While the halftime nerves of Notre Dame fans were no doubt on edge in Saturday’s game at Boston College, they were calmed by a rousing second half performance that saw the Irish tally 35 points enroute to a 49-20 pasting of the Eagles. The victory continues Brian Kelly’s spotless mark against BC and at least temporarily files away the bitter memories from the loss to Georgia last week.
The desire to open up the offense will likely be hold for the time being, if Saturday’s production is any indication. Still, Wimbush remains a raw talent when it comes to the passing side of things after having overthrown a few key passes and not giving off an air confidence that coaches, teammates and fans hope to see soon.
Running Wild Once Again
Going back to their playbook against Temple, the Irish focused the bulk of their offense against Boston College on the ground. In contrast, the Eagles chose to balance their attack, a strategy which worked until midway through the third quarter, when Kelly’s squad finally took control.
By the end of the day, Notre Dame had racked up 515 yards in that department, with Josh Adams and Brandon Wimbush doing most of the damage by combining for 436 of those yards. That kind of yardage allowed the duo to combine for more than 11 yards per carry.
The Irish scored all seven of its touchdowns in this fashion, with Wimbush reaching the end zone four times. The longest of those four Wimbush scores came on a dazzling 65-yard romp early in the final period, though another 46-yard dash in the third quarter set up another score that lit the spark to break the game open.
Big Play Central
The collection of big plays in the victory was something that was often sorely lacking during the miserable 2016 campaign for Notre Dame. Even though there are seemingly capable options among the receiving corps to handle that side of the ledger, it was a positive sign to see any such plays, no matter which route they took.
Each of the first six drives had at least one run of 30 yards or more, with Adams and Wimbush splitting that amount right down the middle. Obviously, the caliber of teams won’t all be along the lines of Boston College in the weeks ahead, but it was certainly a step in the right direction.
One of the reasons that Notre Dame was able to change the momentum of the game is that after having committed a pair of turnovers, they flipped things around by picking off a pair of passes and collecting a fumble after the break. All three of the Boston College miscues were converted into touchdowns.
The two scores off interceptions each came after the Irish had reached the end zone in their previous drive, with the Eagles’ drives prior to the pickoffs lasting just 52 and 10 seconds, respectively. With the fumble, Notre Dame needed just two plays to cross the goal line.
Bending But Not Breaking
Though the Irish defense gave up 399 yards on the afternoon, they only allowed two touchdowns and forced their opponents to work for them in drives that took nine and 14 plays, respectively. The two field goals also averted potential disaster since the first came with Boston College starting their drive near midfield and the other coming off a fumble in Notre Dame territory.
In addition, when crunch time came on third down, the Irish defense was able to respond by limiting the Eagles to just four conversions in 17 attempts. Three of those successful efforts to move the chains came in the latter stages of the game, with the Irish having taken firm control. Also, a fourth down stop gave Notre Dame the ball back at their own 30 while clinging to a one-point lead.
Even though Boston College defensive end Harold Landry entered the game as the key player to watch on the Eagle defense, the decision to limit his play to almost exclusively third down made life easier for Wimbush. While he did end up with a trio of hurries against the signal caller, Landry also managed to miss tackling him when Wimbush went on his game-breaking 65-yard touchdown scamper.
A more standard benefit unfortunately came just prior to the game, when Boston College linebacker Connor Strachan was ruled out of the game. Just as Landry’s presence up front was vital to the Eagles’ chances of winning, the absence of Strachan in the middle became sorely evident with each run by Adams and Wimbush.
Staying on the road, the Irish travel to East Lansing next week to face a Michigan State team that has won its first two games of the season. Coming off a bye, the Spartans will be fresh and looking to continue trying to redeem themselves after they went downhill right after beating Notre Dame.
That loss at South Bend was frustrating for the Irish, which dug itself a deep hole and nearly pulled off a miracle comeback. Avoiding dumb mistakes and fluke plays would likely avert a replay of last year.