Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 26, 2022*

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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24 NOV. 26, 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED 1. Rushing Back To Form Notre Dame quickly learned running into Navy's loaded boxes and all-out blitzes would be a fruit- less endeavor. Boston College, though, did not follow the same blueprint. The Eagles' run defense — already a below-average unit in most categories — gave Notre Dame more favorable numbers. The Irish took advantage. They rushed for 281 yards, their second-highest output this year (297 at North Carolina Sept. 24), and 4 touchdowns. They had 214 yards on 9.7 yards per carry in the first half. Head coach Marcus Freeman said re-establishing the run was an emphasis coming into the game, no matter what defensive fronts Boston College un- furled. It's the primary ingredient in Notre Dame's winning formula. It feels like the key to beating USC in the regular- season finale, given the Trojans' issues defending the run. It will also help the Irish play keep-away from USC's potent offense. 2. Ben Morrison's Growth Continues The freshman cornerback stole Senior Day and added to his claim as Notre Dame's best defensive back this year. He became the 15th player in team history with 3 interceptions in one game. He wasted little time making an impact. Bos- ton College targeted him on its first snap, and he never gave Eagles wide receiver Joseph Griffin Jr. a chance to make the catch. Two plays later, he snagged his first interception when he stepped in front of a receiver. Boston College quarterback Emmett Morehead tried to challenge him again downfield later in the first quarter. Morrison played the ball better than Griffin and high-pointed it. Morrison's third interception was on a deflected pass. Morehead tempted fate again in the sec- ond half by throwing at him on a deep ball, and succeeded in completing a 32-yard pass to wide receiver Taji Johnson. Morrison has given Notre Dame another physical corner outside who can handle bigger receivers while injecting some needed ball skills into the Irish's secondary. 3. Boston College Was Predictably One-Dimensional Boston College entered the game ranked last nationally in yards per carry (2.11), due in large part to an offensive line besieged by injuries that already had to replace four starters from last year. The Eagles beat then-No. 16 North Carolina State Nov. 12 despite finishing with minus-1 rushing yards. Sure enough, they came out wanting to throw and disinterested in running. Morehead unloading a deep ball on the first play was a preview of their pass-game focus. Boston College gave its running backs 6 carries in the first half, totaling 18 yards. Morehead, though, could not give the Eagles an of- fensive pulse like he did in the prior two games. He began this one 1-of-7 passing, with more comple- tions to Morrison than his own teammates. Boston College essentially conceded the run game before even taking the field, but Notre Dame ensured none of its intermittent attempts turned into a big play. The Eagles' longest rush was 8 yards. All told, they ran for 56 yards on 36 carries. Remove sacks, and those totals increase to 89 yards on 32 attempts — still a paltry 2.78 yards per rush. No running back averaged more than 3.6 yards per carry. 4. Winning Field Position Notre Dame's average field position was at least 13 yards better than its opponent for the fifth straight game. The Irish's average starting spot was their own 43-yard line. Boston College, meanwhile, was its own 27. They were +13 yards in net field position against Navy, +16 against Clemson, +18 against Syracuse and +20 against UNLV. The Irish won field position despite an average day from their special teams. They had two kickoffs sail out of bounds and a muffed punt, though a 28-yard punt return gave them a start at Boston College's 48-yard line. Graduate student kicker Blake Grupe was 3 of 3 on field goals, including two from at least 40 yards. Notre Dame's field position advantage came from its turnover production, which felt like a sudden progression to the mean packed into one game. The Fighting Irish had 8 turnovers in their first 10 games, which was tied for 124th nationally entering the game. They forced 5 against Boston College — 3 Morrison interceptions, a sack/fum- ble from senior linebacker Jack Kiser and senior linebacker Marist Liufau's fumble recovery on a dropped lateral. 5. Slowing Zay Flowers Notre Dame defensive coordinator Al Golden said Boston College wide receiver Zay Flowers was "in the same league" as Ohio State's Jaxon Smith- Njigba and North Carolina's Josh Downs, both of whom are projected early round picks in the NFL Draft. Flowers became Boston College's leader in career receiving yards in the win over North Caro- lina State and had 921 yards entering the game. The Irish knocked Smith-Njigba out of the game against the Buckeyes and held Downs to 5 catches for 32 yards (albeit with 2 touchdowns). They held Smith-Njigba's teammate Marvin Harrison Jr. (1,037 yards, 11 touchdowns through 10 games this season) to 56 yards on 5 catches. They limited Flowers to 3 catches for 46 yards on 7 targets. He beat cornerback TaRiq Bracy for a 39-yard gain on a go route, but was otherwise quiet. Senior cornerback Cam Hart often drew the assignment on him. Hart tackled him for a 2-yard loss on a screen and was in coverage when Flowers dropped the lateral that Liufau recovered. The No. 1 wide receiver up next for Notre Dame: USC 's Jordan Addison, the reigning Biletnikoff Award winner. FIVE THOUGHTS BY PATRICK ENGEL Senior cornerback Cam Hart and the Irish defense limited Boston College star receiver Zay Flowers to 3 catches for 46 yards on 7 targets. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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