For the first time this season, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish took on a far inferior squad and made them look the part, putting up a 44-0 Senior Day win over the Boston College Eagles. There was a lot to enjoy in this win over the little brother from back east, and it’s important to pause and appreciate those moments with so little football left this season. Let’s pick three of those things to savor as we look ahead to the finale against the USC Trojans.
Isaiah Foskey Breaks the Justin Tuck Curse
The guys on the pod have joked the last few seasons about the curse of Justin Tuck’s sack record - seemingly every edge defender who has been advertised as ready to break the two-time Super Bowl champion’s mark at Notre Dame has followed up the hype with a disappointing campaign. Isaiah Foskey looked like another potential entrant in that category early in this season, but has become a force and a vital leader in Notre Dame’s second-half resurgence.
On Saturday, Foskey finally climbed the mountain that so many of his predecessors could not, becoming Notre Dame’s all-time sack leader in his final home game. It was a great moment and a great reward for his grit and perseverance. Foskey now takes his crown into L.A. against what is probably the most dynamic passing offense the Irish will see all season - let’s hope he runs up the score on that record a little more.
An Expanding Running Game
Notre Dame’s offensive output was what fans have come to expect over the course of the season - a brutally physical effort in which the Irish barely passed the ball because doing so wasn’t necessary, with the running backs averaging over seven yards per carry and accounting for four touchdowns. However, the Irish showed some wrinkles in the running game that could be very helpful next weekend, becoming increasingly effective getting to the outside with a variety of ball-carryers (Michael Mayer and Lorenzo Styles each had solid runs on sweeps in addition to each of the running backs making it to the perimeter).
Increasing effectiveness on the outside is a big deal for this Irish offense, which had previously been doing almost all of its damage up the middle. While USC’s defense is not exactly ferocious, there is enough talent there that the Irish will need to be able to run the ball in multiple ways - especially given Drew Pyne’s limitations in the passing game. With that in mind, it was great to see the Irish offensive line and receivers creating effective outside running lanes and backs beating BC defenders to corners. If the Irish can continue to do this while also presenting a major threat down the middle, they will be difficult to stop on the ground in L.A.
The Secondary Is Ready For Another Test
By far the biggest offensive threat for BC was Zay Flowers, who could have created some trouble in light of Notre Dame’s struggles against the big play this season. But the Irish secondary showed tremendous focus in locking down Flowers and rendering the Eagles flightless throughout this game, and dynamism in forcing multiple turnovers (albeit with a lot of help from the weather conditions).
Benjamin Morrison of course had a monster day with three interceptions, and has emerged as a genuine lockdown corner in his freshman season even as all of Notre Dame’s opponents seem determined to pick on him. Also worthy of shoutouts were Cam Hart, who should have gotten credit for a forcing a bizarrely-reversed scoop-and-score by Marist Liufau; Xavier Watts, who was a force upfield and was rewarded with a sack; and the Irish linebackers, who recorded a couple pass breakups themselves. Altogether, the Irish held Emmett Morehead to just five yards per pass attempt and an incredible 3.4 QBR. This is a unit that started out solid but has made tremendous progress in recent weeks, and will take that momentum into a clash with one of the best passing offenses in college football. Buckle up Irish fans, this is going to be one hell of a finale.