Tony Jones Jr. rushed for a pair of touchdowns, Jafar Armstrong rushed for one more and No. 8 Notre Dame staved off visiting Ball State for a 24-16 win on Saturday afternoon.
Notre Dame (2-0) won despite a rocky performance by quarterback Brandon Wimbush, who finished 17 of 31 for 297 yards and a career-worst three interceptions. The senior signal-caller threw six interceptions all of last season.
Nolan Givan had a scoring reception for Ball State (1-1), which entered the game as nearly a five-touchdown underdog but proved to be pesky. The game marked the first all-time meeting between the in-state programs.
The Fighting Irish’s defense was the difference. The group frequently frustrated Ball State quarterback Riley Neal, who finished 23 of 50 for 180 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
Notre Dame safety Jalen Elliott notched both pickoffs. He became the first Fighting Irish safety with multiple interceptions in a game since Harrison Smith, who picked off three passes against the Miami Hurricanes in the 2010 Sun Bowl.
Ball State made it a one-score game with 1:30 remaining in the fourth quarter when kicker Morgan Hagee drilled a 49-yard field goal. That marked Hagee’s third field goal of the afternoon.
Notre Dame’s defense held off the Cardinals on their final drive to seal the narrow victory.
Notre Dame built a 14-6 halftime lead behind a 1-yard score from Armstrong and a 31-yard score from Jones. Armstrong improved his season touchdown total to three after scoring twice last week in a win over Michigan.
The Fighting Irish pushed their lead to 24-6 in the third quarter thanks to a 1-yard touchdown run by Jones and a 46-yard field goal by Justin Yoon. The senior kicker moved into fourth place in career points for the Fighting Irish, passing former running back Autry Denson (282).
James Gilbert led Ball State with 19 rushes for 72 yards. The Cardinals’ top pass catcher was Justin Hall, who hauled in six passes for 71 yards.
For Notre Dame, Armstrong (66 yards) and Jones (61) were the only runners to gain more than a single yard. Meanwhile, Miles Boykin led the receiving group with six catches for 119 yards, including a long of 26.
—Field Level Media