Fans wondered which version of the 2022 Fighting Irish would show up on Saturday but they didn’t have to wait long for an answer. Notre Dame overwhelmed Boston College and stormed to a 37-0 halftime lead before coasting to a 44-0 victory over the hapless Eagles. The cold and wintry weather did not bother the hosts as they dominated in all phases of the game on Senior Day. The Irish move to 8-3 on the season and will finish the regular season next week against archrival USC.
Logan Diggs sent a message to BC on the first play of the game with a 51-yard romp. All three running backs scored for Notre Dame – Diggs, Audric Estime and Chris Tyree. Kicker Blake Grupe broke free of his recent slump by hitting three field goals despite a swirling wind. Former walk-on Matt Salerno caught his first career touchdown pass. Freshman Ben Morrison had two of his three interceptions and linebacker Marist Liufau had a fumble recovery. Isaiah Foskey had a sack to break Justin Tuck’s all time record at Notre Dame. Amazingly, all of this occurred in the first half.
Notre Dame’s defense did not allow BC’s pass-oriented offense any breathing room. They pressured Morehead into rushed passes and sacks with very few successful plays. The Eagles managed only 173 total yards all day compared to 437 for the Irish. Notre Dame had 281 rushing yards on 38 carries to 56 yards on 36 attempts for BC.
Heavy snow began to fall as the third quarter got underway. The effects were immediate and impacted both teams. Salerno muffed a BC punt near midfield to give the ball back to the Eagles. Two plays later, quarterback Emmett Morehead overthrew a screen pass and Morrison had his third interception of the day. Estime scored again moments later to stretch the advantage to 44-0 as snow covered the field and blinded the television cameras.
The final 20 minutes of the game were little more than a running game scrimmage in the snow. The Eagles gave up trying to pass and the Irish cleared the bench. It was certainly the most complete performance of the season for Notre Dame. The team has come a long way since September and one wonders what might have been had the Irish not fallen asleep against Marshall and Stanford. Even the gmae against Ohio State would be far more competitive today.
Let’s review the answers to our pregame questions.
- Can the Irish defensive line dominate BC’s porous offensive front? It is difficult to know how much injuries and the flu impacted the Eagle offensive front but they were certainly awful today.
- Will Pyne be able to read and execute passes that are designed to defeat blitzes? Pyne threw the ball poorly in those few instances where he was pressured in the pocket. He missed on screens and throws to the flat. Pyne did have a nice throw on the run to Deion Colzie for a 23-yard gain.
- Can Notre Dame run the ball on the smaller Eagle defense? The ground game was superb. Diggs led the way with 122 yards and carried Eagle defenders with him on many of his 15 rushes.
- Which team will win the turnover battle? Notre Dame’s defense finished with five turnovers. The punt muff by Salerno when the snow was coming down sideways was the only blemish on the day.
- Can Notre Dame’s special teams provide another highlight reel play? Salerno had a nice 28-yard punt return in the first half. The Irish did not block a punt but BC’s Danny Longman was in such a rush to unload the ball that he averaged only 34 yards. The real special teams hero was Grupe, who hit all three of his field goal attempts including a 46-yarder into a tricky crosswind.
- Will the Irish secondary hold Flowers in check? Flowers had just three receptions. Only one was noteworthy because it gave the Eagles a rare visit across midfield. Morrison intercepted Morehead on the next play and held Flowers in check for most of the day.
- Can either kicker break out of his slump by making a clutch field goal? Grupe’s Groupies can relax now and bask in the glow of redemption.
- Will Jurkovec or Takacs have success against their old teammates? Jurkovec was unable to play, which was probably best considering the beating the Irish laid on Morehead. Takacs caught two passes for eight yards and still looked to be a bit gimpy on his injured ankle.
Cornerback Cam Hart suffered the only apparent injury for Notre Dame. He hurt his leg on one play and came back only to limp off again. Jayson Ademilola, Tobias Merriweather and Brandon Joseph were held out of the game. Hopefully all of these players will be available next week.
The Irish offense has improved significantly over the course of the season but the passing component remains limited by Pyne’s physical capabilities. Tom Rees persists in asking Pyne to throw it in the red zone but those plays fail more than they succeed. It’s understandable that Rees is trying to bolster his offensive firepower in anticipation of a high scoring affair in Los Angeles. If Notre Dame is going to win that encounter, however, its ground game is going to have to pave the way.