BOSTON — For a while, it seemed as if every drive in Saturday’s game between No. 4 Notre Dame and Boston College included at least one fumble.
The Fighting Irish committed four first-half turnovers, including three in the red zone. One of those three was a fumble inside the 5-yard line. They finished with five turnovers overall, three interceptions and two fumbles lost. Notre Dame coughed up the ball at least two other times but was able to fall on it and retain possession.
Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer called one of his interception throws “obviously idiotic.”
“It’s like leaving runners in scoring position,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said, using a baseball reference after his team escaped with a 19-16 win at Fenway Park. “There’s only so many times you can do that. You can’t go down there and not come away with points.”
Five turnovers would’ve cost Notre Dame against almost any other opponent, but the Boston College offense has been a disaster all season and couldn’t turn any of the Irish turnovers into first-half touchdowns. At the time the Eagles tallied their fifth takeaway, they had only five first downs on offense.
The outcome was never in doubt as a result.
“We were moving the ball fairly effectively most of the night,” Kelly said. “Just to keep stubbing our toe down there becomes concerning, obviously. It made it a lot closer in my perspective.”
Luckily for the Fighting Irish, they made enough plays to win and improve to 10-1. That’s the only positive for Notre Dame to take away from a game it should have easily won and earned style points from the College Football Playoff committee.
— Justin Simmons had an excellent game for the Eagles defense. The junior defensive back forced and recovered a fumble in the first quarter after ripping the ball out of the grasp of Notre Dame running back C.J. Prosise. Simmons also intercepted two of Kizer’s passes.
— Jeff Smith replaced John Fadule at quarterback on the second drive of the third quarter and the Eagles offense improved as a result.
Smith was involved in both BC touchdowns.
He ran for an 100 yards on five carries, highlighted by an 80-yard touchdown run that put the Eagles within 10 in the fourth quarter. The freshman also completed five of six passes for 24 yards and a late fourth-quarter touchdown that trimmed Notre Dame’s lead to three with under a minute remaining in regulation.
The Eagles might have won if Smith started and played the entire game. BC couldn’t get anything going in the first half, finishing with 24 yards of offense. Fadule, who went 7 of 16 for 64 yards, was the main reason for those struggles.
— Prosise reached the 1,000-yard mark with a 31-yard rush in the first quarter. He is the second fastest player in school history to reach that milestone, accomplishing the feat on just 150 carries.
Prosise left the game in the second quarter with an ankle injury and did not return. Kelly said he has a high ankle sprain, but did not provide a timetable for how long the running back would be sidelined.
— Notre Dame kicker Justin Toon converted a 30-yard field goal to open scoring in the first quarter. He’s made nine straight field goals dating back to Sept. 12 against Virginia. The streak would’ve ended in the second quarter if BC didn’t commit a roughing the kicker penalty on his missed attempt from 40 yards.
His 35-yard field goal in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference.
— Notre Dame senior wide receivers Chris Brown (six receptions for 104 yards and a touchdown) and Amir Carlisle (seven receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown) led the way offensively. Kelly said he singled them out in his postgame talk to the team as two of the best players on the night.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Nov 21, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish center Nick Martin (72) recovers a fumble during the first quarter against the Boston College Eagles at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports