Notre Dame Earns Pyrrhic Victory at Fenway

Photo: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer dropped back in the pocket, planted his foot and unleashed a beautiful 40-yard pass to star wide receiver Will Fuller, who had blown past his coverage and was streaking free down the sideline. Leading 19-9 late in the game, Notre Dame was primed to put the finishing touches on the Boston College Eagles and capture some much needed style points in the process. Instead, in a turn of events that has mirrored Notre Dame’s season all too well, Fuller lost focus and let the ball get into his body – a reoccurring mistake wide receivers coach Mike Denbrock has chided him for since before the start of the season – causing an incompletion and forcing head coach Brian Kelly to punt. A seemingly assured 26-9 lead with only several minutes remaining instead began a downward spiral.

Accentuating Notre Dame’s missed opportunity was Boston College capitalizing on the Irish’s miscue. The Eagles, boasting one of the most anemic offenses in the nation, took its patchwork quarterback rotation and moved down the field with ease. Notre Dame’s defense failed to stop the Eagles even after a Boston College personal foul that forced them into a second down and 17 on their own 7-yard line. But the icing on the cake took place when Eagles quarterback Jeff Smith shook off a Sheldon Day sack, rolled out of the pocket and connected with Tyler Rouse, who fumbled after a devastating hit by cornerback KeiVarae Russell. Notre Dame was unable to recover the loose ball, however, due to safety Max Redfield being too preoccupied with making the incomplete motion to a nearby official. The Eagles capped off a 9 play, 86-yard drive with a touchdown, creating a final score sheet of 16-13.

Boston College may have failed to destroy Notre Dame’s chances of a national title a la 1993, but the Eagles struck an indirect blow that has left the Irish reeling. The Notre Dame offense struggled the previous week against Wake Forest, but that struggle morphed into a full-blown slump against Boston College’s No. 1 ranked defense. DeShone Kizer suffered the worst game of his young career and flatlined in the red zone. On the first drive of the game Kizer marched Notre Dame’s offense down the field to the Boston College 7-yard line. Set in the shotgun formation, Kizer rolled to his right to elude pressure and uncharacteristically threw to a blanketed Aliz’e Jones rather than throwing the ball away. The situation was repeated in the third quarter when Kizer forced a screen pass to a well-covered Will Fuller leading to his third interception of the game.

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The offense’s slump couldn’t come at a worse time, as Notre Dame’s injury-plagued season added two more to its number. Star running back C.J. Prosise exited the game after twisting his ankle in an awkward manner. Prosise was seen on the sideline in crutches, casting doubt on his ability to play next weekend against Stanford. Additionally, cornerback KeiVarae Russell suffered what appeared to be a foot injury when causing the Tyler Rouse fumble, and his status for next weekend is also a question mark.

One of the only bright spots for Notre Dame other than NBC’s decision to broadcast the Boston College game on cable rather than network television came courtesy of several other teams falling to capitalize on Notre Dame’s vulnerability. No. 3 Ohio State’s playoff dreams ended at the hands of No. 9 Michigan State and its backup quarterback, Tyler O’Connor. Undefeated Oklahoma State – a program many considered to be the biggest threat to Notre Dame’s playoff hopes – fell at home to No. 10 Baylor, 45-35. And No. 7 Oklahoma, the next largest threat, squeaked out a last second 30-29 victory over TCU without the Horned Frogs’ two biggest playmakers, quarterback Trevone Boykin and wide receiver Josh Doctson.

Despite Notre Dame’s No. 4 College Football Playoff ranking, a playoff berth has been far from guaranteed even if Kelly’s team were to win out. The most Notre Dame could do is put its best foot forward to convince the Selection Committee the high ranking is deserved, yet the past two weeks have been a fight for survival rather than racking up style points.

The Fighting Irish now face the daunting task of taking an injury-ravaged roster and slumping offense to Palo Alto to face a Stanford team fresh off clinching a spot in the Pac-12 championship game. And given the past two weeks, all Notre Dame can do is hope a win is enough.

Scott Janssen is a blogger for the Huffington Post and has authored severally nationally-featured articles, including an appearance on MSNBC as a sports contributor. He talks football 24 hours a day, much to the chagrin of his wife and those around him. Scott can be reached at scottjanssenhp@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter.

