CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Manti Te’o wasn’t sure if he was at a football game or a magic show Saturday night.
Boston College tried every slight-of-hand in the book — from screens to reverses to vertical foot races — in a relentless attempt to confuse Notre Dame’s defense.
“You thought you were at Disney World,” Notre Dame’s All-American linebacker said. “There were Mickey Mouse plays everywhere.”
Notre Dame’s second-ranked scoring defense didn’t fall for the smoke and mirrors and the No. 4 Irish (10-0) put away Boston College 21-6 at Alumni Stadium.
Linebacker Prince Shembo said the Irish were prepared for Boston College’s trick plays and planned accordingly throughout the week.
Shembo was especially prepared. With Boston College focusing its efforts on blocking defensive end Stephon Tuitt, Shembo was cleared up for four tackles for loss, three sacks and a fumble recovery.
“I was just playing football like I was told to play,” Shembo said after the game. “I wasn’t doing anything special, just chasing quarterbacks and having fun.”
Boston College quarterback Chase Rettig was sacked four times total and intercepted by Te’o late in the game on a last-ditch chance to rally the Eagles.
Te’o’s interception was his sixth of the season and his career, breaking the record for the most career interceptions by a Notre Dame linebacker.
By holding Boston College to just two field goals, Notre Dame kept its first opponent out of the end zone entirely since the Oct. 6 win over Miami. That feat, head coach Brian Kelly said after the game, was one of two things that impressed him in the game.
“Our guys defensively saw so many different plays tonight but they kept fighting and kept them out of the end zone,” Kelly said. “So I think that’s the story defensively is keeping Boston College out of the end zone tonight.”
The second thing Kelly was proud of was quarterback Everett Golson’s performance.
Golson led the Irish on a comfortable 95-yard drive to open the game, capped by a 2-yard keeper by Golson in the end zone. He was primed to lead Notre Dame on another scoring drive on the following series, but tailback George Atkinson III lost a fumble at the Eagles’ 26-yard line.
Golson then led back-to-back scoring drives to close out the first half and open the second. First, he found tight end Troy Niklas in the end zone on a 9-yard pass. Then he found receiver John Goodman wide open in the corner of the end zone on an 18-yard pass early in the third quarter.
Golson finished 16-24 for 201 passing yards and two touchdowns and 11 carries for 39 rushing yards and one touchdown.
Heading into the game, Notre Dame had only scored 21 touchdowns on 46 trips to the red zone. Against Boston College, the Irish were 3-3.
“Everett Golson played the way he needs to play, especially in the red zone,” Kelly said. “We said that once he starts playing at the level we need him to play in the red zone, we’ll start scoring touchdowns and not just field goals.”
Much of Notre Dame’s success in the air was courtesy of tight end Tyler Eifert, who led the Irish for the second week in a row with six catches for 67 yards.
Golson had struggled throughout the season to find consistency with Notre Dame’s most talented receiving target, but Kelly says the two are becoming more comfortable with each other, saying Golson put “the ball in places where Tyler can play 6-(foot)-5.”
Notre Dame had gone 10-for-10 on third-down conversions until midway through the third quarter, when Golson’s pass attempt to Robby Toma fell incomplete. On the following drive, tailback Theo Riddick fumbled the ball near midfield.
Kelly said Notre Dame’s turnovers — two total on three fumbles — were the lone blight of the contest.
“I am disappointed with a couple of turnovers tonight, but I am really pleased with our quarterback play,” he said. “It’s hard to win and our guys really played hard tonight. They played hard for four quarters and came up with a nice win.” Despite the fumble, Riddick had an otherwise solid performance. The tailback finished 18 carries for 104 yards — six of which were for nine or more yards — and four receptions for 56 yards.
Rettig finished 27-43 for 247 yards, zero touchdowns and an interception. The Eagles (2-8) managed only 53 rushing yards against the Irish.