SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP)Cornerback Benjamin Morrison had three interceptions, the Notre Dame defense forced two fumbles and the No. 18 Fighting Irish scored on their first eight possessions to beat Boston College 44-0 on Saturday.
Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman said he was happy to see his team play at a high-level throughout, which has been a problem for the Irish this season, especially against weaker opponents.
”Great teams are able to play to a standard. Great individuals are able to play to a standard, not to opponent,” Freeman said. ”Competitors rise to the level of their opponent. To me, great teams, championship teams, set the standard.”
Boston College coach Jeff Hafley said the five turnovers were too much to overcome.
”We never got into a rhythm. We were turning the ball over,” he said.
The Fighting Irish (8-3) won their ninth straight against Boston College (3-8), the only other Catholic university playing in the FBS. Notre Dame also extended its regular-season winning streak against Atlantic Coast Conference teams to 28 games.
The temperature at game time was 27 degrees, making it the coldest game at Notre Dame in nine years, and heavy snow fell through much of the third quarter.
”It was hard enough to throw in the first half and then in the second half I don’t know if you guys could even see what was going on,” Hafley said. ”It was hard to see from the sidelines. I’m going to have to go back and watch the tape.”
He won’t like what he sees. Notre Dame dominated from the start, with Logan Diggs breaking through the line untouched for 51 yards before being tackled at the BC 24-yard line. The Irish settled for a 26-yard field goal by Blake Grupe.
On the next possession, Diggs scored on a 1-yard run, Drew Pyne threw a 1-yard TD pass to Matt Salerno and the rout was on.
Notre Dame had more points than Boston College had total yards late in the first quarter when it was 17-7. Notre Dame had an 11:42 to 3:18 advantage in time of possession and only needed to make five tackles in the first quarter.
The Eagles threatened to score after Emmett Morehead completed his first pass, 39 yards to Zay Flowers at the Notre Dame 25. But Morehead’s next pass to Joe Griffin was intercepted by Morrison in the end zone.
Morrison, who had two key interceptions two weeks ago in a win over Clemson, also intercepted Morehead at the BC 20-yard line on the Eagles’ first possession and at the BC 47-yard field goal on the Eagles’ first possession of the second half. Morrison said he only had one interception in high school.
”This is all new to me, but it’s a blessing,” he said.
Morrison credited the defensive line for pressuring Morehead and forcing the first interception.
”I saw my opportunity and went to go get it,” he said. ”The second one, I felt the release and trusted my instincts. I looked back and there it was.”
The Irish had a 336-81 advantage in total yards in the first half and 214-1 advantage in rushing offense to open a 37-0 halftime lead. For the game, the Irish had a 437-173 advantage in total yards.
It was the fifth straight game the Fighting Irish have scored at least 35 points. The only other time that’s happened was the first five games in 1943, when the Irish won a national championship with a record of 9-1.
The 44-point margin of victory was the second largest in the series; the Irish beat the Eagles 54-7 in 1992.
Diggs finished with 122 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown, and Audric Estime had 71 yards on the ground and two touchdowns. Pyne was 13 of 25 passing for 156 yards and a touchdown.
Morehead made his third career start because Phil Jurkovec, who formerly played at Notre Dame, is out with injuries. Morehead was 9 of 22 passing for 117 yards and was sacked four times.
The Eagles, who entered the game with the worst rushing offense in the FBS at 61.4 yards per game, were held to 56 yards.
Flowers said the weather was a factor in BC’s poor play.
”It was hard to get into a rhythm because if you don’t have the ball that long and it’s cold you’re not really flowing and having the rhythm of just playing,” he said.
`I THINK IT CAN BE BETTER’
Jurkovec posted on Instagram before the game that he wished he could play but is recovering from a concussion, a broken rib and a sprained MCL.
Jurkovec previously told The Boston Globe that former Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly ”lied” to his family.
On Instagram, he wrote: ”Notre Dame holds some of the highest ideals and these are very difficult to live up to. I don’t think the institution practices its stated virtues in all aspects of campus but I urge it to do so because I think it can be better.”
A lopsided victory, even one against a bad opponent led by a backup quarterback, could move the Irish up a few spots.
Boston College: The Eagles couldn’t build on their last-minute 21-20 victory over then-No. 17 North Carolina State. BC hasn’t beaten ranked teams in back-to-back games in 14 years.
Notre Dame: The Irish, which already lost home games vs. Marshall and Stanford, avoided a third embarrassing home loss and kept alive their hopes for a sixth-straight 10-win season.
Boston College: The Eagles host rival Syracuse for the first time since 2018.
Notre Dame: The Irish will be seeking to play the role of spoiler when they play at rival USC, ranked No. 7.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/ap-top25. Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter: https://tinyurl.com/mrxhe6f2