 

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25 comments

  1. Subway Alum 4 years ago

    @ JDH…yes bullied. I call it bullying when instead of just tackling a runner, BC propped him up to allow someone time to strip the ball. Bullying is not just tackling but lifting our #3 and dumping him on his head after a great pass reception over the middle. Bullying is not just taking Kizer down for a sack, but then rolling over his face while kneeing him in the helmet. Nasty dirty bullying. BTW, the ‘experts’ are saying that Kizer had his worst day. Maybe so, but not between ND’d 20 and BC’s 10 yard lines. He was great as long as we could spread BC’s defense and kinda keep them away from him. But inside the 10, well then it became up close and personal. I saw doubt, uncertainty, maybe even fear in his actions. The two goal line INT’s were avoidable. How could he make those throws? Not like him unless fear and intimidation by bullies had set in.

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  2. Subway Alum 4 years ago

    Shaz-i-am-NOT-a-rock… too many holes in that retort to warrant my time…but how’s this…if you’re gonna use “averages” then we have an undefeated season. Nice. Er, btw, can we continue the ‘averages’ thing into the playoffs, which if not for our piss-poor defense, we’d be a lock right now. If we can average our offensive points, then subtract the average of our defensive give-up points, hey…we’re national champs. Congrats Shaz-i-am-not, you found the solution…what’s that like 25 years between championships?

    Let me guess…you and your buddies watch these games while hoisting a few. I guess everything looks better through the bottom of an empty glass. Try paying attention to the ‘funny’ antics of our defensive backfield (LB’s, CB’s and S’s). It’s like a blooper reel. LB’s running up the backs of their DLinemen (hey coach tell me again…what’s a gap?), CB’s actually waiting for receivers to catch the ball, then meekly attempting a tackle (i do look for the ball in the air- i watch it go right into his hands coach), S’s well they’d rather defend a run then a downfield pass, so they’re always getting suckered by play action (but coach, remember last week i stopped that guy after his 20 yd run).

    Reality check…BVG had ONE GOOD GAME…Texas. Then real coaches figured out how to attack our 3rd and long Defense. Just think, if you gave me the averages answer right after that one…now you got something.

    Just thank God for our Offense!

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  3. JDH 4 years ago

    @ Subway Alum: You think BC’s defense “bullied” ND? We racked up 450 yards of offense on them, got 22 first downs. Granted, the score certainly didn’t show that because of mostly self-inflicted errors that led to turnovers. I certainly give them credit for their aggressive ball-stripping. But as that was 1 game out of 11 this year that that we got bit with the turnover bug, I’ll take that kind of “bullying” any day.

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  4. Shazamrock 4 years ago

    Subwaya,

    It would seem apparent that if you start a conversation with the words “If”, “opinion”, or “guess”, “far fetched” is probably going to be a foregone conclusion.

    Not sure what your boggle is about the defense other than they are not perfect.
    Sure they give up some plays and they have their share of challenges, but they also come up with big plays, make key stops, and force timely turnovers.

    Over the last 4 games the defense has allowed 73 points. Not great, but it is an 18 point per game average.

    And if someone had told us at the beginning of the year that ND is going to average 18 points on defense down the stretch, the majority of us would had gladly taken that.

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  5. Jerry Seppanen 4 years ago

    If we can some how get by sat I think the month off will really help and we can compete very well
    in the playoffs or big 6 bowl. Remember last year with the time off? There are a lot of very good
    college teams this year but not a great one.

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  6. Subway Alum 4 years ago

    @ Ron (can’t wait to drink some more) Burgundy. I suggest you look up the definitions of 3 syllable words before you use them in a sentence. I’m offering a “Users Manual” for the inept ND defensive coaching staff. A 4 step approach to turn a woeful ND defense into the “vaunted” BC defense. Who BTW, didn’t Defend as much as Bullied ND. To me a defense doesn’t allow 60 to 80 yards every time an opponent has the ball. But you know what, if we’d deploy each of those 4 tactics i recommended, we’d have a D that people would fear also. Instead, Offenses circle the date they are to play our D just so they can improve their morale for future games.

