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NDNation.com Staff: Scott Engler - Michael Cash - John Vannie - Mike Coffey - Kayo - Bacchus

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Irish Outlast Bumbling BC

posted by John Vannie
Notre Dame parlayed a 5-0 advantage in the turnover battle to win a hard fought victory over Boston College by 20-16 on Saturday. Brian Smith’s interception at the Irish 22 with 1:38 left sealed the victory for the 5-2 Irish. Kyle McCarthy chipped in with two interceptions while Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate led Notre Dame’s attack by accounting for both of the team’s touchdowns.

The Irish defensive strategy of stopping the run and forcing Shinskie into long passing situations ultimately worked, but not before a few anxious moments had passed. Montel Harris, who gained 264 yards last week for BC, was held to 38 yards on 22 carries and committed two costly fumbles. Shinskie started and finished poorly, but had considerable success against the Notre Dame secondary in the second and third quarters. The 25 year-old freshman finished with 279 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions on a 17 for 35 passing performance.

Clausen was typically sharp for the Irish, who were forced into a short passing game by the bend but don’t break Eagle defense. The Heisman hopeful hit 26 of 39 passes for a modest 246 yards and two scores. Tate and Duval Kamara accounted for 18 receptions by taking advantage of the cushion afforded to them by the BC cornerbacks. Armando Allen ran 21 times for 98 yards to lead all rushers.

The game quickly developed into a defensive struggle. Nick Tausch converted the first of his two field goals on the opening drive, and hit again midway through the second quarter. The Eagles managed a safety when Clausen threw the ball away under pressure from Jim Ramella. BC took a 9-6 lead with 4:40 remaining before halftime when Shinskie hit Rich Gunnell from seven yards out. Notre Dame blew the coverage on the play and Gunnell was wide open.

As Irish fans have come to expect, Clausen took control and marched his team into the end zone for a 13-9 advantage in the final moments before intermission. Tate squeezed into the corner of the end zone with an 11 yard pass from his scrambling quarterback. The junior was eight for nine in that sequence, and the lone miss was the result of a dropped ball by his receiver.

Boston College came out strong upon receipt of the second half kickoff. Shinskie and Gunnell connected for two long gains, and Harris finished the drive from two yards out before three minutes had expired in the third period. Moments later, the Eagles regained possession at their own eight and moved swiftly downfield to the Notre Dame ten as Irish fans muttered about halftime coaching adjustments. Just as it appeared BC was going to extend its 16-13 lead, Harris coughed up the ball inside the Irish five.

The Eagles forced a three and out and regained passion inside Notre Dame territory with another opportunity to extend its lead. McCarthy came up with his first interception on a third down play after teammate Raeshon McNeil tipped a pass right to him. The third quarter ended with the Irish trying desperately to reverse the momentum.

A pass to Tate followed by a personal foul penalty helped Clausen move his team into scoring territory. The drive stalled a yard short the goal line, and coach Charlie Weis elected to go for the touchdown rather than a tying field goal. Robert Hughes was stuffed by safety Marcellus Bowman and Notre Dame came up empty.

The Irish defense rose to the occasion and got the ball right back by forcing a punt. Starting just inside BC territory, Allen gained 13 yards on two attempts before Clausen hit Tate in the left flat. Eagle cornerback Donnie Fletcher lunged to make the tackle but grabbed only a handful of air, and Tate took advantage by juking the safety and darting into the end zone. Suddenly, Notre Dame led 20-16 with 8:12 remaining.

Everyone who has watched the Irish in recent weeks knew the game was far from over, but Boston College could not score in its final possessions. McCarthy picked off his second pass of the day with 4:23 left, but the Eagles defense held serve to generate one last chance for Shinskie. An improbable fourth down completion to Gunnell moved the ball across midfield, and a pass interference penalty on the next play brought BC closer to the upset. Notre Dame stepped up the pressure on Shinskie, however, and his would-be Cinderella story imploded as Smith picked off a wounded duck to close the deal.

Let’s revisit the pre-game questions to determine how these items factored into the outcome:

Will the Irish have anything left in the tank after last week? The offense looked a bit sluggish and the line did not fire off the ball very well, but the changes on defense injected some life into that unit.

Can the Eagles offense finally play well on the road? As with their previous unsuccessful road trips, BC could not run the ball and it kept them from winning.

Will Notre Dame be able to protect Clausen without resorting to maximum protection packages? Clausen stuck to crisp, short passes but was pressured into several throwaways and a safety. Rudolph caught only one pass.

Will the Irish offensive line assert itself against this year’s Eagles front four? Allen had some nice runs but Notre Dame could not sustain the ground game.

