The Notre Dame Fighting Irish stayed undefeated for 2020 and punched their ticket for the ACC Championship Game as they handled the Syracuse Orangemen, 45-21. Heavily favored entering the game, the Irish had their challenges along the way but managed to stay on track for the victory.
The win came in Notre Dame’s last home game of the season and extended their home winning streak to 24 games, five away from the all-time record. Quarterback Ian Book did enter the school record books by notching the 30th victory of his collegiate career, the most of a signal-caller in the program’s storied history.
Notre Dame received the opening kickoff and managed to get into the red zone in less than five minutes. However, the Irish attack then stalled out and settled for a quick field goal. After each team traded a pair of quick possessions, gaining modest yardage in the process, Syracuse managed to score a touchdown to take their only lead of the game.
That scoring drive for the Orangemen took ten plays and encompassed 62 yards. The first play was an incomplete pass, but Syracuse signal-caller Rex Culpepper connected on his next four passes, the last coming on an 18-yard grab that served notice that the Orangemen weren’t quite ready to roll over.
Following that score, Notre Dame reached Syracuse territory but then gave up the ball on downs. After getting the ball back, the Irish seemed destined for a quick three-and-out. However, an incomplete third-down pass for Notre Dame was quickly transformed into a first down by virtue of a roughing the passer call on the Orangemen with 4:27 left in the first half.
Book took advantage of that gift to connect on two quick passes to gained 29 yards, followed by a 28-yard scoring run by Book. Four plays into Syracuse’s next drive, a sack resulted in an Orangemen fumble, which required only one play to turn into a touchdown. After another quick three-and-out by Syracuse, Book completed four passes and quickly drove 68 yards in the final 33 seconds for a 24-7 halftime lead.
Keeping Things in Balance
By the time the final seconds had ticked off the clock, Notre Dame had achieved almost perfect balance when it came to their passing and rushing yardage on the afternoon. The Irish racked up 285 yards through the air, with Book completing 24-of-37 passes to eight different receivers, with three touchdown passes. However, Book did toss his first interception of the season.
When it came to the 283 yards for the Notre Dame ground game, the duo of Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree each broke the century mark for the day. Williams collected 110 yards coming on 20 carries, while the vast majority of Tyree’s 109 yards came on a 94-yard scoring dash midway through the fourth quarter that closed out the Irish point parade.
Comedy of Errors
The majority of the third quarter saw both Notre Dame and Syracuse have trouble simply keeping possession of the ball, with four of the game’s six turnovers taking place during that span. The futility began three plays into the second half, when the Orangemen fumbled, which led to Book fumbling on the Irish’s first play.
That miscue led to a Syracuse touchdown that was followed by Book’s interception, putting the Orangemen in prime position to possibly slice their deficit to three points. However, on Syracuse’s first play, they fumbled, and Notre Dame found the end zone again. While the Orangemen took just three plays to give the ball back on an interception, an Irish field goal attempt missed.
Indicative of Syracuse’s forgettable 1-10 season record, the Orangemen’s lack of discipline saw them finish with nine penalties that cost them 90 yards. None of those penalties was more devastating than the aforementioned roughing the passer call that changed the game’s momentum, though multiple false starts were no doubt a source of aggravation.
Notre Dame wasn’t immune to getting flagged either, though they only received a five-yard substitution penalty during the first half. After the break, they added 35 more yards to that amount, with 15 yards being assessed for a personal foul by Shaun Crawford after the fumble recovery by Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.
This past Tuesday, the ACC announced that next Saturday’s rescheduled road game between Notre Dame and Wake Forest had been canceled. That was after the original September 26 date had been postponed because of the Irish’s COVID-19 outbreak.
Notre Dame faces the Clemson Tigers after they dispatched Virginia Tech on Saturday night in a rematch of the Nov. 7 overtime classic, won by the Irish, 47-40.