    Now that’s more like a di-a-tribe. Glad to be of help…

    You, on the other hand, offer up only one-liners mostly, i guess, for your own amusement. Try writing something more insightful.

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  7. Subway Alum 4 years ago

    Shazza-man…i love your takes on my nom de plume.

    Thanks for reminding me of that “My guess…” piece also. Very well thought out…based on the then current landscape. You didn’t comment then at how ‘far fetched’ it was so I take that as a compliment.

    It’s genesis stems from two realities…(1) i hate the “the” in Ohio State’s title, thus i hate the school and (2) the committee drinks heavily of the B1G’s Kool-Aid (witness them giving Ohio St a shot at the final 4 last year from the #16th position)…putting Iowa ahead of Big 12 schools this year…

    Now, my guess still stands except for one minor change…substitute another B1G school (Mich St, Iowa, yadda, yadda) for Ohio State and you have the same result. This CFP process is not about getting the 4 best teams but rather the 4 best TV draws they could find. That’s why (a) they’ll keep ND in as #4 this week, praying for a miracle win at Stanford, and (b) they’ll insert a B1G in the final 4 ranking…cause that’s what it’s all about.

    In my true Blue & Gold opinion, the best team in the country…Alabama (men playing among boys), all others are just pretenders. I have to keep asking myself as i witness ND’s pathetically prepared defense EACH week ‘why am i rooting so hard for them to land that final fourth spot’? Before last Saturday, i fully believed our offense will rescue our defense in the last two Championship deciding games, the first against a beatable Clemson, the next against mighty Alabama.

    Here’s the thing, our defense (coordinators and players) can’t learn shit from playing against better defenses. I watch and wish for players like that #5 from Pitt or #8 from Wake. Saturday it was #9 from BC. It’s a joy to see CB’s looking for the ball in the air…unfortunately it’s never our CB’s. Where are these guys? I keep hoping they’re on the sideline waiting their turn…or better yet, why can’t we get coaches in who can teach what other coaches teach. As i’m watching BC’s HC, my only thought was …wow, i finally found a HC i dislike more than Kelly. Did you get a look at BC’s Defensive Coach? Both those guys look like they came up from the ranks of a Boston mob.

    But anyway, thanks for hanging on every word I publish…it’s nice knowing there are fans out there.
    We’ll talk again.

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  8. Shazamrock 4 years ago

    Sub alum,
    please take note:

    “My guess, the committee is angling for an Ohio St-Alabama final Jan 11th. They can’t put a once beaten Alabama team as #1 in the last ranking, so they set up Ohio St to be the #1. They realize that Clemson will probably be undefeated at year end (barely beating UNC), so how do they justify moving Ohio St ahead of Clemson? They give Ohio St an opportuity for a signature win…over a then #5 committee ranked Iowa. It wouldn’t be a meaningful win if Iowa was 10th at the time.(or if OSU gets throttled by MSU before then)

    Ohio St romps (something like last year’s final) and thus the committee is justified in their final ranking of… #1. Ohio St #2. Clemson #3. Alabama… and $4. either ND, Stanford, or Okla St.

    Now why would they do that? They expect #1. OSU to beat the #4 team, #3 Alabama to destroy
    #2 Clemson setting up the game of the decade between two very recent #1’s Ohio St – Alabama”

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  9. Ron Burgundy 4 years ago

    Can’t wait for the follow up to this diatribe. Very compelling and rich. Please more!

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  10. Subway Alum 4 years ago

    ND (BK, BVG) please take note… here is the “Formula” for you to mimic the vaunted BC ‘Defense’…

    (1) CB’s keep a hand on potential receiver, while looking for the ‘ball in the air’…
    (2) Tacklers, one or two of you, prop up man with ball while another defender strips ball…
    (3) How to Strip Ball…don’t slap at it, reach in grasp ball at one end and pull forcefully straight up…
    (4) All other defenders are to fall on “stripped” ball on the ground. Do not pretend to be an Official, just drop down on the ball…

    Rewards: for every stripped or intercepted ball…1 to 2 co-eds in your room all day Sunday to help you “unwind” from a job well done.

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