Can Notre Dame’s special teams gain the upper hand in the battle for field position? No. Short punts killed the Irish, who spent the early part of the game deep in their own territory.

Will the shaky Irish secondary make Shinskie look like an All-American passer? Yes, but only until he woke up and realized he was not Matt Ryan. ND made Gunnell look like Jerry Rice, though.

Will Harris and company run around and through Notre Dame? Not at all, and this was the difference in the game along with the turnovers.

Notre Dame’s mindset to win its remaining games and end the regular season at 10-2 remains intact, but a few of the future matchups almost guarantee there is more drama to come. Fortunately, next week’s game against Washington State should bring fans and players a much needed respite from the six consecutive heart-stopping finishes that are undoubtedly turning many Irish domes like mine from golden to gray.
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Blogger Scranton Dave said...

A win is a win right? I was hoping for a dominating performance, but ending the BC losing streak is enough for now. Kind of a sluggish effort though and they will have to play better to win out. Pitt especially is looking real tough right now, but hopefully we will have Floyd back for that game.

10/25/2009 12:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The ScrantonDaves of the NDNation are clearly part of the problem -- they send signals to ND's administration that mediocrity is OK. He's probably a mich or bc fan.

10/25/2009 02:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


i love to read what you have to say. i'm not rock's house worthy, but i've been a lurker for years now and truly appreciate your insight. whatever the situation is w/ the coach and admin, you all have built a site that attracts a large number of irish followers. we get together to discuss what we love. thank you.

10/25/2009 03:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, this was ND best win of the season. When you look at teams we have beat, Purdue is near the bottom of the Big Ten and MSU is racing down to join them. Washington is near the bottom in the PAC Ten. Nevada is finally over .500 by beating some WAC foes.

So, this is the best to date.

10/25/2009 08:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another mediocre win in the last minutes for the Irish against an average team. Yeah!

10/25/2009 09:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that a win's a win! And hopefully we can finish out strong. I have one question: Does Charlie Weis have a constitutional incapacity to kick a field goal when the game situation dictates that we do so? Or, when it is 4th and 1, does some automatic bell go off in his head that leads him, like Pavlov's dog, to begin salivating for "food" that is not really there? Just asking. Heck, if so, maybe we can just do away with the kicker position and add another DL in next years recruiting class.

10/25/2009 09:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The move to replace Harrison at FS was long overdue. He looked lost out there and the defense looked much better yesterday. Finally knocking down BC feels great and hopefully the Irish cruise to a nice win next week and then get Floyd back. He elevates this offense to a whole other stratosphere.

10/25/2009 10:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Improbable 4th down conversion? How many third and longs have teams converted against us this year? I'd rather face 3rd and 3 than 3rd & 8 with our defense, we just can't stop obvious passing plays. Look at the stats every game - the other team is averaging between 6 and 8 yards a play. There's still too many big pass plays consistently given up. Anyone have any idea why this is?

That said, kudos to the defense again for showing fortitude when it mattered and making the big play. I just wish they wouldn't consistently put themselves in such situations.

10/25/2009 10:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Same old story. The other team's offensive line holds ND's defense thoughout the game. The other team's officials let it happen. The other team's officials call holding on ND in critical big ND plays. Same old stuff every week.

10/25/2009 11:17:00 AM  
Anonymous ken said...

I'm pleased, too, that the streak with BC is now broken; but remain terribly disappointed that after 5 years Weis still has not assembled a complete team. Our secondary is down-right terrible. Before the game we were 117 out of 120 in passing yards given up. We may be lower today.

10/25/2009 11:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vannie - I love you like a brother, but let's ask and answer the real questions:

Would the Irish have lost this game if BC hadn't shot repeatedly shot themselves in the foot? Yes, by a wide margin.

Will Jimmy Clausen have a hard time getting up for the godaddy.com bowl, where the Irish appear headed?

How many more pathetic showings by the Irish before Clausen lets Coach Kelly borrow his limo to tour the campus?

10/25/2009 11:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The BC game is a draw for the naysayers and the Weis apologists. The naysayers will say we should have destroyed this team and the apologists will say we cleared another losing streak off the boards.

For me, I look at it this way. After 5 years, we are no closer than when we started to having even a hint of a chance at the National title. Is Weis really worth $4 million for this?

Would the coaches making the same amount as Charlie survive with his record at their respective schools?

Would you survive at your job underperforming like Charlie? I wouldn't. I'm guessing you wouldn't either.

Chariles is a great OC at a MAC school. That's about it. Not to disparage the MAC.

Let us move on, this experiment has been a costly blunder.

