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Monday, Feb. 26, 2024
The Observer

No. 2 Irish top Eagles 45-31, enter bye week at 8-0

Coming off of its massive win over top-ranked Clemson last week, Notre Dame traveled to Chestnut Hill to take on rival Boston College. This game seemed to have every element needed to make a trap game for the Irish (8-0, 7-0 ACC). The Eagles (5-4, 4-4 ACC) would be wearing their “Red Bandana” jerseys to honor Welles Crowther — a Boston College grad who saved several lives in the World Trade Center at the cost of his own on Sept. 11, 2001 — and Boston College quarterback redshirt sophomore Phil Jurkovec would also be out to prove something to his old team after leaving at the end of last season. Despite all this, the Irish overcame the challenges to win 45-31 and improve to 8-0 on the season.

Irish head coach Brian Kelly was pleased with his team’s offensive play in the game, especially from graduate student quarterback Ian Book.

“What stands out to me is Ian Book tonight. He was outstanding, and, probably in a large degree, the difference in this game,” Kelly said. “Offensively very efficient, unfortunately, a couple of turnovers takes away from probably a stellar performance. Back to back weeks, we’re over 45 points tells you that your quarterback play is elevated.”

John Quackenbos | Boston College Athletics
Irish graduate student quarterback Ian Book scrambles during Notre Dame's 45-31 win over Boston College Saturday. Book led the Irish in rushing with 85 yards on 10 carries in addition to going 20-27 for 283 yards and three touchdowns through the air. Book accounted for four scores on the day.

Both Notre Dame and Boston College would trade possessions and scores back and forth in the first quarter. On the opening drive, Notre Dame would drive the length of the field on 13 plays. However, the possession ultimately stalled, and the Irish would have to settle for three points off the foot of senior kicker Jonathan Doerer. The Eagles responded right back with a scoring drive of their own after Jurkovec found sophomore receiver Zay Flowers in the end zone to give his team a 7-3 lead.

Momentum would soon swing further in the direction of the Eagles as a miscommunication between Book and freshman running back Chris Tyree on an option play led to a fumble recovered by redshirt senior defensive end Brandon Barlow. The Irish defense would hold strong however and limit the damage to just three points to bring the score to 10-3.

Despite the fumble on their last possession, Book would lead the Irish down the field, connecting on several crossing routes to senior receiver Avery Davis and sophomore running back Kyren Williams in addition to picking up yards with his legs on a designed quarterback run. Book eventually found graduate student receiver Ben Skowronek in the endzone on a near 50/50 ball to cap off an eight-play, 77-yard drive and tie the game up at 10-10. On the ensuing drive, Jurkovec would connect with redshirt sophomore receiver Jaelen Gill for a large gain to the Notre Dame 29, and two plays later Jurkovec would run down to the Irish 12-yard line. The Irish defense again held the line and kept the Eagles to a field goal, making the score 13-10.

Eagles redshirt sophomore and former Irish quarterback Phil Jurkovec attempts to throw over the arms of Irish junior linebacker Bo Bauer during Notre Dame's 45-31 win over Boston College Saturday. Jurkovec went 18-40 passing with two touchdowns and one interception against his old team while playing through a separated shoulder suffered two weeks prior.

Boston College would gamble on the kickoff following its score, electing to try a surprise onside kick which they did recover. However, after review, it was determined that contact was made too early and the Eagles were forced to kick again. The penalty and failed onside kick proved to be costly as the Irish put together another scoring drive to go up 17-13 after junior running back C’Bo Flemister ran in for a 2-yard touchdown.

Notre Dame’s defense would force a 3-and-out on the ensuing drive and give the ball back to Book and the offense, who carved through Boston College again. Book would again find Skowronek after scrambling out of the pocket for a 13-yard touchdown pass to further the lead. Boston College pieced together another red-zone drive but would again settle for a field goal to cut the lead to 24-16.

The turnover bug struck the Irish again as Williams coughed up the ball and gave possession back to the Eagles. Fortunately for Notre Dame, a miscommunication on the snap led to a fumble for Boston College, and graduate student defensive end Daelin Hayes would recover. The Irish cashed in on the turnover and would get in for another score right before the end of the second quarter. Book finished off his stellar first half when he connected with Skowronek for the latter’s third touchdown reception to give his team a 31-16 lead.

Kelly said Skowronek provides a red-zone threat when he lines up.

“He plays with an edge,” Kelly said. “He’s got great size and length, and we like the matchups that we get with him, certainly in the red-zone. He reminded us when we settled for a field goal that he had a great matchup, and that’s why we immediately came back to him the next time we got in the red zone.”

John Quackenbos | Boston College Athletics
Irish graduate student receiver Bennett Skowronek is lifted into the air by fellow graduate student receiver Javon McKinley while celebrating the former's third touchdown of the first half of Notre Dame's 45-31 win over Boston College Saturday. Skowronek's efforts displayed an improvement from Notre Dame's receivers in red zone production, an area in which the position group has struggled this season.

Boston College would look to cut into the lead coming into the second half and did put together a quality drive down to the Notre Dame 9-yard line. However, the Irish defense would make a stand on a fourth-and-one.

Although Notre Dame fumbled one more time on a completion to Skowronek that was knocked loose, Jurkovec would hand the ball right back over after he was picked off by sophomore linebacker Jack Kiser. Notre Dame capitalized on that mistake as Flemister rushed into the endzone again to push the Irish lead to 38-16.

Despite the three fumbles, Kelly was not overly concerned and hopes his team will be able to get back to its usual ways of ball security.

“We don’t want to fumble anytime, but we’ll continue to do what we’ve always done,” Kelly said. “We’ve been really good [at] taking care of the football. We take great pride in it. We’ve got some young backs and we’ll continue to work with them.”

Both teams would continue to trade scores late in the third and into the fourth quarter. A touchdown run by junior running back David Bailey cut into the deficit for BC, but Notre Dame responded right back, this time with the legs of Book. The El Dorado Hills, California, native scrambled into the endzone for a 6-yard touchdown run. Jurkovec would connect one more time with redshirt junior tight end Hunter Long and a two-point conversion run from senior running back Travis Levy cut the lead down to 45-31.

The Eagles would need another onside kick to go their way, but once more the Irish caught a break with a penalty against the Eagles. Notre Dame proceeded to drain out the remainder of the quarter for the win.

Book credited his receivers for helping him to extend plays when he was forced out of the pocket on several occasions.

“They did a phenomenal job, the guys on the outside today, you know, coming back and finding me when I was scrambling, and that definitely showed tonight,” Book said. “I just feel like the chemistry between the receivers and myself, it’s really getting there, and it feels great.”

Looking ahead, the Irish will enter into their bye week for some much-needed rest. Following the bye, Notre Dame will head to Chapel Hill on Black Friday to take on a vaunted North Carolina offense led by sophomore quarterback Sam Howell.

The Irish also remained at No. 2 in the AP Poll following the win over the Eagles. The first College Football Playoff rankings of the season will be announced over their bye week.