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Failure to execute haunts Irish

Matt Puglisi | Tuesday, October 26, 2004

As flawless as a plan may be, failure to execute various components of that design harbors the seeds of disaster – just ask Notre Dame.

Plagued by blown coverages, missed tackles and an overall inability to step up and make the big plays when the Irish needed them the most, Notre Dame fell to rival Boston College for the fourth consecutive year on a rainy, dreary Saturday afternoon.

“As much as anything, [Boston College] did a good job, there’s no question about that,” Irish coach Tyrone Willingham said. “[But], I thought we missed a great number of opportunities to make plays – whether it was a tackle or coverage, we just did not take advantage of what we thought were opportunities to get ourselves off the field or keep ourselves on the field.”

Buoyed by a combination of subtle adjustments and Irish defensive miscues, Boston College quarterback Paul Peterson shredded Notre Dame for a season-high 383 yards – including 297 in the second half – and a pair of touchdowns in the upset.

Notre Dame’s inability to come up with the big play was never more apparent than on Boston College’s final drive of the game.

Yielding only a pair of yards on three plays and a false start penalty, the Irish found themselves one play away from knocking off the perennial thorn-in-the-side Eagles.

Faced with a fourth-and-13 from his own 45-yard line, Peterson rolled right and hit receiver Larry Lester for a 17-yard gain and new life.

“It’s just one of those situations where you would hope that you would recognize what’s trying to be accomplished and not make the mistake that we made by stepping up and defending something that really wasn’t there and allowing them to catch one behind us,” Willingham said.

Defensive end Justin Tuck made no excuses for the critical defensive meltdown.

“[The completion was] disheartening, but we’ve got to line up and play our game,” Tuck said. “As a defense, we can’t let them down the field like that, especially when the game is on the line.”

Two plays later, the comeback – Boston College trailed 20-7 at halftime – was complete as Eagles receiver Tony Gonzalez beat Irish corner Mike Richardson, connecting with Peterson from 30 yards out for the game-deciding score.

“Their guy made a good play on the ball – we didn’t,” Willingham said. “You’ve got to step up and make the play – that’s what I’m talking about. They did a great job of doing in that in the second half, and we didn’t.”

Richardson echoed Willingham’s sentiments.

“Just a play that should have been made – I actually thought I had good coverage on him,” Richardson said. “I guess it was thrown a little short. I just didn’t make the play.”

While sloppy field conditions certainly didn’t help, Notre Dame’s trouble making tackles loomed large.

“[The weather] did [make a difference], but you still have to wrap up – grab cloth,” Tuck said. “That hurt us a lot today, because we had them stopped for minimal gains – you miss the tackle and he’s off to the races for a 15- or 20-yard gain. The weather played a little part into it, but mentally we’ve got to know that and wrap up a little harder.”

While the Irish managed to hold the Eagles to a meager 40 first-half yards after their opening 11-play, 86-yard touchdown drive and twice forcing Boston College to attempt a field goal in goal-to-go situations, in the end, the mistakes and lack of execution caught up to the Irish. A unit that had bent for most of the second half finally broke to the tune of yet another Boston College upset over the favored Irish.