10/25/2009 12:03:00 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

I understand the negativity, but at the end of the day, we beat a time that has had our number for years. To give that some perspective, remember that this happened on a week when #2 Alabama struggled with unranked Tennessee.

They say that the greatest teams are the ones that always find a way to win. We're not there, but we're closer than we've been in the last few years. Let's watch (and hopefully enjoy) the rest of the season before drawing any serious conclusions.

10/25/2009 01:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone said this was the best win of the year. I completely disagree. Purdue beat Ohio State (something ND hasn't done since I don't know when), Washington beat USC (something Notre Dame hasn't done in 8 years), and Michigan State took #6 Iowa down to the last play of the game. Yes, these teams aren't ranked in the Top 25, but as they've shown, can beat or push Top 10 teams in the country.

I'm glad to see ND beat BC. Of all the "losing streaks" this was the worst, by far.

Why these games are so close, in my opinion, is because of ND not capitalizing on momentum shifts. For example, we're up 13-9 on BC, save a penalty or incomplete pass on 3rd down, and its easily 20-9. Get a field goal or TD and its 27-9. Then the defense can sit back in pass coverage and hold BC back.

Its happened in EVERY close game this year, we either have a mental error or fail to capitalize on the situation and allow the other team to "hang around." Maybe its maturity or experience (or both), but the good teams put their opponents away in the first half. 3rd quarter at the latest.

Invariably, there will be games that come down to the wire, for even the best teams - i.e. Alabama yesterday against TN, or FL, or IA, etc.

We've got some tough games ahead still - UConn is formidable, as is Pitt and Stanford.

We could be 10-2 or 8-4/7-5 to finish out the year. It all depends on how ND "capitalizes" on key points in the game.

10/25/2009 01:30:00 PM  
Blogger michael said...

just a couple?
How does this staff make 4,5 star high school players 0 star college players.
What does this staff do at halftime to lose the third quarter every game.

10/25/2009 01:48:00 PM  
Blogger Irish73 said...

Harrison Smith is still confused out there, even at strong side linebacker. There are real issues in the ND secondary!

10/25/2009 02:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Vince von Waterford said...

Both BC and ND played like dour alter boys dragged into Vespers on a Saturday. Clearly the worst we've played all season. But as for the suggestion that "Scranton Dave" mediocrity is a' holdin' us back us from recruiting a St. Gruden that mentality is downright kooky. Irish arrogance is far worse a quality than Irish complacence. Come on man, don't you watch any other games on Sat? Only Boise St has a cakewalk and USC went back to killing teams.
Go Irish...pass me some nitrates!

10/25/2009 02:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Joe said...

Hey, if we beat Wash St next week (not a given since they can throw the ball), we're bowl eligible!!

10/25/2009 02:58:00 PM  
Blogger Scranton Dave said...

Wow, I'm probably a Mich or BC fan? The only way you could insult me worse would be to say I'm a Penn St fan. I would have to be a big time loser to be a non ND fan and post on here every week. I try to stay somewhat optimistic cause that's what the players need. They need our support no matter what, not only when they are dominating. They are not as good as I thought they would be this year and that's dissapointing, but, slowly they are improving, and I think next year they will be even better. I guess for some, 13-0 every year is the only way you will be happy. Go Irish!!

10/25/2009 03:21:00 PM  
OpenID celticvisions4 said...

Woohoo the streak is over! We're back into the top 25 again too. Probably top 20 after we crush Wasgington State next week. Fight on Irish!

10/25/2009 04:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think that 13-0 is what we must have to be more encouraging. But what we are sick of seeing is 4th and 17 and KNOWING that it will be a pass and KNOWING that we probably will not stop them and then being pissed that we are right.

10/25/2009 04:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How many times does Harrison Smith have to fail to do anything positive on the field for Tenuta/Brown to plant him on the bench where he belongs? He's proven for 6 straight games that he's a complete liability. I dont want to crucify a 20-21 year old kid, but he's killing the entire D. We switched his position, but he still cant cover anyone and the tackling has been horrific. And he's not the only one. The corners, Blanton and Walls in particular, are so soft and just never seem to make a play on the ball even if they accidentally find themselves in good position. It's just so frustrating to watch team after team convert 3rd/4th and long plays, esp since they were highly recruited and supposedly the strength of the D coming into this season.

Nevertheless, I will take these all nailbiting wins we can get. Opposing teams really get jacked up to play ND, esp. our traditional rivals. Plus, we're very competitive in all of these games, and that's more than ND Nation could say prior to this year.

