Behind two 200-yard rushers for the first time in program history, Notre Dame overcame a sluggish 2 ½ quarters to defeat Boston College 49-20 Saturday.
The first half had all of the makings of a traditional Notre Dame-Boston College contest. The overmatched Eagles were giving the Irish all they could handle and Notre Dame was making the kinds of mistakes that allows lesser opponents to keep the contest close.
With Notre Dame ahead 14-13 midway through the third quarter, Boston College was primed to take the lead with the ball in Irish territory. Instead of settling for a long field goal, the Eagles decided to go for it on 4th & 1. The Notre Dame defensive line generated tremendous penetration and running back Jon Hilliman was stopped well short of the first down by Te’Von Coney.
The Irish would score on the ensuing drive and never look back. Notre Dame’s offensive line and rushing attack wore down BC in the second half and the Irish outscored the Eagles 35-7 over the final 20:04 of game action.
The Notre Dame defense, which struggled at times in the first half, benefited the most from the Irish offense finding their rhythm and putting points on the board. Boston College is not equipped to play from behind and once the Eagles became one-dimensional, they played into the hands of Mike Elko’s gameplan.
Notre Dame’s 49 points are the second-most points scored against the Eagles in series history and Saturday marked the first time the Irish had recorded more than 31 points vs. BC since 1997.
Running Game By The Numbers
After only tallying 55 yards on 37 carries in their loss to Georgia, the Irish rushing attack bounced back in a big way. Notre Dame registered 515 yards on 51 carries in Saturday’s win – the most rushing yards by the Irish since they put up 597 yards against Navy in 1969. Notre Dame’s 10.1 yards per attempt broke the school record of 10.0, which was set against Great Lakes in 1942.
The 200-yard performances from Wimbush and Adams marked the first time a Notre Dame player rushed for over 200 yards since Julius Jones had 218 yards in a 2003 game vs. Stanford. With 207 yards rushing, Wimbush set a Notre Dame record for rushing yards by a QB. He topped the mark of 146 set by Bill Etter against Navy in 1969.
Josh Adams’ last five games:
Va. Tech: 100 yards, 2TDs
USC: 180 yards
Temple: 161 yards 2TDs
UGA: 53 yards
BC: 229 yards
— Irish Illustrated (@PeteSampson_) September 18, 2017
Notre Dame’s seven rushing touchdowns were the most for the program since recording seven in a 2011 win over Navy. The Irish were also able to neutralize future first-round pick Harold Landry as the BC defensive end was limited to just one tackle.
Passing Woes Continue
Patience is never a virtue of a fanbase as passionate as Notre Dame’s, but that is a characteristic needed as Wimbush develops as a passer. For as prolific as the redshirt junior was on the ground, Wimbush struggled mightily through the air on Saturday.
Despite the lopsided victory, the passing numbers were pedestrian. Wimbush completed 11 of 24 passes for 96 yards, with one interception.
“Under a hundred yards throwing and you’re a quarterback? It’s not ideal,” said Wimbush following the win. “As a quarterback, that’s the first thing you do, right? So, it troubles me a little bit. But I’m going to enjoy the win for the first 24 hours and then make adjustments.”
To put the entire blame on Wimbush in unfair – the receivers and play calling have to be better as well. It is no secret that the receivers have struggled to gain separation downfield and so when they do appear to be open, Wimbush rushes his mechanics and the result is an inaccurate throw.
With Freddy Canteen out for the year with a torn labrum and Kevin Stepherson out for at least one more game, Chris Finke, Alize Mack, and Chase Claypool have to step up and take the attention of opposing defenses off Equanimeous St. Brown and give Wimbush a viable second option.
Claypool and Mack have all the athletic traits in the world, but they need to compartmentalize that athleticism in a wide receiver capacity.
On Saturday, the wide receiving corps accounted for three receptions for 11 yards.
The big picture shows Wimbush with a 2-1 record with the lone loss coming by one-point to one of the best defenses in the country. He also led the Irish to a 29-point victory in his first road start against one of Notre Dame’s biggest rivals.
However, when juxtaposed against the likes Kelly Bryant, who is already in the Heisman conversation after entering the season with comparable game experience to Wimbush, the redshirt junior’s progress in the passing game looks elementary.
Wimbush is a victim of his own hype and the early success of his predecessors. Malik Zaire helped Notre Dame beat LSU in the Music City Bowl in his first significant game action and put together a near flawless performance against Texas in the 2015 opener.
DeShone Kizer led ND to one of the most memorable finished in program history in first quarter of action and then beat a top-15 Georgia Tech team in his first start.
Those results are not the norm for first-time starters. Plus, both Kizer and Zaire had more weapons on the outside they could rely on.
Wimbush’s career trajectory thus far is similar to that of Everett Golson – he is clearly skilled, but should not be asked to carry the team. Both relied on a veteran offensive line and a dynamic running game. If Wimbush can simply improve his efficiency at the position and make week-to-week improvements, Notre Dame will win at least nine games.
Irish fans calling for Ian Book or any change at the QB position (ahem, Beau) are out of their minds.
No matter the hype entering college, growing pains are apart of every young quarterback’s maturation process. Some can hide some deficiencies behind a talented supporting cast, but learning curves are inevitable. Wimbush has as high of a ceiling as any QB to come to Notre Dame since Brady Quinn and that will show itself as he develops and gains experience through the season.
The Irish put together a highlight reel on the ground, but the play that changed the complexion of the game was the 4th & 1 stop midway through the third quarter.
After the Irish fumbled and went three and out in the first two possessions of the second half, the Eagles had all of the momentum and were driving to take their first lead of the game.
As mentioned above, instead of attempting a long field goal, BC head coach Steve Addazio decided to go for it on fourth down, but the Irish defense held firm and kept the Eagles short of the first down.
The initial penetration was created by freshman Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa with Coney coming from his linebacker position to fill the hole and tackle Hilliman.
The Eagles controlled the line of scrimmage and had success in the running game (BC finished the game with 185 yards on the ground), but the Irish defense was able to make a big play in a big spot – a rare occurrence in recent years.
From that point, Notre Dame took full control of the game and blitzed the Eagles over the final 20 minutes of the game.