If you didn’t know that Boston College quarterback Phil Jurkovec was a Notre Dame transfer before yesterday’s telecast, the ABC broadcast crew certainly did not let you forget it by half-time. If you didn’t know why Ian Book didn’t let Jurkovec takeover the QB1 position at Notre Dame before Jurkovec ultimately transferred, Book certainly did not let you forget it by the end of the game as he guided the Irish to a 45-31 victory. Here’s more on that and more overreactions from Notre Dame’s latest win.
Ian Book outperforms his old backup
Forget about the stat lines where Ian Book clearly dominated Phil Jurkovec in the much-ballyhooed “revenge” match between Jurkovec and his former team and just focus on the style of play exhibited by both. You can clearly see why Ian Book never let Jurkovec seriously challenge for the QB1 position at Notre Dame.
Jurkovec was only credited with one interception on the afternoon, but the Irish secondary dropped some and had one stolen by a bogus penalty. Kyle Hamilton dropped an easy pick-6 in the 4th quarter and had another INT taken away for a “facemask” penalty on Bo Bauer that wasn’t even remotely close to a facemask penalty.
Aside from those two obvious ones, though, Jurkovec threw up multiple prayers that had INT written all over them. His first touchdown pass came on a play where he was rushed, and he just heaved up a backfoot throw to the endzone. He was lucky that Zay Flowers came down with. It was a classic example of a “NO! NO! NO! YES!” play. The ball hung in the air, and that pass gets picked off as many times as it gets caught by the receiver. And there were other examples of balls just hanging in the air that the secondary didn’t come down with.
Compare that with Book, who was efficient with his arms and legs and ended the game with a current streak of 206 straight passes without an interception. And that is why Book has been QB1 despite Jurkovec complaining that he “didn’t get a fair shot” at Notre Dame. Book takes care of the football and gives his team a chance to win every week.
Avery Davis emerging as a weapon
One of the most promising developments of the last few weeks within a suddenly emerging wide receiver corps has been Avery Davis. He was the hero last week with two huge grabs on Notre Dame’s game-tying drive, and this week, he was once again a factor for the Irish. He had 2 catches for 70 yards and 1 rush for 29 yards.
Davis is becoming precisely what you want in a slot receiver – a crafty route runner who gets open and then makes plays with the ball in his hands. His 48-yard catch and run on 3rd and 10 in the 2nd quarter was a significant momentum shift for the Irish.
If Davis continues to develop and play at this level over the final three games of the year, the Irish will have a legit weapon in the slot.
Redzone offense comes alive
The official boxscore says Notre Dame was 7 for 8 in the redzone, but in reality, they were 7 for 7 with 6 touchdowns. The final trip inside Boston College’s 20 came on the game’s final drive in which the Irish kneeled on the ball to kill the clock.
The redzone had been a problem for Notre Dame all year long and started that way yesterday. Notre Dame marched down the field on Boston College to start the game only to have that first drive stall at the Boston College five-yard line. Notre Dame converted all six of the other meaningful trips inside the redzone for touchdowns.
Bennett Skowronek showed that he could be the redzone monster everyone envisioned he would be when he transferred from Northwestern with three touchdowns grabs – all from 13 yards or closer. As the development of Davis as a weapon in the slot, Skowronek as the redzone threat is huge because Notre Dame still has Tommy Tremble and Michael Mayer. They can be utilized in the redzone along with Javon McKinley. All three become more effective if defenses start giving Skowronek more attention.
On the other hand, Boston College converted just 3 of their 7 trips into the redzone into touchdowns.
Fumbling is becoming a problem
Yesterday was not without issues the Notre Dame coaching staff must address during the bye the week – the biggest of which is fumbling. Notre Dame coughed up the ball three times against the Eagles, with Boston College recovering all three.
Kyren Williams got caught unprepared for contact from behind fighting for extra yards on a pass, Chris Tyree left the ball on the turf after a bad exchange with Book, and Skowronek put the ball on the ground after making a remarkable catch and trying to turn upfield too soon.
You can lose three fumbles against a team like Boston College and walk away with a comfortable victory. You can’t do that against North Carolina in two weeks or in a potential rematch with Clemson. Lance Taylor needs to work with his group on ball security.
So too, are onside kicks
Another area of concern is onside kicks. The Irish were lucky to have a review overturn a Boston College recovery because of an illegal block – similar to what happened against Louisville. In this case, the Irish were at least prepared, and Isaiah Pryor should have scored a touchdown, but he took his eyes off the ball before securing it, and Boston College ended up recovering.
That could have been a huge momentum shift, just like it could have been in the Louisville game. Brian Polian has some work to do over the bye week too. While he’s at it, he needs to make sure that Chris Tyree does not fair catch a line drive kickoff after a penalty like that either. Tyree’s fair catch there probably cost Notre Dame at least 10 yards of field position, if not more.
Once again, the ACC officials were awful
Yesterday’s ACC officiating crew was very quick to throw flags for anything they deemed unsportsmanlike, resulting in a couple of very weak 15-yard penalties thrown on the Irish. Bennett Skowronek got flagged for one after he made an incredible touchdown catch with a BC defender draped all over him, and Daelin Hayes was on the receiving end of one as well after a 4th down stop for the Irish defense. Neither was egregious by any means, but both altered field position after change of possession plays.
Then there was that “facemask” penalty on Bo Bauer. I still can’t believe that they threw the flag on that one. It wasn’t even close. And it robbed Kyle Hamilton of his first interception of the season.
Secondary needs to start hauling in INTs
Speaking of interceptions, it’s time we discuss the lack of INTs from the Irish secondary. Jack Kiser hauled one in yesterday, but the secondary has not been recording takeaways like we need them to be. Notre Dame only has five interceptions on the season, and just two of them have come from defensive backs.
Yesterday, the secondary should have had about three intereceptions that were stolen by the referees that hit the turf. Hamilton dropped an easy pick-6. Nick McCloud had one hit him in the hands in the redzone. And there were at least three or four different prayers Jurkovec threw up that could have been picked and weren’t.
Perhaps all of the bad luck with interceptions will turn at the right time and the secondary will start getting interceptions in bunches, but having just two interceptions by the entire secondary after eight games in concerning – especially when there were plenty of opportunities for them yesterday alone.