Notre Dame scored 49 points for the second time this season, as they separated from Boston College in the 2nd half of a 49-20 victory. The first three quarters of the game had Notre Dame fans reminiscing on past struggles against BC. With 5 minutes left in the 3rd quarter it was just a 14-13 lead for the Irish. However, stops and turnovers from the defense and a dominant rushing attack from the offense pulled the Irish away. While Boston College may not be a challenging opponent, this game illustrated a new mental toughness in Brian Kelly’s program. After allowing inferior teams to hang around and beat them in 2016, Notre Dame imposed their will on a weaker opponent and turned a close game into a blowout. Let’s take a look at how the matchups played out on Saturday.
Notre Dame Offense vs. Boston College Defense
The first half of the game was incredibly frustrating for the Irish offense. Outside of two 65 yard runs from Josh Adams, there was not rhythm to the offense. Certainly, the biggest issue was the lack of a passing game. In past blogs, I have pointed to an inexperienced receiver group as the main reason the Irish haven’t been able to get going through the air. However, it was clear on Saturday that Brandon Wimbush has some major accuracy issues. Wimbush finished just 11-24 for 96 yards and an interception. Throughout the game Wimbush seemed to lack touch and seemed to always be throwing bullets no matter where his receivers were. On multiple occasions, he missed the 6’5″ Equanimeous St. Brown high, which is pretty difficult to do. While the run game alone is good enough to beat Boston College, Wimbush will need to fix his accuracy issues for the Irish to have success this season.
As bad as Wimbush looked passing the ball, his ability to run the football was a sight to behold. Wimbush set Notre Dame quarterback records for rushing yards with 207 and rushing touchdowns with 4. Wimbush indeed may be the most athletic quarterback to ever suit up for the Irish. Josh Adams had an outstanding game at running back going for 229 yards on 18 carries (12.72 YPC). Dexter Williams also chipped in with 50 yards and 2 touchdowns near the end of the game. The offensive line was opening gaping holes all afternoon allowing for huge plays on the ground. In total, the Irish ran for 515 yards, which was the most by a Notre Dame team since 1969.
Defensively, Boston College’s star defensive end Harold Landry had a minimal impact on the game. Last season’s FBS leader in sacks did not even manage a quarterback hurry. Give credit to Brian Kelly and Chip Long for game planning around Landry. The Eagles defense did manage to make some key stops in the 1st half, but more than anything those stops were attributed to the non existent Notre Dame passing game. At the end of the day, giving up 6 runs of 30 yards or more just won’t get it done on defense.
Notre Dame Grade: B-
Boston College Grade: C-
Boston College Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense
In my preview leading up to this game, I called out the Boston College offense. In their first two games of the season, they had been atrocious. To their credit, the BC offense seemed to be outplaying the Irish offense in the first half. Redshirt freshman quarterback Anthony Brown looked poised in the first half as he completed a 22 yard touchdown pass to Charlie Callinan. In total, Brown was 24-40 for 215 yards and 2 TDs. The makeshift offensive line did a solid job providing time for Brown and creating some holes for running back Jon Hilliman as he ran for 122 yards.
Although they scored 10 points in each half, the Eagles offense struggled much more in the 2nd half. Notre Dame defensive coordinator Mike Elko deserves credit for making some adjustments in the 2nd half to halt the Eagles offense. The Irish forced 3 turnovers in the 2nd half, 2 interceptions by Shaun Crawford and a fumble that was forced by Julian Okwara and recovered by Crawford. After all of the injuries in his career, it was great to see Crawford have his best game in an Irish uniform. Te’von Coney also registered a career performance picking up 13 tackles on the day. Although the defense may not be happy with giving up 400 yards and only picking up one sack, the three turnovers and 20 points allowed make for a solid day.
Boston College Grade: B
Notre Dame Grade: B+
Sometimes, a field goal kicker going 0-for-0 could be a sign you didn’t make it into field goal range. On other days it’s a positive, as Notre Dame went 6-for-6 with touchdowns each time they entered the red zone. Justin Yoon’s leg was only needed on extra point attempts. However, there were some disappointing aspects to the performance on special teams. Freshman kicker Jonathan Doerer was given a shot as the kickoff specialist, and he struggled. Doerer kicked a ball out of bounds, and his other kickoffs were usually line drives landing at about the ten. I would not be surprised if Justin Yoon is given back the kickoff duties against Michigan State. Tyler Newsome continued to punt the ball well averaging over 46 yards per boot. The Irish did not have a single kick return, and Chris Finke didn’t get much going on punt returns.
Colton Lichtenberg was 2-for-2 on field goals for BC, including a 41 yarder. Punter Mike Knoll had a very strong game, as he landed 7 punts inside the 20. Kickoff specialist Maximillian Schulze- Geisthovel delivered a touchback on every kickoff. The Eagles also had a 30 yard kickoff return from Michael Walker on an all-around solid day for their special teams unit.
Notre Dame Grade: B-
Boston College Grade: A
While Irish fans have to be happy about a 29 point win and 515 rushing yards, this game also raised some concerns. Brandon Wimbush must fix his accuracy issues, and quickly, as a trip to Spartan Stadium looms. The defense looked solid again, but lacked a consistent pass rush. However, the three forced turnovers were an encouraging sign. Overall, as bad as the first half was, you can’t complain too much about a 29 point victory on the road. Considering the history between Boston College and Notre Dame, this was one of the Irish’s best performances against the Eagles. Another traditional opponent is up next as the Irish travel to East Lansing to take on the 2-0 Michigan State Spartans.