PASS OFFENSE: A
Everett Golson isn’t a rookie anymore. He’s a 10-game veteran who is playing his most comfortable football yet these past few weeks. Granted, anyone can look good against Boston College’s abysmal defense, but 10-for-10 third down conversions in the first three quarters (11-14 total), 67 percent pass completion and 12.5 yards per throw is impressive against anyone. Head coach Brian Kelly said Golson is “playing the way he needs to play,” including throwing the ball away when necessary and scrambling when available. Golson and tight end Tyler Eifert are coming together at exactly the right time in the season. This chemistry will be crucial against USC in Week 12 and in whichever bowl game the Irish find themselves in. (With Alabama’s loss and Oregon’s injuries, the BCS gods seem to be willing Notre Dame to the national title.)
RUN OFFENSE: B-
Sure, Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood seemed to be able to run at will, but they still only managed 184 yards against the 118th-ranked rushing defense in the country. And since Golson only threw the ball 24 times, it wasn’t like the opportunities weren’t there. Riddick averaged 5.8 yards per carry and broke away on six 9-plus yard runs, but he lost the ball at midfield right when Notre Dame could have used the game-sealing score. George Atkinson III also lost the ball early in the game, tripping up the momentum the Irish seemed to be setting fairly easily up until that point. A couple of fumbles against the 2-8 Eagles is one thing, but teams made of stronger stuff won’t yawn back with two field goals in retaliation.
PASS DEFENSE: B
Boston College threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Irish defense, which seems to be operating on a “bend-don’t-break” philosophy nowadays. Eagle quarterback Chase Rettig did throw for 247 yards and a couple of 20-plus yard completions, but it took him 43 attempts to do it. Linebacker Prince Shembo had Rettig’s number throughout the second half, knocking the quarterback down three times out of four total sacks. Manti Te’o picked up his record-breaking sixth interception late in the game when Boston College still had a prayer at a comeback. Te’o has been relatively quiet in these past two games, but Shembo is making opponents pay for leaving him in one-on-one coverage. Couple Shembo’s performance with the fact that Boston College didn’t find the end zone all night, and it was a good game for the Irish pass defense.
RUN DEFENSE: A
What else can be said for a unit that allows only 53 total rushing yards? Tailback Deuce Finch managed 7.0 yards per carry for 40 yards total, but the Irish front seven didn’t let him gain more than two yards at a time the entire fourth quarter. They might not admit it, but the Irish likely had something of a chip on their shoulder. After their no-rushing touchdown streak broke against Oklahoma — then repeated by BYU and then again by Pitt — this proud Irish front seven was eager to keep the Eagles out of the end zone, and they succeeded.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D
This might as well be an incomplete. Kyle Brindza wasn’t called upon for any late-game heroics, Ben Turk only punted three times and didn’t look pretty and Davonte Neal continues to carry the torch from last year’s nonexistent punt return unit. Notre Dame only has two regular season games left, but it still feels like the special teams is on the verge of losing the game for the Irish.
Not many style points in this win, but head coach Brian Kelly doesn’t seem to need them. Good move on Kelly’s part to keep Notre Dame focused on Boston College (a team who loves to spoil the Irish) instead of Alabama’s fall. When Notre Dame’s secondary looked porous, the Irish offense put points on the board. When the Irish offense sputtered and turned the ball over, the defense was there to keep Boston College out of the end zone. Kelly is 10-0 and knows what works with a team on the unlikeliest of paths this season. Alabama proved that anything can happen on any given Saturday, that no team is immune to an upset, but Kelly has kept his team above that noise for 10 weeks.
— By Rachel Terlep