Grades: Notre Dame Offense vs. Boston College
It was a sloppy performance for the offense, but in the end Notre Dame out-matched and out-manned a poor Boston College offense en route to a 40-7 victory.
The offense did a good job moving the ball against Boston College, racking up 501 yards, which is the fifth most yards the Eagles allowed this season, but the Irish were sloppy for much fo the game. Notre Dame relied on its own defense giving it a lot of short fields, and it out-played an Eagle defense that has been bad all season.
Notre Dame’s skill players made a lot of plays, and the Boston College secondary had no answers for them. When quarterback Ian Book finally settled into the game he was able to make enough throws to put Boston College away.
The Irish offense did extremely well on third-down, converting a season-high ten third downs on 19 chances. It marked just the fourth time all season Notre Dame topped 50-percent on third-down, and the 19 third-down chances were the second most of the season. The fact Notre Dame got to so many third-downs speaks to the inefficiency of the unit, but the positive is that when it did get to third-down it thrived.
The offense also converted a crucial fourth-down in the second quarter that allowed the Irish to retake the lead after it fell behind.
That was a key to the game as well, when the offense needed a drive or a score it got it. It answered Boston College’s only score of the game with a 15-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. In the second half the offense got back-to-back possessions to start in BC territory, and both ended with scores to make it a 26-7 game. On its next possession, the Irish needed just one pay to all but put the game away.
Notre Dame rushed for 252 yards in the game, but that number is incredibly deceiving. Notre Dame had over 100 yards from its quarterbacks, and the vast majority of Book’s 66 rushing yards were on scrambles. The Irish got 42 rushing yards from its backup quarterback and another 61 yards on a jet sweep where no one was blocked. The inability to get any kind of push in the run game against a defense with a poor run defense dragged this grade down.
QB #12 Ian Book - Grade: B — 26-40, 65.0%, 239 yards, 3 TD’s, 0 INT / 66 rush yards — If this is the new normal for Ian Book, where games like Navy are his peak and games like Boston College are his valley, then he has finally become a player that you can compete with top teams against.
Against the Eagles, Book was rushed early, and throughout the first half he went away from his initial read way too quickly, which is why he rarely threw the ball downfield. After throwing 14 passes of at least 20 yards or more in the previous two games (Duke, Navy), Book attempted just three such passes against the Eagles. One came on the first play from scrimmage and another was on a scramble play, which meant after the first play Book attempted just one drop back throw of more than 20 yards.
Twenty-eight of Book’s 40 pass attempts were less than 10 yards down the field, and he completed 20 of those throws. Book had some uncharacteristic inaccuracy on a number of short throws, but overall he got the ball where it needed to go.
Boston College threw some wrinkles at Notre Dame from a coverage standpoint, and after a few early miscues that almost turned into turnovers, Book got a read on what he was seeing and we didn’t see him get into that kind of trouble again. Boston College was taking away outside throws, so Book attacked the middle of the field effectively, completing 20-of-27 passes between the numbers, and three of those completions went for touchdowns.
Book was poised in the pocket and didn’t rush, which allowed him to make some clutch third-down throws in the game, especially in the third quarter. Book went 7-of-11 for 61 yards on third-down, with six of those completions going for first downs. By staying in the pocket and not overreacting to the rush, Book was able to find run lanes, which helped him churn out 66 yards, mostly on scrambles.
QB #16 Phil Jurkovec — 1-1, 10 yards / 42 rush yards — Jurkvoec didn’t play enough to get a grade, but once again he showed off his playmaking ability. He converted a third-down with a perfectly placed slide route throw that put the ball on the tight ends back-shoulder, which forced the tight end to turn his hips to catch the ball, preventing him from running into the corner and allowing him to pick up the first down. Jurkovec also showed he’s a threat with his legs.
It continues to mystify me why the staff is so reluctant to put him into the game. Twice in the fourth quarter, with the Irish leading 33-7, they put Book back in the game, ignoring a chance to get Jurkovec some much-needed experience, with Brian Kelly says is one of the things holding him back.
RB #6 Tony Jones Jr. - Grade: C — 15 carries, 61 yards, 4.1 YPC / 1 catch, 6 yards — Jones had a good game running the football. There was very little room to work in the run game, but Jones ran with authority and maximized his yards. He moved the chains effectively, and when he did get room to work he picked up chunk yards.
The issue for Jones is that he was abysmal in pass protection. Normally a reliable pass blocker, Jones had multiple misses against the Eagles. He looked unsure of who to block at times, and instead of stepping into defenders with authority, there were too many snaps where Jones just threw a shoulder into the rusher, which didn’t work.
