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Notre Dame Football

Irish 'D' in Peak Form

November 23, 2019

Before kickoff here Saturday inside Notre Dame Stadium, a graphic flashed on the NBC broadcast that showcased Boston College star running back AJ Dillon.

The display showed, in the Eagles’ previous two games against Florida State and Syracuse, Dillon had gashed those defenses for a combined 407 yards and three touchdowns.

Dillon would need nearly eight games against Notre Dame’s defense to match those prodigious numbers. The Fighting Irish completely bottled up the junior tailback, limited to a season-low 56 yards on 14 carries, and thwarted the BC offense as a whole in the 40-7 win --- the team’s fourth-straight victory.

Had Irish defenders tired of hearing about the bruising Dillon, who entered the game as the nation’s No. 3 rusher with 1,451 yards and 13 touchdowns?

“Yeah, it’s always important to make an effort to talk about great players and that’s what we did,” said Irish senior end Ade Ogundeji. “We talked about it, coaches talked about it, staff talked about it and we went out there and we eliminated him. I think that’s important for us.
“We have to talk about it, make sure it’s a part of the game plan and we did and the result was a win.”

It was another snapshot of Notre Dame’s defensive dominance in the month of November.


In holding the Eagles to just 191 total yards’ offense, it marked the second time this month that an opponent was limited to fewer than 200 yards. Duke mustered just 197. Opponents through four games this month have yet to muster a thousand yards against the Irish defense; they’ve outgained those foes 1,822 to 983.

Additionally, the Eagles converted just eight of 19 third- and fourth-down tries. The Irish offense took full advantage as BC’s offense capitulated to the defense; they held the ball for 35 minutes and gashed the Eagles for 501 yards on a whopping 85 offensive snaps – second only to the 91 snaps ND’s offense logged in the comeback-win against Virginia Tech to start the month.

“We just, again, how we were able to contain the Navy option, how were we able to contain – it's controlling the line of scrimmage,” said Irish coach Brian Kelly, on the verge of a third-straight 10-win season --- something not done since Lou Holtz stalked the sidelines in the early 1990s. “It's just not one guy. I mean, we have lost two really good players on defense (Julian Okwara, Daelin Hayes to season-ending injuries), but other guys have stepped in.

“Our guys have bought into our scheme, they're very disciplined, they trust each other, they do their job, they're not doing somebody else's job.”

The Irish defense, perhaps mildly overshadowed by their offensive counterparts explosions this month, has started playing its best ball of the season. Since the second quarter of the Virginia Tech game, a span now covering 15 quarters, the Notre Dame starters have yielded just two touchdowns and only 40 total points in that commanding closing stretch.

“I think this defense just keeps on progressing each game and we’re looking to improve every single game no matter how well we do,” said linebacker Drew White, one of four Irish defenders with at least seven tackles against the Eagles. “So after Navy, I thought we held our own, did a great job stopping the run and then we had another challenge coming up against Boston College with some great running backs. Big, powerful; moving piles. Great big O-line. We stepped up to the challenge, and try to improve every week. I thought we did a great job tonight.

“I think for the front-7, it was fun. The energy was high during practice. When you’re playing a running team, the front-7 has to be excited. This is what linebackers want. I’ve been so happy these past couple weeks. We’ve got Navy and Boston College, lot of run-dominant teams. It’s fun. You’ve got to play tough and physical. Just had a lot of fun tonight.”

It’s nearing season end, and now, the Irish might be having their most fun of the season. They’re certainly playing as if it is.

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