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Adetokunbo Ogundeji puts up record night in win over Boston College

| Saturday, November 23, 2019

Irish senior defensive lineman Adetokunbo Ogundeji didn’t become a starter on the Notre Dame football squad until last year. When Ogundeji enrolled at Notre Dame, he was just 17 years old. And when he finally did become a starter, it was instrumental to the Irish defensive front. In his junior season, Ogundeji recorded 22 tackles, 2 sacks and one forced fumble, one of those sacks coming in Notre Dame’s 3-30 defeat to Clemson in the Cotton Bowl.

This season, Ogundeji has only gotten better. Through over just 11 games compared to last season’s 13, Ogundeji has recorded 26 tackles, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. 

Ogundeji bolstered his stats on senior night against Boston College in a big way. He recorded a career high of six tackles — five solo and one assisted — and added on two sacks and one more tackle for a loss. In addition, he forced one fumble; although it was not recovered by the Irish, it did end up forcing a punt in a prime time.

With just over 1:30 left to go in the first half, Irish head coach Brian Kelly elected to take his first timeout of the half prior to the Eagles’ third-and-8 attempt. An aggressive move at the time, it paid off for Kelly, as Ogundeji found the Eagles quarterback, stripped him of the ball and ultimately set up a fourth-and-18. Trying to go up two touchdowns before the half, the Irish offense failed to do so, but it set up junior placekicker Jonathan Doerer for his third field goal of the night and put the Irish up 19-7 heading into the locker room.

From here on out, it was all Notre Dame, and the Eagles did not touch the end zone — nor the net behind the goal post, for that matter — for the remainder of the game.

Ogundeji played a key role Saturday for an Irish defense that was weakened before the game even started. After kickoff, things didn’t seem to get better. Junior defensive lineman Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa went down with a soft tissue injury early in the second half, which was followed by graduate student safety Alohi Gilman hobbling off the field — and senior defensive lineman Khalid Kareem was slow to get up on two occasions. When the Irish needed bodies to step up, Ogundeji was there.

When Ogundeji was asked about his performance postgame, he said he did it for his team — especially for his teammates who watched from the sidelines with injuries, including senior defensive linemen Daelin Hayes, who suffered a torn labrum earlier this year and is out for the season, and Julian Okwara, who suffered a fractured fibula in the first half of Notre Dame’s dominating 38-7 win over Duke two weeks ago, also out for the season.

“This was for the seniors, for the guys who have worked their butts off for the last four years,” Ogundeji said. “It meant a lot for me, it meant a lot for my brothers and the guys that weren’t out there, like Julian and Daelin … You don’t want those guys out, they’ve meant so much to me. Personally, they’ve always been there for me, so just to get that ‘W’ for them, it means a lot for me and hopefully for them.”

When asked about how his team was able to respond so well since their near blowout defeat to Michigan 14-45 about a month ago, Ogundeji said it was a matter of living in the present and not looking back. 

“Just be focused on the next opponent, be worried about the next opponent,” Ogundeji said. “That game is past us. We knew what we had to do, we had to control what we can control, get past that and just continue to move on.” 

Ogundeji also brought up a common theme that has been prevalent with the Irish squad throughout the season, and in fact a long time before Ogundeji joined the program five years ago: a next-man-up mentality. And with so many star Irish starters losing their season to injury, this theme seems more important than ever. 

“We talked about that when I first got here, and it has continued to be a big part of what we talk about now,” Ogundeji said. “It’s a huge thing [that] we’ve got guys who can step up, we’ve got guys who can play, so it’s been a big part of our great success on the D-line.” 

Recording career-high numbers in Notre Dame’s 40-7 stomping over Boston College, Ogundeji credits his coaches for putting him in a position to make big plays on defense. 

“The game plan, the coaches put me in a great position to play, I just had to go out there and play hard, play fast — and I feel like I did that during this week, and it paid off during the game.”

Ogundeji said he felt optimistic about his performance this season.

“I also think our preparation has been really good throughout the season, and it has been really good now” Ogundeji said. “Every single week, we have been preparing the right way, and I feel like it is paying off for us during Saturdays.”

Ogundeji said he feels this momentum will carry the Irish into the next regular season game and imminent bowl game that follows.

“This is huge, to keep building on these wins, keep building on this success — and I think this is important for our team,” he said. “And we always talk about winning in November, so that is a big part of what we are doing right now.”

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About Jimmy Ward

Jimmy is a senior at Holy Cross College, where he studies English and sports management. He is originally from Westfield, Indiana. Currently, Jimmy serves as an associate sports editor at The Observer. You can find him at @jimmyyward on Twitter.

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