November for college football has lots of different meanings. For many programs it means the final games of the year, and the thoughts and dreams of next season. For others it means hated grudge matches that have been building toward combustion throughout the course of the season, with Michigan/Ohio State, Auburn/Alabama and Clemson/South Carolina ready to place school pride on the line. But if your program is fortunate enough to be in the national title race, November is really only about one thing: style.
If Oregon’s style is flash – be it through the shine of their metallic HydroChrome helmets (which Nike will let you buy online for an economical $999.99) or their up-tempo spread attack – and Kansas State’s is America’s love of an underdog, then Notre Dame’s style is businesslike. The Fighting Irish are the crew cut wearin’, stiff suit totin’, guy at the office who is always fifteen minutes early and doesn’t believes in idle chit chat because it wastes time better spent on solving problems. Notre Dame’s style is getting the job done in a manner that the other 116 FBS programs have failed to do: stay undefeated.
Fresh off the news Alabama had failed to take care of its own business against emerging conference rival Texas A&M, the Fighting Irish punched in at Alumni Stadium at Boston College and punched out with a 21-6 victory. “Businesslike” is the perfect description of the game, with a short touchdown here and there, sprinkled in with a field goal or two, marking the
sixty minute event. Nationally, Notre Dame continued to be overlooked despite going 10-0 for the first time in 19 years, but the numbers show a Notre Dame team growing more dangerous.
Heading into Notre Dame’s rivalry game with Boston College, the Eagles were giving up 233 yards per game on the ground. And while the Irish were held to less than Boston College’s average (184 yards), Notre Dame’s rushing attack continues to impress. ND’s ground game currently sits 33rd in the country with an impressive 200 yards per game. To illustrate the strides Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly’s program has made, last season Notre Dame was 54 th with 160 yards per game. And in Kelly’s first year Notre ND was 92nd with 126 yards per game. Jumping nearly 60 spots and adding 80 more yards rushing per game in two years is a giant Irish green arrow pointing up for Notre Dame’s future.
The greatest indication Notre Dame is becoming a dangerous team is a story line that’s only started to emerge the past two weeks, and one that has remained below the national radar: Irish quarterback Everett Golson is starting to break free from the label “freshman” and transition toward “veteran”. Golson had his best performance of the season against Boston College, going 16-24 (67%) for 200 yards and 3 touchdowns (one rushing) with no interceptions. This past Saturday was only the second time in Golson’s career he had a completion percentage of over 60% while also passing for over 200 yards. And another indication Golson is on the right track involves Irish tight end Tyler Eifert.
Eifert, a preseason first-team All-American, has had inconsistent performances due to instability at the quarterback position and an increase in blocking duties. Despite those hurdles, the Fighting Irish tight end has led the team in receptions in four different games, each time never hauling in more than four catches. There was even a two-game stretch against Michigan and
Michigan State where Eifert managed only one reception for 38 yards. The past two weeks, however, Eifert has begun to emerge as the elite tight end he truly is, hauling in back-to-back six reception games.
Notre Dame’s style throughout the season, as Brian Kelly said this week, has been its defense, with the Irish defense now tied with Alabama for the number one scoring defense in the country. However, if quarterback Everett Golson continues the maturation he has shown the past two weeks, the Irish offense might be finally waking from its three-year slumber. And it couldn’t be happening at a better time.