Notre Dame made sure 1993 wouldn’t happen again.
A week after beating No. 1 Clemson, the second-ranked Irish shook off upset-minded Boston College 45-31 on Saturday with the help of 21 second-quarter points.
The result is further proof Notre Dame (8-0, 7-0 ACC) is built like a College Football Playoff team — and perhaps a national championship contender. Last week’s 47-40 double-overtime thriller against Clemson wasn’t a fluke. Neither was the response to that victory.
The Eagles upset Notre Dame 41-39 in 1993, the week after the Irish beat No. 1 Florida State in the “Game of the Century.” There were shades of a repeat Saturday when Boston College (5-4, 4-4 ACC) recovered an onside kick in the second quarter. The play was nullified, however, by an illegal block before the recovery.
Ian Book used that opportunity to continue a fantastic two-week run that might push the senior quarterback into the Heisman Trophy conversation.
First, he shuffled in and out of the pocket before hitting Ben Skowronek for a 13-yard touchdown with 5:43 left in the first half to give Notre Dame a 24-13 lead. Then, he and the Irish converted an Eagles fumble into another touchdown in the final minute of the half. Book managed the clock before hitting Skowronek for a 7-yard touchdown, the tandem’s third scoring connection of the half.
Notre Dame led 31-13 at halftime. Book had thrown for 213 yards, his highest first-half total of the season, at that point. He finished with 283 passing yards and 85 rushing yards against the Eagles, a week after passing for 310 yards and rushing for 67 yards against the Tigers. Book gave Notre Dame a commanding 45-23 lead with 12:19 remaining in the fourth quarter, when he used a pump fake to freeze the defense before sprinting in for a 6-yard touchdown run. That capped the best two-week stretch of a career in which he is now 28-3 as the Irish’s starter.
Notre Dame is feeding off Book’s poise. The running game is balanced with Kyren Williams, C’Bo Flemister and Chris Tyree all contributing along with Book. The Irish were able to pound away on the ground in the second half after Notre Dame’s pass attack set up the ground game.
The defense played well, too: The Irish committed two first-half turnovers, but the Eagles only managed three points off those miscues. The defense came up big again early in the second half with a fourth-and-1 stop in the red zone with 10:23 left in the third quarter.
The ghosts of 1993 were effectively exorcised, and the Irish remained on track for their second College Football Playoff in three seasons.
The path to the ACC championship game also remains unchanged. After a bye week, Notre Dame faces a road trip to North Carolina, which offers Book a chance to match up against North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell. Syracuse and Wake Forest close out the schedule from there, leading to the inevitable rematch against Clemson.
None of that changed Saturday in a rivalry that sometimes proves the unthinkable — and where the Irish have faltered in previous seasons.
Something different is happening in South Bend this year.