Notre Dame improved to 7-3 this season with a 35-32 nailbiter victory over the Midshipmen of Navy last Saturday and this game was truly a tale of two halves. After a dominant opening half, the Irish could not find anything to work after halftime and had just enough offensive output to escape with the win. On the bright side, the win did enough to move Notre Dame up to number 18 in the College Football Playoff rankings and a strong finish to the year will continue to benefit the Irish.
In the first half of last week’s game, Drew Pyne and Notre Dame racked up five touchdowns and had a great deal of success through the air. Pyne threw for four touchdowns, one to Braden Lenzy, Jayden Thomas, Audric Estime, and Chris Tyree each and the offense seemed to be rolling. I was thoroughly impressed with the Irish passing game and with five touchdowns in a half, you would think that the game would have been all but over at that point in time. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Notre Dame was outscored 19-0 in the second half, and I have to give a lot of credit to the fight that the Midshipmen displayed doing everything in their power to erase a 22-point deficit in the final two quarters. As impressed as I was with the first half passing game, there was a lot left to be desired on both sides of the ball for the Irish as well.
Coming out of halftime, it looked as though Notre Dame was content with the outcome at that point and did not display any “killer instincts”. The Navy defense was continually providing pressure and Notre Dame’s offensive line was having a great deal of trouble trying to stop it. The long passes that were connecting in the first half were no where to be found and the Irish ground game, that has been a staple of the offense for the majority of the season, was continually getting stopped for little to no gain. Notre Dame finished the game with only 66 total rushing yards, not impressive by any stretch of the word. Thanks to the production in the first half, the Irish totaled more yards though the air than the Midshipmen but were outgained 363 to 335 in total yards. Notre Dame’s defense had trouble all game long stopping the fullback dive and even gave up multiple long pass plays to a Navy offense that isn’t known for gaining yards through the air. It is worth noting that due to injuries, JD Bertrand and Brandon Joseph were certainly missed, but that still does not excuse the lack of production on Notre Dame’s defensive side of the ball. In a way, this game perfectly epitomized this season for the Irish – when things are clicking, Notre Dame can compete with any team in the nation, but when things aren’t…not even a 22-point lead is secure against sub-500 Naval Academy. I understand that at the end of the day, getting out of there with a win and minimal injuries suffered is most important, but consistent production on both sides of the ball doesn’t seem like too much to ask for.
Looking ahead to this Saturday, the matchup against Boston College marks the final home game of Notre Dame’s 2022 season. The Eagles have a lot of Irish connections making a return to Notre Dame Stadium – transfer quarterback Phil Jurkovec, transfer tight end George Takacs, and former tight ends coach John McNulty – are all part of the Eagles’ operation and could provide some added motivation for current Irish players to heighten their levels of play. Although Boston College’s record is only 3-7 thus far, the Eagles are coming off of a very respectable win over a now 7-3 NC State team last week. The Eagles, on average, are being outscored by nine points per game from their opponents and present another matchup in which Notre Dame should have superior talent at almost every position. We will see if that is evident on the field or not.
As former Irish quarterback Phil Jurkovec has been battling injuries all season, he remains questionable for Saturday’s matchup. If Jurkovec is not cleared to play, expect sophomore quarterback Emmett Morehead to captain the Eagle’s offense. Running back Pat Garwo and wide receiver Zay Flowers are two of Boston College’s offensive weapons – Garwo racking up nearly 300 ground yards, and Flowers totaling almost 1000 receiving yards. Flowers also enters Saturday’s game just a few receptions, yards, and touchdowns short of breaking multiple Eagles’ records and it will be up to the Irish secondary to prevent those records from being broken for at least another week. What gives me a great deal of hope when the Eagles are on offense is lack of production from their offensive line. This unit is giving up nearly four sacks per game and I expect the Notre Dame defensive line to have a Thanksgiving feast in the backfield. Pressure on the quarterback will result in less time for Flowers and the rest of the wide receiving corps to get open down the field which will significantly help out the Irish corners. It is worth noting that in the last two games in which Emmett Morehead has played in, he has attempted at least 40 pass attempts per game, so any help the Notre Dame secondary can get will be much appreciated. The Eagles’ main source of offensive production is through the air, so I will be very interested to see if Saturday’s weather affects this in any way.
Boston College’s defense has had quite a bit of success even though they are giving up 28 points per game. Kam Arnold, Josh DeBerry, Jason Maitre, Elijah Jones, and Cole Batson all have at least one interception on the year and the defense has recovered four fumbles through ten games. The same question for the Irish remains prevalent in game number 11 this year – what offense are we going to see? With Saturday’s forecast calling for below freezing temperatures with a chance of snow, I expect there to be a heavy reliance on the rushing attack. I expect this to be a bit of a slog on both sides of the ball, but with Notre Dame’s superior talent, I do expect win number eight will be achieved. At this point in time, the Irish are 20.5-point favorites for this Senior Day matchup which sounds great until you realize that Notre Dame is 0-5 against the spread when they are favored by a touchdown or more. I don’t know if the Irish will be able to cover this week, and Boston College does have enough offensive weapons that I could see them converting a few chunk plays against the Irish, but if Notre Dame’s two lines can be the focal point on the field, the seniors should be sent out as they deserve to be – with a win. Notre Dame 28, Boston College 17 in a game that won’t feel as close as that final score may indicate. Go Irish. Beat Eagles.
A Look at Notre Dame’s Opponents:
Ohio State: 10-0 overall, currently ranked #2, beat Indiana 56-14
Marshall: 6-4 overall, beat App State 28-21
California: 3-7 overall, lost to Oregon State 38-10
North Carolina: 9-1 overall, currently ranked #13, beat Wake Forest 36-34
BYU: 5-5 overall, coming off bye week
Stanford: 3-7 overall, lost to Utah 42-7
UNLV: 4-6 overall, lost to Fresno State 37-30
Syracuse: 6-4 overall, lost to Florida State 38-3
Clemson: 9-1 overall, currently ranked #9, beat Louisville 31-16
Navy: 3-7 overall, lost to Notre Dame 35-32
Boston College: 3-7 overall, beat NC State 21-20
USC: 9-1 overall, currently ranked #7, beat Colorado 55-17