by John Vannie
Everett Golson passed for two touchdowns and ran for another, and the Notre Dame defense made key stops when it needed to as the Irish shook off pesky Boston College by 21-6. The win was the tenth of the season for undefeated Notre Dame, whose hopes for a BCS championship opportunity were bolstered when top-ranked Alabama lost at home on Saturday. The game in Boston was anything but an artistic success, and it appeared the Irish were simply playing not to lose after building a 21-3 lead early in the third quarter.
Notre Dame dominated the first half with two long touchdown marches, and stopped themselves with a fumble in its only other possession. Boston College had some success on offense in the middle of the field, but the Irish controlled the red zone and held the Eagles to just three points. The Irish then took the second half kickoff and marched 65 yards to score as John Goodman was left alone in the end zone for an 18-yard reception.
Nate Freese kicked a 45-yard field goal early in the fourth period to move Boston College within 21-6, and Notre Dame fans spent the rest of the evening waiting for a clinching score that never materialized. Turnovers and uninspired play kept the Irish scoreless in the final 25 minutes, but the defense made sure the Eagles never threatened. An interception by Manti Te’o with 5:14 remaining, coupled with a flurry of sacks of BC quarterback Chase Rettig in the final minutes, sealed the victory.
Theo Riddick lead Notre Dame with 104 yards rushing and four receptions for 56 yards. Tyler Eifert caught six passes for 67 yards and displayed All-American form on several occasions. Rettig completed 27 of 43 passes for the Eagles, but most were underneath the coverage umbrella imposed by the Irish secondary. Meanwhile, Prince Shembo terrorized Rettig in the pocket whenever it appeared BC might threaten.
Notre Dame will return home next week to play Wake Forest in its final home game of the season. The Irish will be favored to prevail in this Senior Day matchup, but fans would certainly like to experience an explosion of points after two relatively unsatisfying offensive performances. As Coach Brian Kelly stated before and after the game, winning is difficult, so those expecting style points along the way are not taking into account that an undefeated team is everyone’s target in November. One needs only to ask Alabama to provide verification of that axiom.
Let’s look at the answers to our pregame questions for additional insights on this contest.
Can the Eagles hold the Irish under 200 yards rushing while gaining more than 100 themselves? BC “held” Notre Dame to 185 yards rushing, but could manage only a net 54 itself as they were forced to become one dimensional.
Will Golson throw the ball downfield with success? Yes, in a relatively modest way. Goodman’s touchdown reception was a strong throw back across the field and the Irish signal caller hit on 67% of his passes for 200 yards.
Can Rettig find time to complete more than 50% of his passes? Yes, but the underneath tosses did little to advance the ball into scoring territory.
Will the Irish continue to commit unforced errors against weaker opponents? Unfortunately, fumbles by Notre Dame running backs killed two drives that would have made the final score much more satisfying.
Will Notre Dame’s special teams show any improvement? Not really. Penalties for illegal blocks marred the first two such opportunities, but George Atkinson made it to the 35 yard line on one kickoff return. Baby steps.
How many Eagle fans will still be in the stands during the fourth quarter? Quite a few were present near the end, but like everyone else watching at home, they were all asleep by then.
If the game is a blowout, will Brent Musburger consume too much liquid refreshment? Brent had moments of lucidity although he called a first down that wasn’t. Mike Golic’s extended visit to the television booth during the third quarter probably kept his flask in his pocket.
The only real negative element of the evening occurred when wide receiver DeVaris Daniels left the game with an injured left shoulder. There was no further report regarding his status before the end of the ABC broadcast, but various post-game chatter on Twitter suggested that Daniels would miss the final two games of the regular season.