Shaking off some early doldrums, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish picked up their fourth win in a row and improved their season record to 9-2 with a 40-7 thrashing of the Boston College Eagles. The victory came in the home finale and increased the home winning streak of Brian Kelly’s squad to 18 games heading into 2020.
The Irish entered the game as three-touchdown favorites, yet struggled for much of the first half to take control of the game. However, once they returned to the field following intermission, Notre Dame played like the better team, scoring all 23 points in the final two quarters, while narrowly missing a touchdown in the closing minutes.
Second Half Shutdown
The Notre Dame defense offered a mixed bag during the first half, giving up just 16 yards in the opening quarter before starting the second period by allowing a 16-play, 84-yard drive that gave Boston College their only lead at 7-6. When action resumed following halftime, the defensive clamps went in place, and the Eagles gained just 64 more yards for the remainder of the contest.
The level of dominance was evident by the fact that only one of BC’s nine second-half drives gained more than 11 yards, with the one that did managing just 18. The turnovers mentioned above helped short-circuit two of those Eagle drives, while the 191 yards marked the second time in three weeks that the Irish have held a team under 200 yards of total offense after the 197 that Duke managed.
Throughout the game, Notre Dame remained error-free, with Boston College matching them during the first two quarters. In the latter case, that changed during the last two periods, with both a fumble and interception leading to 14 points for the Irish and boosting their turnover total to 24 on the season.
The first of these opportunities came when Eagles quarterback Dennis Grosel fumbled at the BC 40, and Drew White recovered. Six plays later, the Irish scored on a Book to Cole Kmet scoring toss. Early in the fourth quarter, Kyle Hamilton picked off a Grosel pass and returned it 27 yards to the Eagles 12-yard-line. A Book to Chris Finke pass quickly completed a three-play drive and end the scoring.
Book again led the Notre Dame rushing attack with 66 yards, with no other Irish back seemingly ready to take control. Still, the Irish finished with 252 yards on the ground for the afternoon, with both Tony Jones Jr. and Braden Lenzy each supplementing the running game by collecting 61 yards each.
Jones needed 15 carries to contribute that amount, while Lenzy took care of his number in one carry that immediately followed a Boston College punt in the third quarter. Reserve signal-caller Phil Jurovec added 42 more yards in garbage time, though four other runners managed to tack on the final 22 yards to that game total.
One of the chief reasons that Notre Dame was able to shut down the Boston College offense was connected to the Irish defense’s ability to get past the front wall of the Eagles. When the final seconds ticked off, Notre Dame had managed to collect four sacks, nine tackles-for-loss and five hurries.
When it came to stops behind the line, seven different Irish players managed to pick up at least one. However, it was senior lineman Adetokunbo Ogundeji who was the standout with three tackles-for-loss, with two of them coming on sacks. In addition, he managed to force the one BC fumble.
The Notre Dame offensive line has been dealing with injuries for the past month, which has led to a patchwork approach to protecting Book and opening holes for runners. It’s clear that something is lacking, given the fact six of the eight Irish penalties for the day were false starts.
There were three false starts in each half, with the second half trio coming long after the game had been decided. Yet two of those came on back-to-back plays, while the first helped stall a thriving opening drive and turn a potential touchdown into a field goal.
Next Saturday, Notre Dame closes out the regular season with another trip to Stanford to face a demoralized Cardinal team that watched their last hope of a bowl berth die in a 24-20 loss to arch-rival California. The defeat dropped them to 4-7 on the year and ended their 10-year streak of competing in a bowl game.
The game marks the 23rd consecutive year that the two teams have met, with the Irish winless at Palo Alto under Kelly’s leadership at Notre Dame. The last Notre Dame victory there took place in 2007.