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Irish fly past Eagles in 40-7 victory

| Sunday, November 24, 2019

Meeting for the 25th time in rivalry history, Boston College traveled to South Bend on Friday to take on the Irish. Despite getting off to a shaky start in the first half the Irish were easily able to handle the Eagles (5-6, 3-4 ACC) after they came out of the locker room to start the second half. 

Erin Fennessy | The Observer
Irish senior quarterback Ian Book throws the ball during Notre Dame’s 40-7 win over Boston College at Notre Dame Stadium on Nov. 23.

On senior night and with hopes of making a New Year’s Six bowl, the Irish were able to rally and come away with a dominating 40-7 win over Boston College. 

The Irish offense was slow to warm up and was unable to find the end zone on their first three drives of the game, and junior place kicker Johnathan Doerer was responsible for all the Irish points up until 2:48 remained in the second quarter when the Irish finally found the endzone with a six-yard pass from senior quarterback Ian Book to senior wide receiver Chase Claypool. This was Claypool’s 10th touchdown catch of the season which moved him into a tie for 10th in Notre Dame single-season touchdown receptions with Golden Tate. The last Irish receiver to hit this mark was Will Fuller in 2015.

Prior to Book and Claypool’s touchdown connection, it seemed as if Boston College might have the edge as they led 7-6 over the Irish after redshirt sophomore quarterback Dennis Grosel found the end zone, virtually walking in after the Irish botched their coverage by overcommitting to stop to a handoff. Once the Irish were finally able to get on the board the momentum shifted quickly and the Eagles would not even get close to scoring again. The game, coined the ‘Holy War’ for all intents and purposes by former Secretary of State and Notre Dame alum Condoleezza Rice, wasn’t much of a war or even a battle for that matter at all. If it were, Boston College, clad in their white uniforms, would have been waving white flags long before the final whistle blew. Even though the Irish were able to find the end zone two more times after their first trip to the goal line, Doerer would continue to have himself a statement night.

After taking the ball 50 yards into Boston College territory, the Irish would get on the board first with a 47-yard field goal off of Doerer’s foot to put the Irish up 3-0. The Irish would then force a quick three-and-out on the Eagles opening drive. The Irish were then forced to punt on their next drive but their stout defense stood up to the Eagle’s offense and the ball flipped possessions once more. The Irish offense was able to open up on their third drive of the game, taking the ball 61 yards in 12 plays down to the Boston College 11-yard line, which led to Doerer knocking in his second field goal of the night — a 29-yarder. After this drive the Eagles were finally able to get on the board with the longest possession by any team throughout the game, a 16-play, 84 yard drive that took 6:56 off the clock. The Eagles would take a 7-6 lead over the Irish with this drive as Notre Dame had yet to reach the end zone despite piecing together some good drives. 

After the Eagles touchdown it was all Notre Dame the rest of the way. The Irish would come back onto the field and patiently strike with vengeance. They put together a 15-play, 75-yard drive that would end with a six-yard touchdown pass from Book to Claypool. The Irish would kick off to the Eagles with just under three minutes remaining in the first half. Boston College picked up a first down but the Irish forced them to a third-and-eight with 1:36 remaining. Irish head coach Brian Kelly elected to take his first timeout of the half at this time, and it seemed to work out well for the Irish as the very next play senior defensive end Adetokunbo Ogundeji stripped the ball from Grosel, but Boston College never recovered.

The Irish then took their second timeout and the Eagles were forced to punt as Notre Dame hoped to establish a two-touchdown lead before heading into the locker room, but this fell short. Still, a pass interference penalty by redshirt sophomore defensive back Jahmin Muse committed inside the 10-yard line put the Irish in field goal range with six seconds remaining in the half. Doerer was sent out onto the field again for a 45-yard field goal, which would conclude the half. 

From this point forward, the game was uneventful for the Eagles as all nine of their next possessions would result in either a punt, a fumble, an interception or a turnover on downs. The Irish, however, were able to pile it on in the third quarter. Doerer hit another field goal from 37 yards, Book found an open junior tight end Cole Kmet for an 11-yard touchdown and sophomore receiver Braden Lenzy found the endzone on a house call of a 61-yard jet sweep on the one-play drive that lasted just 11 seconds. The Irish found the end zone one more time in the fourth quarter after Book hit graduate student wide receiver Chris Finke, who was wide open in the back of the end zone. The Irish offensive onslaught was simply too much for the Eagles to handle as Notre Dame put up 501 offensive yards to Boston College’s 191.

Kelly spoke on his team’s win at his press conference following the game when asked how his team was able to contain Eagles junior running back AJ Dillon.

“How were we able to contain the Navy option? It is controlling the line of scrimmage? It’s not just one guy,” Kelly said. “We’ve lost two really good players on defense but other guys have stepped in. Our guys are very bought into our scheme, they are very disciplined, they trust each other, they do their job. … There are a lot of pieces to this in the sense that, you’ve got freshman defensive linemen out there. You’ve got some young players playing. [Graduate student defensive linebacker] Asmar Bilal was not a starter until this year [junior linebacker] Drew White wasn’t a starter until this year. So you have guys that are accountable, that trust what we are doing, that do their job.”

Bilal received the game ball for the Irish after recording eight total tackles, one for a loss and a pass breakup. 

Finally, as the Irish capped off their senior night for a squad that recorded a 4-8 record their freshman year, Kelly spoke on how proud he was of how far the group has come over the past four years. 

“So pleased for our seniors, I think that’s where we start,” Kelly said. “This class in particular didn’t start they way they wanted but they sure have finished it in an incredible fashion. … To now have [nearly] 30 regular season wins over the last three years, undefeated at home the last two years, those are things that have not been done for decades. So it’s a pretty special class of players. We talk about failure. Failure is not fatal; it is the ability to come back from those times and this group has certainly learned that and understands it.”

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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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