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Week 10: Boston College

Matthew DeFranks | Monday, November 12, 2012

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – An early 95-yard touchdown drive was all No. 4 Notre Dame needed as it beat Boston College 21-6 in front of 44,500 people at Alumni Stadium on Saturday.

Irish sophomore quarterback Everett Golson engineered the 13-play, 95-yard march on Notre Dame’s first possession of the game, going 3-for-5 and scoring on a 2-yard touchdown plunge on third-and-goal.

The Irish (10-0) were 3-for-3 on third downs on the opening drive and converted their first 10 attempts on third down for the game. Golson picked up six first downs on the ground.

“We did a nice job on third down,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “Our quarterback play was really good, picked up one of the best plays I think he had when he ran it on third down, put his foot in the ground and ran north and south and showed some real toughness. We were effective because our quarterback was effective tonight.”

Golson finished the game 39 rushing yards on 11 carries.

“We got a great push up front and I was able to run for the first downs,” Golson said. “I like to think that’s what makes me, me. … It also takes the other guys around you to complement you and can finish the play off.”

Dating back to the Pittsburgh game, Notre Dame converted on 12 consecutive third downs before an incompletion in the third quarter.

“It’s something we harped on, a lot of repetition,” senior running back Theo Riddick said. “Everyone was very detail-oriented in what they were doing. Everyone was on the same page and it worked out tonight.”

Notre Dame entered the game scoring touchdowns on less than half of its red zone chances but converted all three red zone trips into touchdowns Saturday, including scoring passes to sophomore tight end Troy Niklas and graduate student receiver John Goodman.

“Everett Golson played the way he needs to play, especially in the red zone,” Kelly said. “Once he starts playing at the level we need him in the red zone, we’ll start scoring touchdowns and not just field goals.”

Two series after Boston College (2-8) cut the Notre Dame lead to 7-3 with junior kicker Nate Freese’s 36-yard field goal, Notre Dame scored again on a long drive.

This time, the Irish went 87 yards in 16 plays, taking up 8:30 of the second quarter. Notre Dame went 4-for-4 on third down on a drive capped by a 7-yard touchdown pass to Niklas. The grab was Niklas’ first touchdown of his career.

Riddick, who ran for 104 yards on 18 attempts, said Golson was the key to the long drives.

“Long drives are going to tire out the defense and [Golson] made perfect checks and he knew what he was doing and it was a result of his play,” Riddick said.

Senior tight end Tyler Eifert continued to develop a rapport with Golson, grabbing six catches for 67 yards.

“I think they’re feeling more comfortable with each other,” Kelly said. “Getting the ball to Eifert is very important and putting the ball in a good position where he can go up and use his size. That’s what I liked tonight. The little nuances of [Golson's] game tonight is he put the ball in areas where Tyler can play [6-foot-5] because if he can play at that size, he’s hard to defend.”

Notre Dame turned the ball over twice on fumbles by Riddick and sophomore running back George Atkinson. The Irish now have five turnovers in the past two games.

“The only thing I’m not happy with is the turnovers, we’ve got to take better care of the football. They played hard and they played physical for four quarters,” Kelly said. “These are guys that have carried the ball a lot, they’ve got to do a better job.”

The Irish defense allowed just 300 total yards of offense, including only 53 rushing yards. The Eagles were creative on offense, calling screens and reverses to try and catch Notre Dame off guard.

“There were some plays where you thought you were at Disney World, there was Mickey Mouse plays everywhere,” senior linebacker Manti Te’o said. “There were reverses, screens, that was the most screens I’ve ever defended in one game. Our guys came out and everyone flew to the ball. When something happened, was somebody there.”

Eagles junior quarterback Chase Rettig was 27-for-43 for 247 yards and an interception. He was also sacked five times.

Boston College became the fifth team to not score a touchdown against Notre Dame.

“I think they ran every play imaginable,” Kelly said. “Our guys defensively saw so many different plays tonight but they kept fighting and kept them out of the end zone.”

Junior linebacker Prince Shembo said the Irish were prepared for the various plays.

“We knew this was like their Super Bowl so we knew there was going to be a lot of trick plays and stuff like that. Everyone was ready and prepared,” Shembo said.

Junior cornerback Bennett Jackson led the Irish defense with a team-high eight tackles, including seven solo stops and one tackle for loss. Shembo recorded three sacks in the win.

“I wasn’t doing anything special, just chasing quarterbacks,” Shembo said. “In the past weeks, I would get to the quarterback and he would throw the ball every time, throw it out of bounds. This guy wanted to hold it so I was like ‘All right, cool, it’s about time.’”

Graduate student defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore and sophomore defensive end Stephon Tuitt each added sacks of their own.

Te’o bolstered his Heisman Trophy candidacy with five tackles an interception in the fourth quarter. It was his sixth of the season, the most in a single year by an Irish linebacker. Te’o leads the country in turnovers forced, with two fumble recoveries in addition to his six picks.

“When you need a big play, he’s going to be around the football,” Kelly said.

Te’o said the Irish can still be better.

“We can do better with our effort,” he said. “We can do better executing. We’ll come back on Sunday and Monday and correct the mistakes and get ready for Wake Forest.”

The Irish will welcome the Demon Deacons to Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

Contact Matthew DeFranks at mdefrank@nd.edu