Dig it: Notre Dame continues turnaround with 61-34 victory over Richwoods
PEORIA — With the football playoffs beckoning, Notre Dame couldn’t have picked a better time to get its offense cranked up.
The Irish (3-3, 3-2) rushed for 477 yards and threw for 165 on Friday night, cruising to a 61-34 Big 12 Conference victory over Richwoods at Dozer Park.
A crowd of 4,074 flocked to the third annual Shamrock Classic played on the Peoria Chiefs’ baseball field.
“We’re a team that’s peaking at the right moment,” said ND coach Sean Gillen. “Guys are getting better every game. We distributed the ball really well.”
Particularly to Logan Cover, the slightly built running back who rushed for 261 yards and five touchdowns. All of his scores came in the first half as the Irish built a 41-21 lead.
“The runs were open to the right all the way through the first half,” Cover said. “So I just ran hard and fast and we did what we did. I felt pretty good and took advantage of it.”
Said Gillen: “He’s an amazing player. He’s only 150 pounds maybe, but is fast, extremely elusive and hard to tackle.”
Notre Dame set the tone early, jumping to a 14-0 lead after the first six minutes on long touchdown runs by Cover and Dillon Garimella.
Then came a wild back-and-forth scoring flurry as Richwoods quarterback Keenan Streitmatter unleashed an unstoppable air attack. But the Knights (3-3, 3-2) could never get closer than seven points as their defense couldn’t manage any stops.
“They were more physical, a better football team and they kicked our butt,” said Richwoods coach Roland Brown. “The kids have to learn on defense they have certain responsibilities. When you aren’t responsible on defense, you get burned. It’s all frustrating.”
Richwoods took to the ground to begin the second half as T’Nahleg Hall picked up 53 bruising yards en route to a touchdown.
But the Irish quickly responded with a pair of scores and were aided by a Jett Schmitt sack of Streitmatter in between that thwarted a Richwoods drive.
“It doesn’t look like Richwoods football at all,” Brown said. “It just doesn’t. We’re not very physical at all. I’m defensive coordinator, and I’m at wit’s end right now. Hopefully we can get a couple of wins and get into the playoffs, but it’ll be a struggle for us. We need to regroup next week.”
The opposite is true of the Irish, who have shifted into high gear. Aside from their effective running attack, quarterback Caleb Haisler was 7-for-7 through the air.
“Most people wouldn’t think of our offense as a high-scoring one because we mostly run the ball,” Gillen said. “It’s kind of nice to see that old-school style put up points and be exciting. When you run the ball that well and you go play action, it usually is open.
“We’ve made it to the playoffs six years in a row. That’s our goal, a nice tradition we have. We dug ourselves a hole in the beginning of the season so we’re trying to climb out of it.”
Dave Reynolds can be reached at 686-3210 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at davereynolds2.