SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Ian Book ran for three first-half touchdowns and No. 7 Notre Dame won its 20th straight home game 52-0 against South Florida Bulls on Saturday.
Coach Brian Kelly’s Fighting Irish (2-0) led 35-0 at halftime and for the second year in a row posted a 52-point shutout for defensive coordinator Clark Lea.
“We talked all week about the standard we had set for our football team, and it’s really just a mindset for our offense,” Kelly said. “It was a point of emphasis and we got off to that fast start and obviously that set the tone for the day.”
Book, who started with three straight completions, capped the opening drive with a 4-yard touchdown run. He is the first quarterback in Notre Dame’s modern era to run for three touchdowns in one half. He added 143 yards on 12-of-19 passing before exiting with 2:21 left in the third quarter as freshman Drew Pyne took over.
“Ian was better today _ he managed the things we wanted him to do,” Kelly said. “He led the team to the fast start we wanted. He was tuned in and had a great week of practice. I liked his calmness in the pocket.”
Freshman Chris Tyree scored from a yard out about five minutes after Book’s first TD. It never got better for the first-year coach Jeff Scott’s Bulls (1-1), who were a late add to Notre Dame’s schedule after the Irish joined the Atlantic Coast Conference for this off season in a pandemic.
“They’ve got a playoff-caliber team and they really dominated the game from the beginning to the end,” said Scott, a former co-offensive coordinator for Dabo Swinney at Clemson. “I felt like I was playing Clemson there for the majority of the day.”
Reserve C’Bo Flemister ran for a career-best 127 yards for Notre Dame as the Irish spread the touches around between starter Kyren Williams (62 yards on 10 carries) and Tyree (65 on eight). The Irish finished with 281 rushing yards and 429 total yards.
Jafar Armstrong added a 5-yard TD run to close out the scoring for the Irish.
Meanwhile, the Irish defense limited USF to 65 yards in the first half and 231 total while breaking in three new starters. A total of nine players missed the game with safety Kyle Hamilton‘s ankle injury and wide receiver Ben Skowronek (hamstring) out with injuries. Notre Dame did not disclose the reasons the other eight did not play.
The Irish special teams got into the act in the third quarter with the help of a high snap over the head of USF punter Trent Schneider. When the Australian picked it up 36 yards behind the line of scrimmage, Osita Ekwonu blocked Schneider’s kick and freshman Jordan Botelho recovered the ball as it was going into the end zone for a 45-0 lead with 3:23 left in the third quarter.
The Irish beat Bowling Green 52-0 last season.
The Bulls couldn’t muster anything on offense in offensive coordinator Charlie Weis Jr.’s homecoming of sorts. The son of the former Notre Dame coach, who was replaced by Brian Kelly, used two quarterbacks in the first half. USF started Jordan McCloud and replaced him with Noah Johnson but Weis got little from either. Even wide receiver Jah’Quez Evans lined up to take a snap on a fourth-down fake punt that lost nine yards when Irish defensive end Isaiah Foskey sniffed the play out.
“From our side, obviously it was a very disappointing from the first drive all the way through the game,” Scott said. “We’re not going to make any excuses.”
The Irish had touchdowns on five of their six possessions in the first half, while outgaining USF 279-65 in the first half. With Book sitting out the second half and with the other players missing for various reasons, Kelly liked what he saw.
“We live in this world right now and you never are prepared for it but aware of it and know it can happen,” Kelly said. “Our players responded well and so did our coaches.”
Cornerback TaRiq Bracy and linebackers Marist Liufau and Shayne Simon, who shared the Buck position, were also out for Notre Dame.
Jack Kiser, a former high school quarterback and linebacker at nearby Pioneer High School in Royal Center, Indiana, got the start and freshman Clarence Lewis started in Bracy’s place. Kiser had nine solo tackles and was given the game ball.
Also missing with no explanation were No. 2 quarterback Brendon Clark, wide receiver-punt returner Lawrence Keys III, running back Jahmir Smith and defensive lineman Ovie Oghoufo.