did the things necessary to be in a position to compete. They did a great job. Their preparation was great. Their coaching was better.”
“So as we look back on what we have to do better, we have to prepare our football team better. Our players have to bring a little bit more energy to the game. That’s on them. They know that. So we go into a game like this with we’re happy to win, but I’ve got to
prepare our team better, we’ve got to coach them better, and our guys have to come with more energy into this kind of game.
Ball State did a great job with their game plan, what they needed to do to make this the kind of game that it was. We’ll learn from it, move on, get ready for Vanderbilt.”
Media Question: Jalen Elliott, two interceptions in the game tonight. What was it like to see him have a huge game like that?
Coach Kelly: Awesome. “That’s what I like, positive stuff (laughter). You get a front row seat from now on. Priestley, you can stay back there with that sour-face look after we won.”
My question to Coach Kelly: Your defense has been pretty stout the last two games. They’re making a seamless transition from
last year. Can you talk about that a little bit further?
Coach Kelly: “Well, I think we’ve done some really good things relative to the leadership. I think Clark has done a really good job. He’s a very good teacher. The kids really enjoy playing for him. I think the assistant coaches have done a really good job of making sure
that that message, that consistent message, gets across. I spent a lot of time over there. I like what I see, how it’s talked about on a day-to-day basis about putting together a championship defense. I think the tenets are in place. We got to continue to recruit, we got to
continue to get better, we got to continue to work on some little things. But, you know, we’re playing better in the back end.
We’re contesting for the football at a high level, putting pressure on the quarterback. There’s some things we got to get better at. We know what they are. But, yeah, I like where we started. We got a long way to go. We’re two weeks into this. A lot of football
ahead of us.”

Notes From The Box

The Good

The Irish Defense caused BSU to turn over the ball two times (2 INT’s by Elliott which led to 14 points) and had 97 plays against them

Miles Boykin-targeted 8 times and caught 6 for 119 yards, longest 26 yards

Jafar Armstrong-13 carries for 66 yards, 1 TD, longest 42 yards, 3-3 on completions for 61 yards (longest 27 yards)

Tony Jones Jr-13 carries for 61 yards, 2 touchdowns longest run for 31 yards

Yoon moved into fourth place all-time scoring ahead of Autry Denson

The Bad

Kick-offs continue to go out of bounds setting up opponents with extra field position to the 35-yard line

The Ugly

Three INT’s by Wimbush and no touchdowns

Questions about Wimbush as a running QB or a pocket QB

Wrap UP

The team needs to move on from week 2. As Digger Phelps recalled a Coach Parseghian conversation when he became Head Coach of the basketball team “Digger, you have to understand this: Every game you play it’s the other team’s Super Bowl. So your kids have got to really be ready and above being ready because the other team’s coming after you.” This needs to be the mindset in the football locker room. Every team is going to prepare and play hard against you.

Questions need to be answered on what is going to be the role of Brandon Wimbush, will it be legs or passing. A balance needs to be found before confusion sets in.

The defense needs to continue to be stout. Every week a new step up player emerges. The transition from last season to now is quite transparent. Skills are being maintained and instilled into the new players.

Next Saturday, the Commodore’s of Vanderbilt come into to town for a 2:30 start on NBC.

Cheers and Go Irish! ☘🏈

5 thoughts on “Ball State versus Notre Dame: ND Wins, But Questions Remain

  1. Great job George. I wondered at various points if we would see Book on Saturday. Having had a day to reflect I think you are correct. He goes to Book as a last resort.

    1. The best part is that Coach owned it. It is tough to see the players down. Focus and discipline is needed going forward

Shake Down The Thunder Sports would love to hear back from you