CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – A win is a win. Style points be damned. Notre Dame’s 21-6 win over Boston College on Saturday night might be remembered by Notre Dame fans and national onlookers as ugly, especially in the second half, but all that matters to head coach Brian Kelly is the ‘W’ that goes into the column on the left.
“We really can’t waste any of our energy,” Kelly began when asked after the game if style points cross his mind. “You see how hard it is to win in college football. You can’t worry about those things. We have to focus on what we can do and that is win it on the field. If people don’t like us winning I don’t know what else to tell you.”
Notre Dame’s defense did its typical ‘bend but don’t break’ routine for a good deal of the night. Boston College managed just two field goals and reached the red zone just once the entire game, but pushed the ball into Fighting Irish territory a half dozen times in the game. The Eagles used screen passes and misdirection plays to keep the Irish defense off balance as much as possible.
“We tried to tie down a little bit more tonight and play man,” Kelly said of his defense’s approach. “They got a couple screens out where they did a good job of getting us off our man and we got rubbed off a couple of times.”
BC running backs David Dudeck and Rolandan Finch combined for nine receptions for 65 yards, but the Eagles’ lack of a running game (53 net yards) allowed the Irish defense to settle-in when it needed to. While the defense did its job by holding BC to just 300 total yards, the offense was solid, but far from spectacular.
Notre Dame, which has averaged 200.3 rushing yards a game, managed 184 on the ground against a team that allows 235.The Irish also amassed 393 total yards, which is well below the 481 a game BC has surrendered per game this season. Fumbles by running backs Georg e Atkinson III and Theo Riddick kept the Irish from doing much more.
Atkinson’s fumble came in Eagle territory in the first half, while Riddick’s came near midfield in the third quarter.
“You saw it as well as I did,” Kelly said in frustration of the turnovers. “We run a nice play, we’re down at the 15, 16 yard line…forward progress is slightly stopped and the ball comes out. Theo Riddick virtually didn’t get hit and the ball came out. These are guys that have carried the ball a lot. They’ve gotta do a better job.”
Kelly still felt like his team played “hard” and “physical” throughout the game.
Third and Good
Notre Dame converted its first 10 third down opportunities of the game before finally failing to convert on a third and seven play in the third quarter. The Irish also converted its last two third down plays against Pittsburgh last week t gave them 12 consecutive successful third down plays.
“We did a nice job on third down,” Kelly said. “I thought that our quarterback play was really good. He picked up one of the best plays that I think he has had when he ran it on third down. He put his foot in the ground and went north and south and showed some real toughness. We were effective because our quarterback was effective tonight.”
The Irish finished the night 11-for-14 on third downs after starting 10-for-10. The 11 conversions tied for a season high with the 11-of-18 they managed in week two versus Purdue.
Wide receiver DaVaris Daniels and cornerback KeiVarae Russell were both banged-up in Saturday’s game. Daniels was in street clothes and wearing a sling by the time the final seconds ticked off the clock at the end of the game.
“We took him for precaution for an MRI,” Kelly said after confirming Daniels’ shoulder injury. “We’ll see where that is in the next 12 to 24 hours.”
Russell spent most of the second half standing on the sideline with his helmet off after making a third quarter tackle.
“I will say that he had a head injury,” Kelly said of the freshman cornerback. “We were conversing with him (and) he seemed to be doing well, but we’ll further evaluate that over the next 24 to 48 hours.”
Tonight’s game marked the fifth night game of the season for the Fighting Irish. They are all but certain to play a sixth night game when they travel to Los Angeles to play Southern Cal Thanksgiving weekend in what would be a sixth game under the lights in 2012. Notre Dame played a school record seven night games in 2011. That included their Champs Sports Bowl matchup against Florida State. They are likely to tie that record this year. Notre Dame is 67-36-2 in their 105 all-time night games.
Going the Distance
Notre Dame’s 95-yard touchdown drive on their first possession is their longest touchdown drive of the season. Their previous long was a 93-yard march against Miami just over a month ago in Chicago. It is also ND’s longest TD drive since a 99-yarder in last year’s season-opening loss to South Florida.
Everett Golson’s first quarter touchdown was his fifth rushing score of 2012. It is the most for a Notre Dame quarterback since Jarious Jackson ran for seven in 1999.
Another Te’o TO
Manti Te’o’s fourth quarter interception was his sixth pick of the season. It is a new Notre Dame school record by a linebacker. His six interceptions are also the most by any linebacker in the nation.
Linebacker Prince Shembo had three of ND’s four sacks on the night. It’s the best single-game sack total since Victor Abiamiri had three in a game against Stanford six years ago. It’s Shembo’s first multi-sack game of the season and the second of his career.
There will be some movement at the top of the BCS rankings when they come out Sunday night. No. 1 Alabama suffered its first loss of the season when it fell 29-24 to No. 15 Texas A&M in Tuscaloosa early Saturday evening. Kelly says he never talked to his players about the seismic loss, either before or after the game, but he and his staff did know beforehand.
“The coaches were just coming out for pregame,” Kelly says of hearing of the upset. “The TV was on and we saw that there was a loss at the top.”
“We’re just enjoying the victory, but we didn’t even talk about it. We talked about what we have to do to win next week against Wake Forest.”
No. 2 Kansas State beat TCU 23-10 and could achieve the program’s first ever No. 1 national ranking when the new rankings come out on Sunday. As of this writing, No. 3 Oregon was still playing Cal.
Here’s a look at the points that separated K-State, Oregon and Notre Dame in last week’s BCS rankings:
Notre Dame .9050
A BC Record
BC junior receiver Alex Amidon had six receptions for 84 yards. He is now his school’s single-season yardage leader with 1,157. The old mark of 1,149 was held since 1983 by Brian Brennan. Amidon has 69 receptions this season and needs eight to pass Brennan’s mark, which was also set in ’83. The Irish held Amidon well below his 119 yard per game average.