On 3rd-and-7 from the Eagles 24-yard line, Ryan dropped back in the pocket. Notre Dame applied pressure and made the Boston College quarterback throw off-balance. Ryan directed his pass in some traffic and waiting for the ball was Smith. The freshman outside linebacker caught it, ran left and raced down the sidelines into the end zone for a touchdown. The score cut the deficit to 20-14 and the huge play made Notre Dame Stadium erupt.
The interception return for a touchdown was the first for an Irish freshman since 1976. In that year, Bobby Leopold returned an interception 57 yards for a score.
***A huge play that occurred in Saturday's contest was after Smith's 25-yard interception return for a touchdown. The freshman was mobbed his teammates as the group piled on one another in the end zone as the deficit was cut to 20-14. The referees thought the celebration was a little too excessive as a flag was thrown.
The result: instead of kicking off from the 30-yard line, the ball would be moved back to the 15. Weis elected not to kick the ball out of bounds, which would have given Boston College the ball at their own 35-yard line. Instead, a pooch kick was opted for. Brad Newman returned it 18 yards to the Irish 44-yard line. Five plays later, the Eagles' Matt Ryan hit Kevin Challenger for a 13-yard scoring strike to push the Boston College lead up to 27-14. Some of the defensive players didn't agree with the penalty.
"I think it was big," linebacker Joe Brockington said. "When we kicked off, they got the ball in positive territory. We ended up giving up a touchdown. It was sort of the same celebration we had at the UCLA game. I wasn't really expecting a flag. There were a bunch of things that went on in the game that were questionable. But that's their job. They're the referees and we have to just play."
"I thought that when you're celebrating with your team, that was fine," safety Tom Zbikowski said. "Obviously, we took it too far and got the penalty."
***Brockington led the team in tackles with 13 stops. The fifth-year senior had 10 solo tackles and three assists, including a half tackle for loss. Brockington is now second on the team 57 stops. Trevor Laws is tops with 58.
"I think its been there," Brockington said of his performance on the field. "It's just a matter of getting an opportunity. This year, I had experience coming back. It's not something I picked up over night."
***Senior Maurice Crum got hurt in last weekend's 20-6 victory over UCLA when the linebacker for kicked in the shin. Crum tried to play this week but was replaced quickly in the first quarter after it was apparent he could not go. The senior did not record a tackle on the afternoon.
"Mo has been hobbled since the second quarter of last week, and he went out and just practiced a little bit this week, and we figured we'd go out there and he would try to go, and I told him that I would not do anything to endanger him to make it any worse than where it is right there," Weis said. "And there came a point where he got out there early, we were going to play him at nickel defense and not playing him at regular, and after a little while it was pretty obvious that he just didn't have enough juice to go. So we pulled the plug on that."
***Boston College came into the contest with a high-powered attack. The Eagles were averaging 35 points per game, led by quarterback Matt Ryan's 1,856 passing yards and 16 touchdowns. On the first drive, it looked as if this would continue. Boston College marched right down the field in five plays to take a quick 7-0 lead. Andre Callender scored the touchdown on the drive, the first of three on the day.
The Eagles racked up impressive first half numbers. Boston College had 263 yards of total offense at intermission, 169 through the air and 94 more on the ground. In the second half, the Irish stiffened a little bit, allowing 196 yards of total offense and held the Eagles to 3-of-10 on 3rd down conversions. There were positives, such as Smith's return. But there's also a lot more work to do for the improving unit.
"I think they're definitely playing better, but still, over 250 yards of offense in the first half," Weis said. "I think that that's not what we're looking for. We still gave up a big play on the run, and that's not what we're looking for. We still had them pinned down a few times and had them change field position, and that's not what we're looking for, either.
"That being said, I think that the defense has definitely upped their speed of the game and they're playing tough and they're playing hard, just I think we have to do a better job across the board. I'm encouraged by plenty of the things I see on defense. I'm encouraged by a whole bunch of them. But obviously we can't make enough plays to win the game."
***Fifth-year senior Trevor Laws blocked a 34-yard field goal in the second quarter to thwart a Boston College scoring chance. The block was Laws' second of the year and fifth of his career. Laws also had 11 tackles against Boston College.