Players to watch: Notre Dame vs. Northwestern

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

• Northwestern has won five straight overtime games, a streak that started with a 43-40 win at Notre Dame in 2014.

• Freshman running back Isaiah Bowser, who attended Notre Dame’s Irish Invasion recruiting camp in 2017, has rushed for 225 yards and three touchdowns in Northwestern’s last two games.

• Quarterback Clayton Thorson has started the last 47 games for the Wildcats. He’s accumulated 9,620 passing yards and 54 passing touchdowns in his Northwestern career.

RB JAFAR ARMSTRONG

The sophomore didn’t show any signs of rust following his recovery from a knee infection. He turned 14 touches into 116 yards — nine carries for 52 yards and five catches for 64 yards — against Navy. It was the first look at Notre Dame’s offense with both Dexter Williams and Armstrong available in the backfield, and it looked good. Only two teams, Nebraska and Purdue, have rushed for 200 yards against Northwestern this season. The Irish may have a duo that can make it three.

CB TROY PRIDE JR.

Notre Dame needs Pride to return to form. After a couple of poor tackling efforts in the third quarter against Navy, Pride was benched for the remainder of the game. Is his ankle injury, which forced him to miss the Pittsburgh game on Oct. 13, completely healed? The Irish need Pride to be a shutdown corner opposite Julian Love. If Pride’s on his game, he can add to Clayton Thorson’s 10 interceptions this season and limit his throwing options.

WR FLYNN NAGEL

Each of the last 26 Northwestern football games has included a reception by Nagel. The senior wide receiver has at least three catches in each game this season. The former high school teammate of Notre Dame tight end Nic Weishar ranks eighth nationally with 7.4 catches per game. He already has totaled 59 receptions for 711 yards and two touchdowns. The Irish have to find a way to keep Nagel in check and make Thorson rely on his other receivers.

DE JOE GAZIANO

The anchor of Northwestern’s veteran defensive line, Gaziano, leads the Wildcats with 4.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for a loss. The 6-foot-4, 275-pound junior has registered 18 sacks in his career. The Wildcats haven’t had a lot of success rushing the passer as a team (12 sacks in eight games), but Gaziano has been the exception. Notre Dame’s offensive tackles can’t be slow or timid against Gaziano.

Notre Dame’s Jafar Armstrong (8) runs in a touchdown in front of Wake Forest’s DJ Taylor (46) during the Notre Dame-Wake Forest NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem, NC.
Northwestern wide receiver Flynn Nagel has caught at least one pass in his last 26 games.