Game Observations - Defense: Notre Dame 40, Boston College 7
It is hard to imagine the Notre Dame defense playing any better than it did in the 40-7 beat down of Boston College.
The Eagles came into the game with a poor defense, but the offense ranked 33rd in the nation in scoring offense at 33.8 points per game and 12th in the nation at 483.7 yards per game. Notre Dame limited to Boston College to just seven points, 191 yards and just 3.0 yards per play.
Notre Dame completely shut down the BC run game, which came into the contest averaging 282.2 yards per game on the ground. BC finished the game with just 128 yards and 3.0 yards per rush, both the second lowest totals/average of the season for the Eagles. Clemson and Notre Dame are the only two teams to hold the BC offense under 150 rushing yards.
The Irish dominated BC on the ground and through the air, with Boston College completing just 9-of-21 passes for only 63 yards. Notre Dame sacked Boston College quarterback Dennis Grosel four times, which is an impressive stat when you consider the Eagle offensive line had allowed only six sacks in the first ten games of the season.
All three levels of the defense played a huge role in the victory, but it started up front. In my keys to victory article I wrote that Notre Dame needed to be disciplined in the box and still be aggressive, and the line and linebackers did just that. It was a well-designed game plan, and the players carried that game plan out at a high level.
The Notre Dame front four dominated on the edge and outplayed BC up the middle. That allowed the linebackers to play hard downhill, and the secondary did a great job in the run game and in coverage.
Notre Dame lined up in essentially a 4-3 alignment for much of the game
It was yet another in a long line of dominant performances by the Irish defense this season.
Let’s look at how the individual players performed:
*** Senior end Adetokunbo Ogundeji had what I feel was the best game of his career. His numbers were outstanding (6 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble), but his strong play went far beyond the box score. The senior end made disruptive players, including a career-high 3 TFL’s and 2 sacks. He got pressure with power and speed rushes. He had a third-quarter sack that changed the game. With Notre Dame up just 16-7 in the third quarter, Ogundeji had a 2nd-and-10 sack that led to a Boston College punt. That’s about when Notre Dame broke the game open, but that sack was huge because the Eagles had a tight end running wide open up the seam due to a linebacker mistake, but the quarterback didn’t have time to see the route develop.
*** Ogundeji was even better against the run. It started early when he perfectly read a jet sweep and chased the receiver down for a 4-yard loss. Ogundeji was extremely physical on the edge, and his ability to drive blockers off the ball kept the Eagle run game off balance all game long. Boston College got the ball first-and-goal from the 1-yard line in the second quarter, and Ogundeji dominated on the first and second down snaps and helped keep the Eagles out of the end zone on both plays.
*** Senior end Khalid Kareem also had another strong performance. Kareem was disruptive, forcing a fumble that led to the Irish blowing the game open and he also had a crucial sack. On another third-down, Kareem got a strong edge pressure that forced the QB to throw off his back foot, causing him to miss an open receiver for what would have been a first down. Kareem was physical in the run game and set the edge effectively, and he was effective shutting down the backside when the ball was run away from him.
*** Both drop ends had quality performances. Senior Jamir Jones held his own on the edge in the run game and helped sniff out a third-down screen attempt. Sophomore Ovie Oghoufo had a couple of quality pressures off the edge.
*** Despite not having talented sophomore Jayson Ademilola, the Irish defensive tackles played really good football from what I could see live. After a rough game against Navy, junior nose tackle Kurt Hinish bounced back and held up well against the Eagles. Hinish was physical and had multiple quick penetrations that helped throw off the timing of BC’s run game. The ability of Hinish and the rest of the interior defenders to push the BC line back and get into gaps all but eliminated the cutback lanes that have made the run game so effective in past games.
*** Junior DT Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa played a quality game prior to getting injured. He had multiple gap pushes and his backside hustle helped limit run lanes. Freshman DT Jacob Lacey had an outstanding game. He held up extremely well against double teams thanks to his ability to anchor and play with power. Lacey also used his quickness to get penetration, and he perfectly read a screen pass that ended another drive. Instead of getting up the field and thinking he was about to get a sack, Lacey immediately realized it was a screen, but instead of stopping and turning back he got his arms up, got in the quarterbacks line of sight and threw off the timing of the pass.
