Notre Dame overcame a shaky start as Ian Book cranked up the offense to lead the Fighting Irish over Boston College by 45-31 on Saturday. Book hit Ben Skowronek for three scores and ran for one more in one of his most impressive performances to date. Notre Dame did not need to punt all afternoon and racked up 557 yards of real estate. The Irish move to 8-0 on the season and will take a well deserved week off next Saturday.
The domination by the Irish offense overshadowed a soft performance by the secondary. Phil Jurkovec threw for 272 yards, often to wide open receivers. The 31 points scored by Boston College featured several long passes and third down conversions. The first half was particularly troublesome, but the visitors finally took control with a third quarter score that provided a 38-16 margin.
The game exhibited a strange quality from the start. Notre Dame took the opening kickoff and drove downfield, only to stall in the red zone and settle for a Jonathan Doerer field goal. The Eagles answered with a scoring march capped by a Jurkovec pass to Travis Levy to go ahead by 7-3.
When Irish tailback Chris Tyree and Book botched a handoff on the next play from scrimmage, BC recovered and added a field goal by David Boumerhi for a 10-3 lead. Book evened the score just before the first quarter ended with his first touchdown toss to Skowronek.
Jurkovec created big chunk plays with his arm and legs to set up another field goal to retake the lead. The Eagles tried an onside kick and recovered, but the play was negated by an illegal block. Book quickly took advantage of the break. His 48-yard strike to Avery Davis set up the first of two touchdown runs by C’Bo Flemister. This gave the Irish a 17-13 advantage that they would not relinquish.
Notre Dame forced the first punt of the game on the next series. Book was sharp as he hit Skowronek from 13 yards out for a 24-13 margin with under six minutes left in the half.
Neither team was quite finished, though. Jurkovec found Jaelen Gill for 40 yards before settling for another three pointer by Boumerhi. When Book tried to answer with a pass to Kyren Williams, the Eagles pried the ball loose and recovered it in Irish territory. Adding to the strange vibe of the afternoon, BC gave the ball right back when an unexpectedly early shotgun snap sailed over Jurkovec’s head. Daelin Hayes recovered for Notre Dame.
Book got right into the two minute drill. He was able to shake and bake his way downfield as the clock ran down, then hit Skowronek in the end zone with just four seconds remaining. The Irish took a 31-16 lead into the locker room, but no one felt completely relaxed.
Boston College took the second half kickoff and stormed downfield to the red zone. Facing a fourth and one inside the Irish ten yard line, Coach Jeff Hafley eschewed another field goal and went for the first down. Notre Dame’s Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa crashed through the line and stuffed the play for no gain.
Then things got crazy again. Book got his team moving until Skowronek caught a pass but had the ball stripped from him. With a short field in front of him, Jurkovec threw the ball into the hands of Irish linebacker Jack Kiser. In keeping with the day’s events, Kiser fumbled the ball on the return but somehow managed to get it back.
Flemister took care of matters from this point with hard running and a 27-yard reception to set up his second touchdown of the day. Although Notre Dame now led by 38-16, there were still over 23 minutes left in this exhausting game.
The teams traded scores again as the contest entered the fourth quarter. Book ran for six of his team-high 85 rushing yards for the final Irish points of the day. Boston College added another late score and two-point conversion against the Irish reserves for the final margin.
Flemister went down late in the game and had to be helped off the field. A knee injury was reported but Coach Brian Kelly advised in his postgame remarks that it was not a serious injury.
Again, the soft defensive play, numerous fumbles and a slew of major penalties took some sparkle off the team’s performance. The ABC network broadcast was annoyingly loud and poorly presented. The piped-in background noise was awful and the announcers spent most of the day waxing poetic about the virtues of Boston College. Throw in a lousy officiating crew and you have a sizeable bar tab when it’s finally over.
Let’s review the answers to our pregame questions for more analysis.
- Will Notre Dame keep the Eagles under the 100-yard rushing threshold? Yes, BC managed 85 yards despite Jurkovec’s scrambles.
- Can Kyren Williams continue to stymie blitzing linebackers? Williams continued to protect his quarterback until he was graciously given time off in the second half.
- Which defense will best get off the field on third down? As noted, Notre Dame did not have to punt, but the defense did only slightly better against the Eagles. Their best play was the fourth down stop by Tagovailoa-Amosa.
- Can Notre Dame force Jurkovec to put the ball up for grabs? Yes, but Phil was extremely lucky to suffer only one interception.
- Which special teams will have a positive impact on the outcome? The Eagles recovered two onside kicks against the butter-fingered Irish, who were spared embarrassment when both were negated by penalties.
- Can the Irish play with the discipline and determination they brought to the field last week? Only in one of the three phases of the game.
- Will Book get the ball downfield to his tall receivers and tight ends? Yes, Skowronek and Javon McKinley were productive as the Eagle secondary focused on tight end Michael Mayer.
- How many times will the Irish secondary ask “Where’s Hunter?” Long was a no-show in the first half, but recovered to catch four passes and a score after intermission.
- If Notre Dame wins, can we finally stop talking about 1993? I was finished talking about it years ago, but the ABC crew couldn’t help themselves.
It’s hard to complain about 8-0, and a letdown of sorts was expected given the dramatic home victory last week. This was not a bad game by the Irish, but there were many strange moments that hopefully won’t be repeated as they march toward their 2020 destiny.