But it is amazing to think that if our defensive secondary was just decent (instead of 100% awful), we'd be undefeated and a top 5 team this year. Tenuta's all-out blitz scheme hasnt worked and needs to change. The DBs need help in coverage, and blitzing 6-7 people is causing a double whammy effect. It leaves the DBs on an islalnd, and those 6-7 rushers are consistently unable to create enough pressure on the QB. A suggestion: STOP BLITZING so much. But I wont hold my breath expecting different results on D if the scheme doesnt change.

GO IRISH -- and Te'o is a monster. I love that kid.

10/25/2009 04:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

11:58am post. Watch the game again if you can. You will notice that the problem on defense is at the free safety position, particularly Harrison Smith. Big plays and touchdowns continue to happen because of the play at that position. If that one position can be played with competence, we are a top 50 defense, which is enough for us to win the rest of our games. If that position cannot be fixed, we are doomed with close games and 1-2 more losses.

10/25/2009 05:24:00 PM  
Blogger IrishHawk said...

Just my two cents: This is the team I thought The Irish would be LAST year. Young, full of miscues and playing a bunch of close games, winning most. But learning, getting better and gaining confidence.
So I am going to adjust my hopes and look to next season while enjoying this one. That is NOT accepting mediocrity. Let's see how this season and current recruiting class play out. Having said that, I am a little confused about why a certain coach continues to call the same defensive coverages when they certainly don't seem to work very well.
And I like CW. I'm sure he wants to bring another championship to ND more than we can imagine. But I hear all the talk about other coaches - like Brian Kelly. So I look at both teams and my uneducated guess is that ND has better players.
Could it be that maybe the pressure of playing for ND gets the better of some of them?
Go Irish!!!

10/25/2009 05:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Bern said...

Weiss was asked why ND doesn’t play the same soft defense as BC - it would take away the big play and force teams to throw short passes all day. He responded - well you could but you leave yourself open to the run game having everyone so far back off the line.

So the question is - why was ND unable to run the ball consistently given BC’s defense. The answer is same as it has been the last few years - the offensive line cannot consistently open up holes. Until they can this team will always be inconsistent. They need to totally rely on Clausen to line up in the shotgun and throw the ball. They did have some success with some draws to Allen but nothing consistent. They do not have the ability to line up in a conventional I formation and run the ball. You notice they cannot run out the clock and get a first down at the end of the game. This is a very important skill if they are ever going to be an excellent team.

Also Allen runs harder that he did last year but in three seasons (other than the bowl game) he never breaks a long run. The same thing is true in the kicking game. Watch the game day highlights you will see running backs break into the clear and take it to the house. Now that Floyd is hurt, they have only one person who scares the other team when he has the ball and that is Tate. I don't understand why that is. Why Allen never breaks a long run is a complete mystery to me. He seems to slip or get tripped up just as he is breaking free.

10/25/2009 08:28:00 PM  
Blogger Scranton Dave said...

Great post by Irish Hawk, I agree with most of it, including the timetable getting pushed back a year. I eluded to the dissapointing 2006 class being part of the reason for this years team not being as good as we had hoped. That's not to say that Weis cant improve on some things and the D doesnt need to get better , cause it does. I think unless they collpase Weis should not be fired, cause that could derail next year ( especially recruiting) and next year should be the culmination of everything Charlie has built. So hopefully Clausen and Tate come back to school.

10/25/2009 08:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Harrison Smith wasn't playing Free Safety. That was one of the switches made on defense before the game.

You might want to actually watch Notre Dame before posting.

As for the Coach Kelly talk, he would instantly turn this team into a championship contender every single year-just like he turned Cincinnati into an instant winner (Cincinnati!). Weis is a fine recruiter and Offensive Coordinator (at any level, he didn't get all those championship rings in the MAC) but Kelly is clearly a better mind at the college level. The silly mistakes that the Irish make every week can be attributed to only one thing-coaching.

I will give Weis credit for rebuilding the program, ND now has actual athletes at the skill positions and is going to start putting a lot of players into the NFL, but Weis is unable to put it all together. Bring on a real college coach.

10/25/2009 08:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, its "Weis" not "Weiss." Sheesh.

10/25/2009 08:44:00 PM  
Blogger Mark Holton said...

It's interesting how most of the negative comments are from "Anonymous" posters. Stand up and be counted, why cower in the anonymous darkness?

I agree with Scranton Dave. The Irish are 5-2, with WSU, Navy (*with Michael Floyd potentially back on field), @Pitt, UConn, @Stanford on tap. Like our chances to go 10-2 which is a great season for a team who is playing the 17th most difficult schedule according to Sagarin: http://www.kiva.net/~jsagarin/sports/cfsend.htm
One game at a time...

