The Notre Dame Fighting Irish will be closing out the home portion of their schedule on Saturday with a Senior Day matchup against the Boston College Eagles. The Irish are seeking to pick up their fifth straight win and do it in a fashion that doesn’t prematurely age the fan base. Notre Dame’s 35-32 victory over Navy should have been a comfortable win but instead became a nail-biter.
Boston College had its own tense battle on Saturday as the Eagles scored a game-winning touchdown with just 14 seconds left to defeat double-digit favorite North Carolina State. The road win improved BC’s season record to 3-7 and snapped a four-game losing streak in the process. Against the Irish, the Eagles will be seeking their first victory in this series since 2008 after dropping the last eight contests.
Below are some of the key matchups to watch:
QB Drew Pyne vs. Boston College Defense
Pyne’s numbers against Navy were gained almost exclusively during the first two quarters. After the break, Navy’s ability to hold onto the ball offered the Irish offense limited opportunities and Midshipmen blitzes against him made things chaotic. Notre Dame should be able to navigate its way to a win against BC but they hopefully realize that producing in all four quarters will make that path easier.
The Eagles are vulnerable on defense but they can also come up with big plays on defense. Against North Carolina State, they forced four turnovers in the upset. Still, they’ve allowed at least one touchdown through the air in all but one of their contests this season. Pyne is slowly expanding his receiving options and may do so again, depending on weather conditions.
Notre Dame Defense vs. QB Emmett Morehead/Phil Jurkovec
Despite Navy being a run-dominant team, Notre Dame had issues throughout their game, with runners going untouched and the Midshipmen actually connecting for two scores through the air. The current uncertainty about which BC signal-caller they’ll be facing makes it something of a challenge, considering the Eagles’ clear preference for the passing game.
Boston College is near the bottom when it comes to scoring, though Emmett Morehead has thrown for 660 yards and seven touchdowns in the past two games. He was inserted after former Irish quarterback Phil Jurkovec went down with an injury. However, even before Jurkovec’s injury, he had struggled this season with his 11 touchdown passes negated by eight picks. Supposedly, Jurkovec will start if healthy but Morehead is making a strong case to remain behind center.
OT Blake Fisher vs. DE Donovan Ezeiruaku
Fisher was one part of a unit that watched its recent run of success implode last Saturday when Navy’s blitzing caused havoc during the second half. He missed most of last season with an injury and had been evolving into another standout upfront. He and his fellow linemen need to shake off that hiccup and get their consistency back.
Ezeiruaku is Boston College’s fourth-leading tackler with 51 stops but leads the team in sacks with six as well as tackles-for-loss with 11.5. He’s also forced a trio of fumbles and deflected a pass. Those numbers represent a steep improvement from his first season last year. After last week’s struggles for the Irish, they also make Ezeiruaku a player that needs to be held in check.
CB Cam Hart vs. WR Zay Flowers
Hart has largely remained under the radar this season and has yet to intercept a pass. Plus, during the last six games, he’s only had one pass deflection. He’s got the size and speed to make things happen but is part of a unit that’s had a penchant for giving up big plays all season. Even though BC doesn’t have a lot of offensive weapons available, Hart needs to be on his game in this clash.
Flowers has been BC’s go-to receiver all season, regardless of who’s behind center. He’s got 67 catches for 921 yards and 10 touchdowns. In two previous meetings against the Irish, he hasn’t been a factor. However, he’s coming off his fourth game this season with over 100 yards receiving, also snagging two touchdown receptions. He’s not big but has plenty of speed and is once again likely to be a frequent target on Saturday.
WR Braden Lenzy vs. CB Elijah Jones
Lenzy comes off one of his most productive games at Notre Dame after grabbing five passes for 67 yards against Navy, including a highlight-worthy touchdown catch. Three years ago against BC, the Eagles got a taste of his speed on a 61-yard touchdown off a reverse. Lenzy might have competition when it comes to being targeted by Pyne but has the ability to make things happen.
Jones has notable size and has been much more active this season compared to previous campaigns. He only has two interceptions but that ties him for the team lead. Despite a lack of picks, he’s swatted away 12 opposing pass attempts and has gotten behind the line of scrimmage to make three stops, including one sack. His experience may help make other Irish receivers more frequent targets.