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Notre Dame Football

Too much juice: No. 2 Notre Dame squeezes Orange, 45-21

December 5, 2020

Any other outcome never was an option.

Not for a group of seniors who have helped revive Notre Dame football to levels not seen since the 1990s.

Not for a team so singularly focused throughout this season that its head coach has openly challenged the Irish to look ahead, find a greater level, and watched as the group did elevate throughout the campaign.

Not as Ian Book emphatically stamped his name again and again into Irish lore; most notably with his 30th career win as the starting quarterback – most all-time for the tradition-rich program.

No. 2 Notre Dame might have started sluggishly Saturday afternoon in front of 6,831 inside Notre Dame Stadium, but it never was going to lose to a Syracuse team that had scuffled all season.

Powered by the legs of Ian Book, the catches of Javon McKinley and an opportunistic defense, the Fighting Irish bludgeoned the visiting Orange, 45-21.

The victory marked the 43rd for Notre Dame since the onset of the 2017 season; the program boosted its home winning streak to 24 consecutive games.

“I think it's the culmination,” Irish coach Brian Kelly told NBC after the game. “I don't know that this one is going to be the singular one we put out there, but I think it's the entire year. If we look at the entire year, this was obviously pretty special.

“And over four years (for the senior class) to go 25-1 is just an incredibly consistent performance, week in and week out.”

The Irish (10-0, 9-0 ACC), who are scheduled to play two weeks from today in the ACC Championship amidst the program's first-ever season of conference affiliation, remain unblemished in large part due to their scoring flurry just moments before the half.

Trailing 7-3 after an uneven opening 25 minutes, Notre Dame uncorked a trio of touchdowns in a scant three minutes, 12 seconds and zoomed into the half on top, 24-7.

Book got a key downfield block from Ben Skowronek in a 28-yard dash into the end zone to secure the Notre Dame lead; Book then connected on a pair of dynamic scoring tosses to McKinley that covered 21 and 28 yards, respectively, for the halftime margin.

The Orange (1-10, 1-9), mired in an eight-game losing skid, saw the Fighting Irish further blow open the game in the third quarter with a trio of turnovers.

Ade Ogundeji forced a Syracuse fumble that Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah recovered; Owusu-Koramoah then jarred loose the ball from 'Cuse quarterback Rex Culpepper, a ball recovered by Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa on a play that stood up under video review. Daelin Hayes then punctuated the flurry of turnovers – the Irish had two of their own in that stretch when Book fumbled a snap and also tossed a pick – with an interception of Culpepper.

“The kind of habits are championship-level habits and that's what we're seeing,” Kelly said. “This team is led by those seniors, that's the core, and it's a special group.”

Book continued his assault on the Notre Dame record books, as he trotted into a fourth-place tie all-time with his 16th rushing touchdown – he surpassed the late, great Paul Hornung in the process – and boosted his career passing total to 8,500 yards and 69 touchdowns before Kelly called timeout to remove the senior to be honored by the crowd and teammates.

Book's second scoring dash pushed the Irish on top, 31-14, and McKinley's third touchdown catch of the afternoon removed all doubt, 38-14. Chris Tyree sprinted into the record books with a 94-yard score, Notre Dame's longest on the year and the longest by an Irish freshman since Josh Adams' 98-yard run five years ago.

Kyren Williams again topped 100 yards, as he finished with 110 on 20 carries that moved him past 1,000 on the season – the first Irish sophomore tailback to top 1,000 yards in 15 years.

Freshman defensive back Clarence Lewis spurred the Notre Dame stop-unit with 12 tackles, 10 of them solo stops. The group notched six tackles for losses, broke up five passes, forced four fumbles and added an interception.

Now, Notre Dame has two weeks to prepare for its likely rematch with third-ranked Clemson, which visits Virginia Tech Saturday night.


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