Improvement on the defense vs the run? 29 rushes for 70 yards 2.4ypc, to a team that rushed for 293 yards (Harris 27/264 9.7ypc with 5 TD's). After bottling up Joe McKnight the week before. A job well done, any way you slice it. 5 turnovers forced: Sergio Brown helmet on ball, defense gets 3 INT's. This defense made plays today.

I believe in this team and in Weis. Go Irish in 2009!

10/26/2009 01:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so we win out and go 10-2. where do we end up in the polls and what bowl do we go to?

10/26/2009 09:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too believe that a win is a win. Always glad to hae it! I just feel that after five seasons the total package should present better than it is. We should have left that stadium by a two or three possesion margin considering we had the gift of FIVE turnovers!!! This coaching staff has to find a way to get that ball in the hands of Kyle Rudulph. He has shown his ability to be a playmaker.There is a tremendous amount of talent on this ND football team, and I for one will continue to support them. Last thought....the CW ego needs checked when it's 4th and 1 and you are down by three and you GO FOR IT!! This needs to stop! TAKE THE POINTS!!

10/26/2009 09:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We make EVERY single QB look like the next Heisman winner. Doesn't matter who it is, or what hes done coming in. We play DOWN to the level of our competition, not up to it. I guarantee we make next week vs. Wash. St. a struggle.

Finally, after 1 guy, and 1 guy only torches your pass defense for big play after big play, wouldn't you see that and put double coverage on him or at least assign 1 guy to him and have him followed the rest of the entire game. I don't care follow him into the freakin' shitter, just make sure he does not make 1 more BIG catch. Gunnel looked like a machine out there.

10/26/2009 12:15:00 PM  
Anonymous ZellarsforMayor said...

Most of the above points are debatable depending on your perspective, but one that is clearly not up for debate is that Harrison Smith wouldn't make the walk-on unit at USC, Florida, et al. He is like a deer in headlights and caught out of position a half-dozen occasions every game; when he is in position to make the tackle, he is either juked out of his jockstrap or is dragged 10 yards downfield before the help arrives, (usually in which 3 guys are dragged another 5 yards).

While we have closed the talent gap, Smith and a handful of others illustate first-hand why our D is gashed every game and subsequently why these games are so close.

I also some of it has to do with coaching. Blanton and Gray have had great coverage on some plays but it's sort of 'reactive' where they sit back, blanket the WR, the balls comes in, and the WR catches it. Blanton, Gray and Sergio Brown need to know when to turn around and stick their hand out to deflect the pass or break on the ball for the INT. Only McCarthy has shown a knack for where the ball is.

10/26/2009 01:26:00 PM  
Anonymous BigBu$$Man said...

Anyone heard from Angry Eagle?

10/26/2009 01:48:00 PM  
Blogger IRISH STING said...





10/26/2009 02:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding Charlie going for it on 4th down at the 1, the fact that BC was stopped deep in their own territory on the subsequent series is why the Irish were in great field position to score what ultimately was the winning touchdown. Who knows what would have happened with a field goal and subsequent kickoff from the 35 in a tie game. I'd hold off on the criticism of that call.

10/26/2009 03:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The real problem in ND defensive line. I think we have a total of 10-11 sacks in 7 games. I mean if we had a good pass rush, are secondary would play better. Everytime a QB drops back, they have 10-12 seconds to throw the ball!

10/26/2009 03:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Regarding Charlie going for it on 4th down at the 1, the fact that BC was stopped deep in their own territory on the subsequent series is why the Irish were in great field position to score what ultimately was the winning touchdown.
10/26/2009 03:37:00 PM

But hindsight is always 20-20. That same mind set almost cost us the Purdue game. And it was a big factor in our defeat to USC! IF CW doesn't want to kick FG's, then stop recruiting kickers!!!

10/26/2009 10:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

for everyone on here who play the arrow is pointing up wait till next year yada yada yada, has anyone stopped to think about how bad this bodes for next season that all but one game have been way to close to play freshman and sophomores in the second half? Now has anyone spent 1 minute thinking about all the O lineman we lose? How scary is that concept it takes CW 4 years to develop players real coaches have at their peak in less than 2?? JC is NFL bound our o line is graduating and 2010 is our year? Paleeeease people the ship is stuck and not going anywhere!!!! Brian Kelly please!!!!!!

10/27/2009 04:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. I think it is pathetic that we are debating whether the win over a lousy Purdue team or a lousy BC team is the best win of the season.

2. The fourth down wildcat to Hughes was the worst play call I have seen in some time. Was there anyone in the stadium that didn't know we were going run the ball? IF CW is going to tip his hand like that, why not a lead blocker?

10/28/2009 03:38:00 PM  

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