In the end, the Boston College defense couldn’t do it all Saturday night against the fifth-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
In a festive atmosphere before 38,686 fans at Fenway Park, the Fighting Irish played a sloppy game but came away with a 19-16 win over the Boston College Eagles in the Shamrock Series. While the game was in Boston College’s backyard, it was a mostly Irish partisan crowd. The contest, technically a Notre Dame home game, was the first football game at Fenway since the Patriots beat the Bengals, 33-14, on Dec. 1, 1968.
Notre Dame had to recover an onsides kick with 53 seconds remaining to secure the win after Boston College’s Jeff Smith drove the Eagles 86 yards in nine plays to draw the Eagles within a field goal with under a minute left.
The game appeared on paper to be an easy win for the fifth-ranked Irish, who knew coming into the game that No. 3 Ohio State lost at home, 17-14, to Michigan State. Notre Dame (10-1) didn’t play like its national playoff hopes was on the line. They were their own worst enemy in the first half, committing four turnovers in the first half, including a pair of turnovers inside the red zone.
The Eagles (3-8) forced four first half turnovers and could’ve had a fifth but it was overturned after TV replay. Notre Dame still managed a 10-0 lead behind a Justin Yoon 30-yard field goal and a 10-yard touchdown pass from DeShone Kizer to Amir Carlisle. Notre Dame outgained Boston College 153-26 in the 15 minutes.
Boston College had a golden opportunity to get back in the game but Thadd Smith dropped a likely touchdown pass at the Notre Dame 25 after he got behind the defense.
Boston College continued to show life after halftime, as Michael Walker took the second half kickoff 67 yards to the Notre Dame 27. But as would be the case all night, the Eagles offense could do absolute nothing with the ball, settling for a 43-yard Colton Lichtenberg field goal into the right field end zone that cut Notre Dame’s lead to 10-3. Jeff Smith came on for an ineffective John Fadule in the third quarter and began running more of an option-read offense.
The Irish appeared ready to respond immediately when they drove from their own 28 down to the Boston College 6. But there, BC defensive back Justin Simmons picked off DeShone Kizer at the BC 3 to end the drive. It was Notre Dame’s fifth turnover of the night, which did not including a fumble recovered by BC in the first half that was overturned by replay.
Kizer found Chris Brown for a 12-yard touchdown connection late in the third quarter and the Irish appeared to be pulling away. The extra point was botched and it was 16-3 Notre Dame. Justin Yoon hit his second field goal of the night from 35 yards to put the Irish up, 19-3, with 10:35 left in the fourth. But after the ensuing kickoff put the Eagles at the 20, Smith ran a keeper 80 yards for a Boston College touchdown that drew Boston College within 10, 19-9, with 10:17 left.
Smith hit receiver Charlie Callinan over the middle for a three-yard touchdown score with 54 seconds left in the game to draw the Eagles close.
The Fighting Irish finish their regular season at No. 15 Stanford next week and would likely land in the national championship four-team playoff with a win.
This was the third time the two rivals played at a non-campus site. on Sept. 15, 1975, Notre Dame beat Boston College, 17-3, at Schaefer Stadium in Foxboro. Notre Dame won, 19-18, in the 1983 Liberty Bowl played in Memphis, Tenn.
The Irish improve to 2-0 lifetime at Fenway, beating Dartmouth, 64-0, on Oct. 14, 1944.