SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame is in a fight.
After a couple of easy wins over Duke and Navy, the Irish have run into a game Boston College team that isn't intimidated by being a nearly three-touchdown underdog. The Eagles hit a big play midway through the second quarter, a 40-yard pass from Dennis Grosel to Kobay that set up an Eagles touchdown to take the lead and Notre Dame Stadium went mostly silent. Outside of that one play, it's been a rough-and-tumble half, with both teams getting yards in short chunks rather than with explosive plays. Notre Dame has struggled to stop A.J. Dillon and get off the field on third down (BC is 6 of 9) and the Eagles are getting picked apart with short passes and quarterback runs. Unless one of those changes, it could be a nail-biter down the stretch.
So far for the Irish, the offense has been Ian Book and more Ian Book, with a slight dash of Tony Jones Jr. on the side. Book has faced significant pressure up the middle from Boston College, as the Irish offensive line has had some uncharacteristic problems stopping the Eagles' pass rush (the line has also had issues with penalties, committing two false starts and holding once in the first quarter alone).
Book has done a relatively solid job of handling the pressure, stepping up in the pocket and running ably when he has to. It's eminently possible that he leads the Irish in rushing again today and he has been aggressive when he does get out in space, lowering his shoulder into would-be tacklers on more than one occasion. He has also evaded pressure to make a couple of nice throws on the run, including one along the sideline to Cole Kmet as the quarterback rolled to his right that was another NFL-level pass. Book seems to have picked up where he left off the last two weeks and there has been obvious growth since the middle of the season.
When Book doesn't pass or run it himself, the player most likely to get the ball for the Irish has been Jones Jr. The redshirt junior has been quiet recently after he hurt his rib against Michigan, but he seems to be back at full strength today and is doing some tough running. The run-blocking hasn't been particularly good, but he's run through a couple of would-be tacklers and made something out of nothing on a few occasions. Jafar Armstrong hasn't touched the ball in the first half, but Jones and C'Bo Flemister have formed a solid running back tandem.
The only issue for the Notre Dame offense has been an inability to finish drives. Penalties in the red zone have hurt and Chase Claypool dropped what would likely have been a touchdown pass on a simple drag route over the middle. Jonathan Doerer has made two nice kicks, but the path to an upset for Boston College is to control the ball (check), hit some big plays (check) and keep the Irish out of the end zone when Notre Dame does have the ball (also check). The Irish have been able to move the ball, but they need to start punching it in and the defense has to find a way to get off the field. Otherwise, this game could come down to the end.