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Notre Dame Blue-Gold Game Recap

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Jafar Armstrong rushed for 85 yards on nine carries and caught four passes for 71 yards in Saturday's scrimmage.
Jafar Armstrong rushed for 85 yards on nine carries and caught four passes for 71 yards in Saturday's scrimmage. (BGI/Bill Panzica)

The Fighting Irish concluded spring drills Saturday afternoon with the annual Blue-Gold Game in Notre Dame Stadium with an announced attendance of 30,074.

The format was Offense (Blue) versus Defense (Gold), which resulted in a scoring system for the defense that included:

Touchdown: 6 points

Turnover Forced: 3 points

Three-and-out: 3 points

Stop/Forced Punt: 2 points

Sack/Tackle for loss: 1 point

The latter was especially relevant because the defense “won” 58-45 on the strength of recording 15 “touch sacks” — some debatable — for minus-105 yards. That sack total was one more than the 14 the team had during the 4-8 season in 2016.

Senior quarterback Ian Book completed 16 of 21 passes for 220 yards and a touchdown, while junior running back Jafar Armstrong accounted for 156 yards total offense, rushing for 85 on nine carries and a score, plus adding 71 receiving yards on four catches. Senior wide receiver Chase Claypool tied for the team in receptions with four for 92 yards. Most of the starters on offense sat out almost all of the second half.

Sophomore Jahmir Smith also had a solid day rushing the ball with 56 yards on eight carries and a game high two touchdowns.

Senior end Khalid Kareem led the sack brigade with three , while linemen Jayson and Justin Ademilola each had two apiece, as did fellow sophomore rover Paul Moala, whose nine tackles were a game high. The defense recorded six other tackles for lost yardage for six more points.

Sophomore quarterback Phil Jurkovec completed 15 of 26 passes for 135 yards and took the brunt of the pass rush while getting touch-sacked 12 times (quarterbacks were off limits to contact). Head coach Brian Kelly said afterwards that the young signal-caller tended to hang on to the football to long. A clearly disappointed Jurkovec concurred and said afterwards it is an aspect on which he must improve.

Junior kicker Jonathan Doerer converted all six extra points and was 1 of 2 on field goals, converting from 35 yards and missing from 39. Freshman punter Jay Bramblett's eight punts averaged a modest 34.9 yards.

Several projected starters or co-starters were held out from action while resting injuries: senior running back Tony Jones Jr. senior safety Alohi Gilman and sophomore linebacker Jack Lamb.


1 Offense (Blue) vs. 1 Defense (Gold) From Offense 25

Book led a 75-yard touchdown drive in 10 plays, completing 5 of 5 passes for 63 yards, mainly on hitch and intermediate routes to Claypool and junior Michael Young. Armstrong began the drive with an 11-yard run through a gaping hole in the middle, and on third-and-goal from the 12, Book found an open Young in perfect stride crossing the end zone.

The offense had a first and goal at the two-yard line before a false start on Robert Hainsey and a sack by Julian Okwara.

Score: Offense 7, Defense 1

2 Offense (Blue) vs. 2 Defense (Gold) From 025

The defense scored all six points in this series to tie the game when on consecutive plays Jurkovec was sacked by end Justin Ademilola, while running back C’Bo Flemister was dropped for a four-yard loss by end Jamir Jones — and then Jayson Ademilola recorded another sack.

Because it was a three-and-out series, the defense was rewarded with three more points.

A 25-yard punt by Bramblett gave the offense the ball the defense’s 35-yard line.

Score: Offense 7, Defense 7

1 Offense (Blue) vs. 1 Defense (Gold) From D35

Book hit Armstrong on a check down for 14 yards on the first play, and Armstrong followed with a 14-yard sweep. On the third play, Book on a roll-out to his right couldn’t find an open receiver so he tucked and ran just inside and past the pylon for the score just before getting touched.

Score: Offense 14, Defense 7

2 Offense (Blue) vs. 2 Defense (Gold) From O25

After initially getting hit near the line of scrimmage, sophomore running back Jahmir Smith bounced outside for a 27-yard gain into defensive territory. On third-and-8, Jurkovec found sophomore Kevin Austin for 12 yards on a crossing route.

Freshman running back Kyren Williams had a nine-yard run and took a dump-off from Jurkovec for eight more yards. On third-and-goal from the one-yard line, a Jurkovec pass to Austin resulted in pass interference on walk-on Temitope Agoro. Williams bulled through for the touchdown on the next play.

Score: Offense 21, Defense 7

1 Offense (Blue) vs. 1 Defense (Gold) From O25

With Jurkovec in for the top unit, he was sacked twice by Kareem, which resulted in two points for the defense for those lost yardage plays, and then three more points for a three-and-out.

Score: Offense 21, Defense 12

2 Offense (Blue) vs. 2 Defense (Gold) From D47

On third-and-3 from the defense’s 30, Jurkovec connected with Joe Wilkins, who then gained about 15 yards on a spin move on cornerback Avery Davis for a 27-yard gain to the three-yard line. A tackle for loss by sophomore linebacker Shayne Simon on Flemister gave a point to the defense before the quarter ended.

Score: Offense 21, Defense 13


On the opening play of the quarter, Smith smashed over from one yard on the right side, and Doerer added the extra point.

