Notre Dame improved to 8-0 over the weekend with a 45-31 victory over Boston College and former Irish backup QB Phil Jurkovec. The Irish offense marched up and down the field with ease, but the final score made things look a lot closer than the game felt. Self-inflicted wounds prevented the Irish from an old-fashioned blowout. Here are this week’s five things I didn’t like.
ABC’s over the top coverage of the Jurkovec transfer angle
Hearing about Phil Jurkovec’s time at Notre Dame and the reasons behind his transfer was inevitable on Saturday. Whenever a high profile quarterback transfers due to lack of playing time, the divorce typically ends with some hard feelings. ABC did not do Jurkovec any favors with how they covered the transfer angle, though.
For the first 30 minutes of the game, the Jurkovec transfer angle dominated the entire broadcast. Even as Ian Book was marching Notre Dame up and down the field while Jurkovec completed just 8 of 20 passes, all the ABC crew could talk about was how Jurkovec practiced “angry” last week and how much the game meant to him. All they did was make Jurkovec sound like a kilted lover who wasn’t able to get over their ex, and it wasn’t fair to the Boston College quarterback.
Between the 1993 flashbacks and the Jurkovec angle, the first half of that game was tough to sit through for Irish fans.
Missed opportunities for turnovers by the Notre Dame defense
Notre Dame’s secondary is not creating turnovers this year. It’s one of the few legit criticisms of Clark Lea’s unit. Saturday, they had a chance to change that narrative but failed to come up with multiple gift-wrapped interceptions.
Kyle Hamilton dropped the easiest pick-6 he’d ever have. Nick McCloud had a pass hit him square in the hands that he couldn’t come up with. Jurkovec also threw pass after pass up for grabs that had interception written all over them, but the only interception the Irish recorded came from sophomore linebacker Jack Kiser.
To be fair, Hamilton had one interception wiped out by a phantom call from yet another brutal ACC officiating crew, but to date, the secondary still has just two interceptions on the season through eight games.
Clark Lea, safeties coach Terry Joseph, and cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens need to use the bye week for some self-scouting to get this secondary going.
Miscues on onside kicks, kickoffs
Notre Dame nearly got caught with a surprise onsides kick only to be bailed out by an illegal blocking penalty for the second time this season. Louisville almost pulled off the trick last month, and Boston College had a recovery eased as well. Both times Notre Dame retained possession after reviews determined there was an illegal block by the kicking team.
This time Notre Dame was at least more prepared than they were against Louisville. Isaiah Pryor should have taken the kick the other way for a touchdown, but he tried to run with the ball before securing it, resulting in a muff that Boston College recovered. That could have been a significant momentum swing had the play held up.
Chris Tyree called for a fair catch after BC was pushed back five yards on the re-try on the ensuing kickoff. It was a freshman mistake that hopefully, Tyree doesn’t make again. A line drive kick like that has to be returned. The fair catch likely cost Notre Dame at least 10 yards in field possession.
A later onside kick didn’t look great for Notre Dame, but Bo Bauer actually played it nearly perfectly by calling for a fair catch.
Notre Dame’s pass rush not getting home
Notre Dame got a lot of consistent pressure on Phil Jurkovec on Saturday, but the Irish were technically credited with just a single sack. That came on a well-timed blitz from Shaun Crawford, who nearly consumed Jurkovec on the sack. Other than that, the Irish didn’t get their hands on their former teammate behind the line of scrimmage.
Howard Cross came within inches of a sack but was credit with just a simple tackle when Jurkovec escaped enough to get back to the line of scrimmage.
The lack of sacks was not from a lack of pressure, though. The Irish got some pretty consistent pressure all game long – they just couldn’t bring down Jurkovec. Last week the Irish didn’t get their first sack against Clemson until the second OT. It came at a perfect time, but the lack of sacks the last two weeks is hopefully not a trend after the Irish started the year getting after opposing QBs at one of the country’s best rates.
Way too many turnovers by the Irish offense
Notre Dame scored 45 points in back to back weeks for the first time since 1996, but they could have put 60 on Boston College if they simply held on to the football. Instead, they lost three different fumbles: 1) a botched exchange between Chris Tyree and Ian Book 2) Kyren Williams getting caught from behind on a pass out of the backfield 3) Bennett Skowronek coughing one up after a great catch downfield.
In two of those cases, the fumbles came on plays that would have been first downs for the Irish. Notre Dame didn’t even punt on Saturday because Boston College’s defense had no answer whatsoever for the Notre Dame offense. The only thing that stopped Notre Dame was Notre Dame.
Lance Taylor has a young running backs room this year, so some of this comes with the territory. That doesn’t mean Taylor should accept it either. Like Clark Lea, Taylor has some work to do over the bye week.