BOSTON - The first football game in almost 50 years slated Boston College (3-8) against Notre Dame (10-1). In front of a sellout crowd of 38,686 the fourth-ranked Irish, who hosted the matchup as part of the sixth installment of the Shamrock Series.
Despite forcing five turnovers throughout the contest and losing their top running back C.J. Prosise to a reported high ankle sprain in the second quarter, the Irish were able to stymie the Eagles offense and put enough points on the board to survive an upset.
On their opening drive the Irish marched down the field, as six plays into the game Notre Dame had first and goal at the Eagles seven. But Deshone Kizer’s fade pass into the endzone didn’t have enough air under it and cornerback John Johnson picked off the pass. Kizer finished the game 20 of 38 for 320 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions.
But the Eagles offense couldn’t move the ball on the drive following the interception, or at all in the first quarter. BC only moved the chains once in the first 15 minutes on 26 total yards of offense, all on the ground.
After an Eagles punt on their first drive, the Irish went eight plays and 64 yards to set up a Justin Yoon field goal from 30 yards out for the first points of the game.
On the Eagles’ third drive, after punting on their first two, the Eagles tried a fake punt but the Irish read the play and took over on downs at the BC 48. Kizer completed a 17-yard pass to Prosise, who fumbled at the BC 23, but Notre Dame was able to regain possession. Three plays later, the Irish faced a fourth and 13 and a 44-yard field goal attempt by Yoon hit the right upright, but a late roughing the passer on the Eagles gave the Irish a new set of downs from the 13 yard line. Following a three-yard rush, Kizer found Amir Carlisle for a 10-yard touchdown pass to put the Irish up 10.
Asked about his quarterback after the game, Irish head coach Brian Kelly said in his postgame press conference that he thought Kizer “stayed aggressive and stayed in the moment.”
“But he is going to learn so much and take so much from today's game that you sometimes can't practice. Better decision making, and the great thing about it is he's so committed and cares so much about wanting to be a better quarterback -- it's a hard job playing quarterback at this level, and he learned a lot today.”
In the second quarter, the Eagles came up with two more key turnovers to keep the Irish out of the end zone. After the defense forced a Notre Dame punt, Tyler Newsome sent a booming 50-yard kick to the BC 10. Returner Sherman Allston muffed the punt and the ball was recovered by Notre Dame at the 4-yard line.
But the Irish were without their top running back, as the previous drive Prosise left the game with assistance with the ankle sprain. So Notre Dame tried on first, second, and third down to rush the ball in with Josh Adams but the third time wasn’t the charm as Adams coughed it up. Matt Milano forced a fumble and returned it to the BC 16 to again keep the Irish from scoring.
The Eagles offense continued to struggle in the first half as BC was shut out, tallying just 91 yards, converting four first downs thanks to a 1-8 third down conversion rate. At one point early on in the third, BC’s defense had forced as many turnovers (5), as their offense had first downs.
Boston College’s special teams started off the second half well, as Michael Walker took Newsome’s kickoff 67 yards to the Irish 27. After a three-and-out from the offense, Colton Lichtenberg nailed his second career field goal to bring the score within 7.
Asked about the freshman kicker after the game, head coach Steve Addazio said in his postgame press conference that he “was really happy to see that... in a big stage, in a big moment, that occurred. That's progress."
Notre Dame looked like they were going to counter the following drive but a Justin Simmons interception, his first of two on the day, at his team’s three-yard line again kept the Irish out of the end zone.
After BC again failed to move the chains, Notre Dame again marched down the field, compiling an eight-play, 73-yard drive that ended in a Kizer to Chris Brown 12-yard touchdown. Brown was the leading receiver for the game finishing with six receptions for 104 yards.
The two-point conversion was no good, but the Irish went into the final frame up 13 and on their first drive of the fourth, Notre Dame would tack on another field goal, bringing the score to 19-3.
Despite the deficit Boston College would not give up. Quarterback Jeff Smith, who came into the game in the second half, ran the option with Marcus Outlow and kept it himself. Smith found a hole and darted through the secondary, scampering 80 yards for the touchdown. BC would go for two, but fail to convert bringing the score to 19-9.
With under four minutes left in the fourth and with the Eagles using two quarterbacks, the offense were able to drive 86 yards on nine plays ending in a Smith pass to Charlie Callinan for a touchdown.
BC was unable to recover the onside kick with under a minute remaining and Notre Dame was able to run out the clock, narrowly escaping the upset.
Notre Dame, who is contending for a spot in the College Football Playoff, made sure everyone knew they were focused on Stanford. When asked about how the win would look in the eyes of the playoff committee, Kelly said “The committee is out of my hands. It's out of our players' hands. All we want to do is put ourselves in a position to be considered. We feel like we need to win another game to still be considered.”
And for the Eagles, who dropped to 3-8 on the season, Addazio stressed that learning from Saturday was all about building for the future.
“We can't worry about the ones that we miss. We were going to be aggressive in everything that we did, and that's what we did tonight. I'm proud of the way our team played and fought, and I thought that we could see the makings of where we're heading in the future. I'm excited for the development of our football team.”
Boston College heads to the Carrier Dome next week to take on in-conference rival Syracuse (3-8), while Notre Dame travels to Palo Alto to play nationally-ranked Stanford.