It wasn’t always pretty, it was sometimes sloppy, but in the end Notre Dame earned a convincing 40-7 blowout victory over Boston College.
Notre Dame struggled early offensively, at least when it came to putting the ball in the end zone. Employing a pass-oriented offensive game plan against a poor Eagle defense, Notre Dame gained at least 50 yards on four of its first five possessions, but it had to settle for field goals on three of those drives.
Unforced errors (penalties), the inability to run the ball and execution miscues plagued the offense in the first half and early in the third quarter, but to the unit’s credit, when the defense gave it a chance to blow the game open it took full advantage. Thanks to great play from the defense, the Irish offense started back-to-back third quarter drives in BC territory, and after settling for a field goal on the first drive, the offense punched in a touchdown on the second short field.
After getting the ball at its own 39-yard line after another BC punt, the offense broke the game open with a jet sweep from sophomore wide receiver Braden Lenzy that went for a 61-yard touchdown to make it a 33-7 game.
The run game didn’t perform nearly as well as the numbers showed. Notre Dame ended up with 252 yards on the ground, but 61 of that came on a jet sweep where literally no one on the edge was blocked (didn’t need to be), 42 of that came from the backup quarterback making plays and most of Book’s 66 rushing yards were on scrambles. Notre Dame’s RB rotation averaged just 2.9 yards per carry in the game.
Let’s look at how the individual players performed:
*** Senior quarterback Ian Book was sloppy at times, and he had some misses in the game that were uncharacteristic, including overthrowing Cole Kmet on a would be touchdown, missing Chase Claypool on a simple curl route and throwing behind Kmet again on a short slide. Book went away from his deep reads a bit too early during the early portion of the game, and that led to the offense stalling out a bit early on. Book also stared down some early reads, which led to Boston College almost picking off a couple of early throws.
*** There were also some good things Book did in the game. He did a nice job finding openings over the middle with the short and intermediate throws, he avoided a lot of the pressure BC brought, including hitting a third-and-7 throw as he was being dragged to the ground. Book had an excellent third-down throw in the third quarter where he side stepped the pressure, reset his feet and hit Chris Finke on an In cut. On another third-down throw, Book kept his eyes downfield as the pocket collapsed around him and fired a strike to Finke in coverage to convert a third-and-8.
*** Notre Dame went 10-19 on third-down against BC, and Book’s ability to stay poised and make throws was a big part of that. Even though he rushed through his reads at times, I liked how Book kept his eyes downfield, which not only helped him hit a few throws no the move, it also kept the BC defenders back as he ran, which left room to run when he decided to scramble.
*** Book did a good job riding out a fake on his third-quarter touchdown pass to Cole Kmet, which drew in the linebackers and got his tight end open for the score. His downfield accuracy wasn’t there today, but he did a good job making plays with his legs, leading the offense with 66 rushing yards on 12 carries.
Here's that play-fake I was referring to:
*** Senior RB Tony Jones Jr. ran hard in a game where there was often little room to work. The surprising part of his performance was how many misses he had in pass protection. Normally an outstanding pass blocker, Jones spent too much time trying to throw shoulders into defenders instead of stepping up with authority, which resulted in a number of misses that impacted the throwing game. At least three of the inside pressures against Book were plays where Jones either whiffed or barely got a piece of a defender.
*** Senior WR Chase Claypool had a bad drop in the second quarter on a crossing route that might have gone for a touchdown, which will ultimately drag down his grade a bit when my Monday breakdown comes out. Outside of that this was a strong performance from the veteran receiver. He didn’t do much damage down the field based on the game plan, but he moved the chains, worked the sidelines and blocked effectively in the run game and when Book scrambled.
*** Fifth-year senior WR Chris Finke had a quietly impactful game. Finke worked the middle of the field incredibly well, and his numbers could have been even better than the seven catches fo 71 yards (and a touchdown) that he racked up based on other snaps where he was open but didn't get the ball. Finke was up-and-down in the run game, but he was sharp with his routes and caught the ball well. He executed an excellent pivot route on a second-quarter 4th-and-3 that allowed him to get open for a chain-moving 6-yard reception. Three plays later, Book hit Claypool for a 6-yard touchdown pass on a slant.
*** Sophomore WR Braden Lenzy was only targeted once in the pass game and only got one shot in the run game, but he made the most of it. Lenzy out-ran the defense for a 61-yard touchdown on a third-quarter jet sweep to blow the game open.
*** After being held to just two combined catches over the last two games, junior TE Cole Kmet was a much bigger part of the game plan against BC. Kmet was used in the play-action game effectively, making plays on quick slide routes and also getting open on a red zone seam throw for a touchdown. Kmet had an excellent sideline toe-tap catch for 26 yards on a scramble, which was his biggest play of the game. I’ll have to break down the film to truly evaluate his blocking, but on the snaps where I keyed on him and sophomore TE Tommy Tremble I thought they acquitted themselves well.
*** The offensive line had an incredibly difficult time in the first half, with three false start penalties, multiple misses in protection and overall poor run blocking. BC ran a number of simple inside stunts that the line consistently missed early in the game. When BC tried a more straight up pass rush the protection was excellent, but the interior blockers had a difficult time if BC brought anything other than a straight up pass rush.
*** The other issue the line had, especially in the first half, was with the exception of LT Liam Eichenberg and occasionally LG Aaron Banks, the line had a very hard time getting any kind of push in the run game. Far too often the line would step, catch and then get knocked back instead of firing off the ball with force. This threw off the timing of the run game and kept the backs from getting downhill with any authority. Far too many snaps occurred where the action was happening on the Notre Dame side of the line of scrimmage.
*** Right guard Trevor Ruhland had trouble getting movement the game, but he did have a very good second level block on a Buck Sweep play that sprung Jones for 18 yards in the second quarter.
*** Left guard Aaron Banks was way too inconsistent. He had a couple of strong double teams with Eichenberg, but he was also late reacting to inside stunts on a number of snaps, and he was late getting over to a linebacker blitz that resulted in a run through. He did have a strong second level block on a G Scheme block in the third quarter that sprung Jones for seven yards.