Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 26, 2022*

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

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BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM NOV. 26, 2022 29 ENGEL'S ANGLE PATRICK ENGEL Patrick Engel has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since March 2020. He can be reached at G reg Mailey strolled into the Notre Dame Stadium tunnel still in awe. The graduate student walk-on wide receiver best known for being a signaler finally stepped on the field, playing cornerback on the final snap of the game. The Irish wanted to put as many seniors in as possible, and with Boston College bleeding out the clock, they would not have a chance to play Mailey at his normal position. So out he ran for the play that iced a 44-0 dusting of Boston College, a Se- nior Day romp that afforded the Irish a chance to play a receiver on defense. Nearly 10 minutes later, he recounted the moment to quarterback Tyler Buch- ner as they left the field, eyes wide like saucers and a grin overtaking his face. That snap will be among the most forgettable for Notre Dame this year. To reach that point, though, is hardly insignificant. Notre Dame needed a game like this where it pantsed an overmatched op- ponent and then took their belts. The Irish built a big early lead and kept add- ing. They buried the Eagles by halftime and kept throwing dirt on them, some- thing they couldn't do one week earlier against Navy or in late October vs. a de- pleted UNLV outfit. They couldn't even take a halftime lead against California, Marshall and Stanford. "This was a challenge today to say, 'Listen, let's go out in the second half and truly continue to pull as hard as we can and go as hard as we can,'" head coach Marcus Freeman said. "I think they really did." It was a result Freeman needed as part of his growth as much has Notre Dame did for its season. Notre Dame was 0-5 against the spread as touchdown-or- more favorites before the BC game. Freeman cares little for point spreads, of course, but had grown frustrated with the Irish's inability to produce convinc- ing wins in games they should be able to do it. Playing down to competition became a habit, and one he couldn't get them to break. Until Boston College came town, when they snapped it in convincing fashion. This win was the fourth time this year Notre Dame has outscored an opponent in both halves. None of the first three were against teams that were unranked at the time of the game. Boston College, a 3-7 team that dis- played minimal interest in being on the field, looked like a willing cure. Notre Dame's challenge, though, is to turn opponents into nameless and faceless entities that have zero bearing on how the Irish prepare for next game. "Great teams, championship teams, they set a standard and say, 'This is the way we're going to work,'" Freeman said. "There's no other option." It's not that Notre Dame didn't have a standard that works. If so, the Irish wouldn't have smacked Clemson or hung 45 points on North Carolina. But taking a 19-0 second-half shutout against Navy or losses to unranked teams aren't reflective of having the same ur- gency when facing a sub.-500 team as a top-20 one. That inconsistency starts with Freeman, ever introspective but still new to navigating these spots. The near faceplant against Navy made him look inward. "What didn't I do to prepare them for the second half?" Freeman said. "I said Navy was a second-half team. I said they're never going to quit. But we didn't perform to the level. 'We tried different things this week. We tried to show them the film. We tried to truly get them to see. I thought last week was the first time we truly took our foot off the pedal a little bit." Notre Dame responded by putting a cinder block on it until lifting it by in- serting backups for part of the fourth quarter. The Irish led 17-0 after the first quarter and 37-0 at halftime. Even though they had just 101 yards in the second half, they preserved the shutout and held Boston College to 2.9 yards per play after halftime. Notre Dame reverted to its winning formula, which starts with the offen- sive line paving a path for a 200-yard rushing day. The Irish hit that number in the first half, rushing for 214 yards on 9.7 yards per carry. Sophomore running back Logan Diggs began the game with 51-yard run. Notre Dame's first touch- down drive was a 5-play, 20-yard march comprised entirely of Diggs runs. Elsewhere, Notre Dame forced 5 turn- overs, won the field-position battle and let Boston College cross the 50-yard line just twice in the first three quarters. The Irish sacked Eagles quarterback Emmett Morehead 4 times, taking advantage of a line-of-scrimmage mismatch tilted toward them. There were no second- half letdowns or long drives that shifted vibes. The Irish pounded Boston College into the snowy turf for 60 minutes. "We've had very strong performances throughout the year, but I think this one capitalizes the great season we've had so far," junior safety Xavier Watts said. Notre Dame's defense will need to put forth another when it faces USC, which is led by a potential Heisman finalist in quarterback Caleb Williams. If the Irish stick to the script of playing up to com- petition, they'll be dialed in. But this game and the week before it were about shedding scripts and relying less on opponent-induced motivation. And if a 44-0 shutout is any preview, it's an effective method itself. ✦ Head coach Marcus Freeman and the Fighting Irish throttled Boston College for 60 minutes. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER Notre Dame Writes A Different Script In Blowout

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