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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame Plays up to Championship Standard in Demolition of Boston College

November 20, 2022

Notre Dame entered the season ranked No. 5 in the nation and anticipated a return to the College Football Playoffs. 

Notre Dame has failed to live up to such lofty expectations throughout much of the fall, especially when facing inferior teams. 

Of course, losing to Marshall and Stanford is unacceptable for a program as talented as the 2022 edition of the Fighting Irish, but Notre Dame seemed to make a habit out of playing down its competition. 

Over the course of their first 10 games, the Irish went 4-1 and held a +9.6 point differential against the five opponents ranked in the top 25 at some point this season. Against unranked opponents, Notre Dame went 3-2 with a +5.2 point differential. 

“Great teams are able to play to a standard,” coach Marcus Freeman said. “Great individuals are able to perform to a standard, not to an opponent.  Competitors rise to the level of their opponents.  But to me, great teams — championship teams — they set a standard and say this is the way we're going to work.”

The Irish took a huge step in living up to that standard on Saturday in a 44-0 route of Boston College (3-8). They jumped out to a 37-0 halftime lead and never let the Eagles enter the red zone. 

It was the type of win often achieved by College Football Playoff teams, which Notre Dame might be in 2022 if they hadn’t come out flat against Marshall and Stanford. 

On the other hand, the team leaders never quit, even as their championship hopes fell by the wayside.

“They are performing and playing at such a higher level than we did at the start of the year,” Freeman said. “It goes back to the leadership, to those seniors, those guys that are our captains.  They could easily start blaming and complaining and pointing fingers.  Those guys looked at themselves and said we're going to work, and they drug everybody with them.”

Early in the season, Notre Dame’s biggest issue was slow starts. The Irish scored a total of 14 points in the first half against Marshall, Cal and Stanford. 

Notre Dame finally started off hot against Navy last weekend by jumping out to a 35-13 halftime lead, only to squander it in the second half with 12 total yards of offense and zero points. 

The Irish held onto win 35-32, which perplexed Freeman.

“I said [at halftime] Navy was a second-half team,” Freeman said.  “I said they're never going to quit.  But we didn't perform to the level. So we tried different things this week.  We tried to show them the film. We tried to truly get them to see. I thought last week was the first time we truly took our foot off the pedal a little bit.”

Freeman challenged his team to finish strong leading up to the Boston College game, particularly with it being senior day.

“How you respond to those things is really what defines this football team this season,” Freeman said. “I told the seniors last night, this will be lessons that you use when you leave here. You'll use it at the next level in the NFL or you'll use it as a husband, you'll use it as a father. 

“It's never going to be perfect, but the ability to respond and to sustain and keep going after you have those ups and downs is truly what will change future outcomes.”

With a 44-point win, Notre Dame’s point differential against unranked opponents jumps to +11.7. 

It’s progress, but the Irish still have a ways to go before they’re consistently living up to a championship standard. For perspective, No. 1 Georgia’s point differential against unranked opponents is +28.2.

“Working to a standard is something only great teams do,” Freeman said, “and it's something we'll continue to strive to be.”

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