|Notre Dame third down a real downer for Eagles in loss||11.11.12 at 11:08 am ET|
Midway through the third quarter, it seemed as though quarterback Everett Golson and the Notre Dame offense would’ve been content spiking the ball on first and second down and still manage to gain a first down.
Why not? The Fighting Irish started off the game off by going perfect 10-for-10 on third down, twice overcoming penalties that had backed them up or taken away a successful conversion. Of those eight conversions, Golson ran or five and passed for two. He also threw for two touchdowns and ran for another score in a 21-6 win at Alumni Stadium.
“You have to play good defense to win, and you certainly have to play good third down defense,” coach Frank Spaziani said. “Some of it was our execution and some of it was their execution and some of it was their improvisation. It goes back to my topic sentence: We have to make some plays and when we get the opportunity, we have to make our share of them.”
The Eagles were heavy underdogs heading into the game and were predicted to get steamrolled by the undefeated Irish. With that said, Notre Dame came in and scored the easy victory, but it’s difficult to say that they blew the doors off BC. The Eagles defense allowed six yards of offense per play, but did not surrender many big plays, giving up no breakaway plays over 25 yards or quick-strike scores.
Instead, Irish coach Brian Kelly and the offense showcased a gameplan of cold-hearted efficiency that lead to sustained, but, more importantly, successful drives. Each of Notre Dame’s three scoring drives went at least nine plays and lasted at least four minutes, 56 seconds. The Irish’s most sustained drive was a grueling 16-play, 97-yard drive scoring drive right before the half that lasted eight minutes, 30 seconds.
“Whenever you’re facing a national-caliber team, you know they’re going to execute, and that’s something that we struggled with this year,” linebacker Steele Divitto said. “We gave them the third-and-long and we just can’t get off the field and that’s something we have to work on and continue to build on in the future.”
The Eagles, though, were never truly out of the game, as the lead never stretched past 18 points and came back within two scores in the fourth quarter. However, the Eagles, who spent much of the game watching the Irish convert time after time, couldn’t sustain their drives, going 8-of-15 on third down conversions and had converted 4-of-8 before Notre Dame faltered once on third down.
The main source of frustration, especially on third down, came in the form of Golson, a redshirt freshman that is known as a dual-threat quarterback, going 16-of-24 through the air for 200 yards while rushing for 39 yards on 11 carries. Both sets of skills were on display Saturday, as Golson showed his scrambling abilities as well as a capacity to manage the game in an effort to sustain drives.
“He’s good. He’s still a freshman, though,” Divitto said. “He’s very dynamic, he’s quick and he’s a good athlete. He’s definitely a playmaker. He’s definitely a guy they can go to to make plays. He’s been the guy who led them down the field in the fourth quarter or whatever it was and he’s done a heck of a job so far.”
While the Irish thrived in the running game, recording 184 yards on 40 carries as a team, the Eagles failed to get a consistent ground game going, leading to unfavorable third down situations. While the output far outshined last week’s effort that produced 12 yards on 21 carries against Wake Forest, BC totaled just 53 yards on 23 carries, a 2.3 average, thanks in large part to quarterback Chase Rettig losing 36 yards from sacks.