Score: Offense 28, Blue 13

1 Offense (Blue) vs. 1 Defense (Gold) From O25

After a Book screen to Smith was dropped, the Irish QB was dropped for sacks on back-to-back plays by Daelin Hayes and Kareem. The two tackles for loss and three-and-out gave the defense five points.

Score: Offense 28, Defense 18

2 Offense (Blue) vs. 2 Defense (Gold) From O40

Bramblett’s best punt of the afternoon (49 yards) still resulted in pretty good field position for the offense. On fourth-and-1 from his 49-yard line, Jurkovec kept on a zone read for two yards to keep the chains moving. A sack by end Ovie Oghoufo to make it 28-19 was compensated for with Jurkovec finding Smith for 19 yards in the flat on fourth-and-1.

Two passes broken up by Agoro resulted in a 35-yard field goal by Doerer.

Score:Offense 31, Defense 19

1 Offense (Blue) vs. 1 Defense (Gold) From 025

Armstrong rushed for four yards on the first play and caught a 10-yard bootleg screen for 10. Two plays later Armstrong took a pass in the flat and raced down the sidelines before senior safety Jalen Elliott stripped him from the football and classmate Troy Pride Jr. recovered it at the 18-yard line. The turnover resulted in three points for the defense.

Score: Offense 31, Defense 22

2 Offense (Blue) vs. 2 Defense (Gold) From O18

The offense picked up a first down before the drive ended on third-and-5 when Jurkovec held on to the football too long before, on his back-pedal, eventually tripping over a downed offensive lineman. The sack and forced punt resulted in three more points for the defense

Score: Offense 31, Defense 25

1 Offense (Blue) vs. 1 Defense (Gold) From O40

On the first play, Book launched his initial deep ball that a leaping Claypool caught on the run for a 43-yard gain to the 17-yard line. Smith then had nine- and five-yard runs. On first-and-goal, Hayes pressured Book to throw the ball away, but Smith scored through the middle on the ensuing play.

Score: Offense 38, Defense 25

2 Offense (Blue) vs. 2 Defense (Gold) From O25

Moala sacked Jurkovec on the first play for an eight-yard loss (38-26), and then another sack by Ade Ogundeji on third-and-18 plus the three-and-out provided four more points to the defense. A 31-yard punt by Bramblett set up the offense on the defensive side of the field.

Score:Offense 38, Defense 30

1 Offense (Blue) vs. 1 Defense (Gold) From D44

Book connected with junior tight end Cole Kmet three times on short passes for 21 yards, and in between found Claypool on a crossing route for 19 yards. Another pass to Kmet in the end zone resulted in pass interference on safety D.J. Brown, and Armstrong then scored easily from two yards out with 34 seconds left.

Score: Offense 45, Defense 30

2 Offense (Blue) vs. 2 Defense (Gold) From O25

A sack by Jayson Ademilola and then sophomore C'Bo Flemister getting swarmed under behind the line of scrimmage resulted in two points. The three-and-out contributed three more to the defense.

Score: Offense 45, Defense 35


1 Offense (Blue) vs. 1 Defense (Gold) From D44

The first play saw sophomore receiver Lawrence Keys lose a yard on a screen, but on third-and-9 Book scrambled for 10 yards. Two plays later Armstrong exploded through the right side for the longest rushing play of the afternoon, 42 yards to the 14-yard line.

Five- and one-yard runs by Armstrong were followed by a back shoulder pass attempt to Austin that Pride covered well. On fourth-and-4 from the eight-yard line, a scramble by Book gained no yardage when junior linebacker Jordan Genmark Heath filled the gap and tapped him down.

Score: Offense 45, Defense 38

2 Offense (Blue) vs. 2 Defense (Gold) From O8

Sophomore cornerback TaRiq Bracy broke up a short pass to Braden Lenzy on first down, and after a tackle-breaking nine-yard run by Williams, the freshman back failed to gain on third-and-1 when linebacker Bo Bauer and end Kofi Wardlow strung out the play toward the sideline. The three-and-out scored points again for the defense.

Score: Offense 45, Defense 41

1 Offense (Blue) vs. 1 Defense (Gold) From O44

Following a 39-yard punt by Bramblett, Jurkovec was inserted for the first team. A deep pass to senior Javon McKinley was broken up by Pride, and on third-and-6 a Jurkovec scramble was stopped two yards short of the first down by fifth-year senior linebacker Asmar Bilal. A fourth-and-2 errant snap forced a desperation pass toward the sideline that Bilal had well covered. Another three-and-out tallied points for the defense.

Score: Offense 45, Defense 44

2 Offense (Blue) vs. 2 Defense (Gold) From D44

One first down was followed by a false start by the offense and then a Moala sack of Jurkovec on third-and-12. The sack and forced punt led to the defense regaining the lead that it would never relinquish as the quarter ended.

Score: Defense 47, Offense 45


The final quarter, with a continuously running clock in the second half, saw a mixture of third- and fourth-line players with some twos. The defense continued to dominate while finishing with a 28-0 run since the final possession of the first half.

Having his moment in the sun and responding well was senior walk-on running back Mick Assaf with seven carries for 43 yards

Final Score: Defense 58, Offense 45


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