Beyond the Boxscore: Penalty Turns Close Contest in Notre Dame Blowout

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.

Early Issues

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.

Turning Point

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.

Flag Duty

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.

Next Up

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.

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  1. Are you haters gonna take in consideration thst Notre Dame played nearly every game they could this year and won every one of them. Who cares what rank they played. ( Did you not see Pittsburg lose to Washington. ?) Maybe Brian Kelly don’t feel they need to score 30 extra points during their winning. Why risk hurting your players if you have the win. Yrs, some where a catch up and win but they deserve a chance at top Championship just like anyone else. #NDundefeated

  2. If Notredame beats Clemson again they will be in the playoffs and deservingly so. If in the playoffs can they go toe to toe with Ohio State and Alabama? it is very hard to say imo. If they lose to Clemson I feel they should go to a New Years day big six game and play Texas A&m, Florida, Oklahoma, Cinncinnati. I am saying this not because I’m afraid to see Notredame play Alabama and Ohio State. It’s just if Notredame cant beat Clemson with Clemson fully healthy I dont think they deserve the playoffs.

    1. Not so fast. Annointing Clemson as an undisputed Top 4 team this year is rather presumptuous. Especially if they lose to a (objectively flawed) ND for a 2nd time. (…yes, I am fully aware that ND would move on. I get how this works.)

      Cincinnati is unbeaten. Florida & Texas A&M are both solid in all areas, and could be a great rematch in a playoff.

      Until ND can be objectively considered anything but cannon fodder in a playoff game, I see no point seeing a rerun of a shi+show. Either as an ND fan, or as a college football fan being subjected to terrible entertainment.

  3. Among entertaining, worthwhile games yesterday, Indiana beat Wisconsin. IU defense looks just as good as ND’s, and they beat a Top 20 team with a back-up QB.

    FWIW, if any team was going into the BCS playoff simply to have the tar whooped out of them by Alabama or Ohio State, I’d rather see a program like Indiana get the payday than ND.

    1. IF they don’t beat Clemson, then I think it’s a matter of what one-loss team or non-Power 5 the committee thinks deserves the last spot. Here’s ND’s miserable record against top-tier teams in big spots might well work against them. Also, the consistent inability of BK to get his team to score style points might come back to justly haunt ND, too.

      I frankly think that ND’s D is a bit over-rated just because the backend is soft. Even Hamilton has not had a lot of so-called splash plays this season. The way the Syracuse bums ran up and down the field (and not just in garbage time!) was equally concerning.

      I think the final four will be (IF UF somehow beats Bama and Clemson beats ND): 1) Clemson, 2) Ohio St., 3) FL, 4) Bama That pretty much sounds like the teams the national media like anyways. It also gives us another Clemson-Bama PO game, which has become a national ritual. The NCAA will find a way to make sure an unbeaten Ohio St. makes it in.

      1. Struggling with mighty Syracuse for 30 minutes is pretty damning.
        And it’s yet another example of why ND will begin next year with fewer players having seen any amount of game action than the great programs do.

        And FWIW, the ‘national media’ is not nearly as “out to get ND” as foamers believe. No program gets as much airtime as ND. ND is good for business. And college football is a business.

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