*** Sophomore NT Ja’mion Franklin was physical at the point of attack, using his natural pad level to win at the line. He was able to anchor effectively and had a couple of really strong power pushes into the backfield. When Tagovailoa-Amosa went down we saw freshman DT Hunter Spears get thrown into the mix. I’ll need to watch the film and break down all his snaps, but the 4-5 snaps where I keyed on Spears I really liked how physical he was and how quick he was off the ball.
*** Getting penetration up the middle also forced the BC running backs to make early cuts, which kept them from getting downhill with the force and speed we’ve seen in past games, which helped the linebackers and safeties more effectively bring them down.
*** The Irish linebackers were pressured in a big way in this game. BC has a really creative run game that puts them in tough spots, and having to tackle backs that weigh 250 and 241 yards is not easy. The line did a great job keeping the linebackers free, and the group responded with quality performances.
*** Junior rover Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah had to play all over the field today, but he wasn’t often in his customary slot position. DC Clark Lea had Owusu-Koramoah playing on the edge at times, and for many snaps he was playing inside in a stacked linebacker alignment in what was basically a 4-3 defensive alignment. I was impressed with how physical Owusu-Koramoah was in the game, both in taking on blocks and when he arrived at the ball carriers. Consider that Owusu-Koramoah weighs just 215 pounds, while the BC backs weigh 250 (AJ Dillon) and 241 (David Bailey) pounds.
*** There was a snap where Owusu-Koramoah got knocked back off the ball on a toss play, but outside of that his ability to beat blockers to the point of attack played a major role in BC not being able to get outside in the run game. His speed getting to spots caused the backs to make early cuts, and when tasked with playing the ball he was physical as a tackler. Owusu-Koramoah was also good in coverage, including coming up and drilling a receiver for a 1-yard loss on a crossing route. His awareness and closing speed on that play were elite. He did lose contain on the backside on BC’s only touchdown of the game.
*** Senior Asmar Bilal also had a key role in using his speed to beat the BC blockers to the point of attack in hopes of forcing the action back inside, and he executed that role effectively. Bilal’s play as the force defender in this game was more often than not top notch. Bilal also played a physical downhill game and tackled well. He got beat on a drag route in the pass game, but he recovered well and broke up the pass.
*** BC tried to run a reverse in the third quarter in hopes of creating a big play to get back in the game, but Owusu-Koramoah and Bilal played it perfectly.
*** Junior Drew White had a few missed run fits in the game, and if my read on the play is correct, he was the linebacker that turned the tight end loose on the Ogundeji sack. But he also did some good things in the game. White is undersized (230 pounds), but he was physical at the point of attack when playing the big BC backs between the tackles. His range allowed him to make a lot of plays on the perimeter and he was effectively on runs away.
*** Senior safety Alohi Gilman perfectly executed and time a third-down blitz on the opening drive of the game, ending that dive with a sack. He and fellow senior Jalen Elliott were very good in the game, with Elliott thriving in coverage and Gilman handling run game duties. Gilman finished with seven tackles, tying for the team-high with five solo stops. He and Elliott shut down a seam throw on the opening drive, with Gilman playing the underneath lane and Elliiott taking away the top of the route. Elliott jumped a tight end wheel on a third-down to force an incompletion on a snap where BC was trying to hit a big play.
*** Freshman safety Kyle Hamilton got ran over a couple of times, but I loved that he stuck his skinny body into the mix and never backed down from the big BC backs. He got beat on a corner route, but he is just so long that he was still able to break up the pass.
*** Hamilton showed good awareness on his fourth quarter interception. He was in trail position on the play and the ball was way behind the wide receiver, but Hamilton was able to quickly see the throw and pick it off. It might seem like an easy play, but I see that type of throw get dropped by defensive backs all the time, but Hamilton made the play.
*** Hamilton also played a role in the Kareem fumble that was shown above. Kareem made the strip and White made the recovery, but Hamilton flying upfield and forcing the run back inside so early allowed Kareem to make that play.
*** Sophomore CB TaRiq Bracy bit on a wheel route in the first quarter, which resulted in him getting beat for a 39-yard gain that set up BC’s only touchdown. After that, Bracy settled down and played a really good game. He was tight in coverage throughout the game, made the passing windows small and was around the ball quite a bit in the pass game. Senior Troy Pride Jr. also performed well in coverage in the win.
*** For the most part, the Irish cornerbacks did a really good job in run support.