It's a mark, I suppose, of the remarkable job Brian Kelly has done with ND this year (and, in recruiting, the last several years) that Notre Dame beat Boston College tonight to move to 10-1, making this season an unqualified success regardless of expectations, and the mood of this Irish fan is still so negative.
Yet, that's where we are. Notre Dame controlled the game statistically and were never really in any danger of losing tonight, but 5 (!!) turnovers and an inability to finish drives made the final score look very, very mediocre. I'll leave it to my fellow writers to fully break down how this affected ND's playoff chances, but this certainly didn't help. (Unfortunately, Oklahoma hung on to beat TCU tonight.)
Maddening factors tonight:
DeShone Kizer lays his first egg
Ever since DeShone Kizer took over the starting QB reins from Malik Zaire, the thing that's struck us all is how seamlessly he stepped into the role. Tonight was the first time he looked like the 3rd-stringer.
That's a bit harsh, granted - his numbers (20/38, 320, 2 TD) were pretty decent apart from the obvious 3 interceptions - but he just plain misfired on a fair number of throws (although he was also victimized by a few drops). A quick out to Corey Robinson fell incomplete. A ridiculously bad decision to throw to a covered Aliz'e Jones in the end zone led to his first interception. It's hard to tell if Kizer was just trying to do too much or if he had an uneven game he was due to have, but it was not pretty.
C.J. Prosise hurt again (and KeiVarae Russell too)
You'd think with 7 starters out for the season due to injury, the Football Gods would leave ND alone the rest of the year. Not so, as Prosise left the game with what was announced as a high ankle sprain in the first half and did not return, and Russell departed with an injury late in the game (announced as a stress fracture). It looks like both will be out next week. ND was going to win this game with or without them, but to beat Stanford, the Irish need to be closer to full strength and it doesn't look like this will be the case. Next man in.
Special teams was overall poor
Our special teams film crew won't have a super positive breakdown, I'm guessing, when they do their next post. C.J. Sanders was so haphazard making diving fair catches that coach Kelly went to Will Fuller (himself not super hands-y) late in the game on a punt return. Kizer mishandled a perfectly fine snap on a PAT and had to throw a desperate two-point conversion pass that fell short. Another less than ideal exchange on a field goal led to a Justin Yoon miss that was luckily wiped out on a roughing the kicker penalty.
The only truly bright spot on special teams came when the Irish coverage unit was able to reel in a muffed fair catch by BC inside the 10-yard line. Unfortunately, even that didn't lead to anything, as the Irish turned the ball over on the ensuing possession.
Fumbles...oh, the fumbles
In addition to the two fumbles ND lost, a few more were narrowly avoided by the runners in question being down. Was ND unaware BC would try to rip the ball out? The Eagles were good at it, so it was understandable that they would have had a little bit of success, but to do it that much struck me as a lack of ball security from ND. It was more than a little frustrating.
Ok, we DID win
Alright, I'm being relentlessly negative. But Notre Dame DID win. They've won 10 games with an injury apocalypse the likes of which I'm not sure we've ever seen, beating some pretty decent teams along the way. Only 2 of ND's 10 wins - Temple and Virginia - were in any serious doubt in the second half. Barring disaster, ND will play in a New Year's 6 bowl game this year. If ND does fall short of the playoff, it won't be what we all wanted, but as I said at the top - this season is an unqualified success now. 10 wins is a good solid season at worst.