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Notre Dame Football

Clinching drive was vintage Notre Dame football

October 17, 2020

Nothing had been artistic.

Not until a game-ending drive that hearkened back to an earlier era of college football and evoked memories of Notre Dame greats – running backs, offensive lines and entire offensive units – of bygone years.

Nursing a meager 12-7 lead against a pesky Louisville squad, the fourth-ranked Fighting Irish forced a Cardinals punt.

Turns out, Louisville would never again touch the football.

Taking over at its own 23, Notre Dame uncorked a 14-play, 57-yard drive that gnawed the final 7 minutes, 55 seconds off the fourth-quarter clock.

One play could have doomed the Irish had the Cardinals regained possession; instead, 14 well-executed snaps helped vault the Irish to 4-0 on the season.

“I said it last week, I'm not changing what I said: Our O-line is unbelievable,” said quarterback Ian Book, whose 13-yard scamper was the Irish's only touchdown. “I trust all of them, they've all played a lot of snaps. They're just fun to be out there with.

“Louisville threw some new looks at us, they did a good job with some movement. They had a good D-line and were able to get home a couple times. … Again, I love my O-line. They're unbelievable. We'll learn from it and move on and get ready for next week.”

Notre Dame had just three true third downs on the 14-play charge. Those snaps showcased some of the offense's best execution on a day in which Book threw for just 106 yards.

Book hit Javon McKinley on the initial third-and-6; it gained seven. Moments later, also needing six yards, Book hit Northwestern graduate-transfer Ben Skowronek for 12 yards.

It didn't hurt the trust factor between the two new teammates that Skowronek had flown to California during the COVID-19 period that forced students away from campus to train with Book.

“It was just building a relationship with Ian,” said Skowronek, slowed this season at Notre Dame by a hamstring injury after he posted 110 catches at Northwestern. “I went out there I think for two weeks, probably overstayed my welcome. We threw a handful of times, hung out.

“We created a bond, and I think having a bond with your quarterback is so important. Having him be able to trust you and vice versa, me trust him. I guess it's paying off now, being able to have that trust and have that timing.”

On Notre Dame's final third-down conversion in the game-ending possession, tailback Kyren Williams delivered as he has each game this season for the Irish.

Facing third-and-5 and with Louisville still holding one timeout, Williams busted around left end and raced 24 yards to the Cardinals' 11.

Notre Dame likely could have scored once more to close out the game, but instead had Book kill the clock in the program's 22nd consecutive home victory.

“We clearly had an idea of what we needed to do in that drive,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “We slowed our tempo down quite a bit, let the clock tick down. I think there was a lot of confidence amongst all the guys out there, including the coaches, that we were going to be able to get that thing in our favor.”

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