RB #20 C’Bo Flemister - Grade: C — 5 carries, 10 yards, 2.0 YPC — Flemister was far too impatient against Boston College. The talented young runner got downhill too quickly, and the result was he didn’t allow the blocking to set up to the point where he could cut and pick up positive yards. It didn’t help Flemister or any of the backs that the line was constantly getting no movement, or even getting knocked back.
WR #83 Chase Claypool - Grade: B — 7 catches, 60 yards, 8.6 YPC, 1 TD — Claypool didn’t do damage down the field like we’ve see in past games, but that had a lot to do with how Boston College defended him. The Eagles spent a lot of time playing tight at the line with a cornerback and then putting a safety over the top.
Claypool then adapted, making plays in the quick game and over the middle of the field. Claypool made two first-down grabs - including a 3rd-and-6 conversion - on the drive that put Notre Dame back up in the second quarter. He finished that drive off with a slant route touchdown in which he whipped the cornerback at the line with his release.
All six of Claypool’s receptions went for either a first down or a touchdown. Claypool did good work in the run game, and his grade would have been higher if he didn’t drop a possible touchdown pass on a crossing route early in the game, forcing a field goal attempt.
WR #10 Chris Finke - Grade: B+ — 7 catches, 71 yards, 10.1 YPC, 1 TD — Finke continued his strong finish to the season against Boston College. He tied for the team lead with seven catches, and five of those seven grabs either moved the chains or went for a score. Finke started the game off with a sharp corner route for a 21-yard gain, and it was indicative of his performance. His route running was top notch, which allowed Finke to get separation in key moments.
Finke converted a 4th-and-3 with a well-executed pivot route, and he converted a 3rd-and-14 with a well-run in cut for 14 yards. He worked himself open on a scramble to get into the end zone for Notre Dame’s final score of the game.
WR #25 Braden Lenzy - Grade: B — 1 carry, 61 yards, 1 TD — Lenzy was targeted just once in the pass game, and the ball was broken up. I would like to see Lenzy attack that ball a bit better, but the defense did a good job on the play as well. The only other time he was given a chance to make a play he ripped off a 61-yard touchdown run to break the game open.
WR #13 Lawrence Keys - Grade: C — 2 catches, 11 yards, 5.5 YPC — Keys made two grabs in the game that went for 11 yards. He blocked extremely well in the game, but he dropped a chance for his first career touchdown in the fourth quarter.
TE #84 Cole Kmet - Grade: B — 7 catches, 78 yards, 11.1 YPC, 1 TD — Kmet was limited in the pass game the previous two games, catching just two passes. He was got back involved against BC and he performed well. Kmet worked the short-game effectively and hauled in an impressive sideline grab on a scramble for a 26-yard gain. Kmet had a third-down drop on a ball that was off-target, but it’s still a throw he should catch.
Offensive Line - Grade: C- — This is a change from how I normally due grades, but it’s out of necessity. The run game performance was so poor, and the line had so many mistakes handling the Boston College stunts and line games that it is impossible for me to hand out grades without knowing the protection calls and how the run game blocking assignments were installed. The line as a whole underperformed, there is no question about that. The numbers are heavily skewed by Book making plays as a scrambler and the backup line adding on extra yards, plus you had a jet sweep that went 61 yards, but the line had nothing to do with that run.
Boston College caused a lot of problems in the first half by mixing up its front and showing looks that it hadn’t shown much of in the past. The line games it did out of those looks completely threw off the Notre Dame line, and it took them way too long to adjust.
On far too many snaps we saw the offensive linemen coming off the ball by taking a step, then catching defenders, which is why much of the game was spent at the line or on the Notre Dame side of the line. There were multiple runs where it seemed like the back gained more yards, but when you look at the play the gains were short because the line was knocked back so far that the runner needed a couple of yards past the line before he was back to the original line of scrimmage.
Pass protection was up-and-down early, but once the line got a good read on the pressures they were able to shut down Boston College early. But even then, the fact the line had so much trouble in the first half against the Boston College defense is problematic when you consider the Eagles registered just 11 sacks in its first 10 games of the season and ranks No. 113 in pass rush according to Pro Football Focus.
Senior left tackle Liam Eichenberg was good in pass protection, but he was too inconsistent in the run game. Left guard Aaron Banks played way too high and continued his season-long technique issues, especially when it comes to footwork. He struggled to finish and often seemed unsure of who to block in pass protection, especially early. I felt center Jarrett Patterson played a solid game, especially in pass pro, but the right side of the line struggled for much of the contest when it came to running the football.