Is The Deep Ball Key To A Notre Dame Victory Over Boston College?
Notre Dame football fans took a sigh of relief when senior quarterback Ian Book delivered on his deep passes against Navy.
He completed two dimes of more than 45 yards, one to senior wideout Chase Claypool and the other to sophomore speedster Braden Lenzy, that hit the receiver in stride and led to easy touchdowns.
“He can throw the ball deep, so we can take that one off the list of many [criticisms],” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said of Book after the Navy game. “It’s a beautiful throw. He’s capable of making all the throws. Good to have some speed back there, Lenzy being able to give us that stretch vertically. It was a beautiful throw, and nice to see those plays hit.
“We had kind of missed some of those early in the season, and it's good to see those come together.”
All of a sudden, those early season misses that earned Book the reputation of not being able to throw the deep ball are starting to be forgotten.
It is to the point that Boston College head coach Steve Addazio actually complimented the Irish signal-caller for his ability to throw it deep.
“I think he is extremely mobile, throws a great deep ball and looks like he has total command of their offense," Addazio said. “I’m very, very impressed.”
The truth is, Book’s recent success with the deep ball probably has the opposing coach worried. The Eagles have one of the worst passing defenses in the Football Bowl Subdivision. They currently rank 121st in team passing efficiency defense, which is slightly ahead of New Mexico and Bowling Green at 125th and 126th, respectively.
Part of Boston College’s defensive struggles is that they give up a large number of big plays in the passing game. Per TeamRankings.com, which does not include games against Football Championship Subdivision teams in its statistics, the Eagles are 124th in yards allowed per opponent pass attempt at 9.1. It was even worse in their last three games, when they allowed 10.3 yards per attempt and gave up 10 passing touchdowns with just one interception, which was thrown by North Carolina State’s backup quarterback.
“That’s probably been the biggest struggle for the defense, they are just getting torched over the top,” said Justin Rowland, a staff writer with Eagle Action. “They have one of the worst passing defenses in the country and that’s mostly due to blown assignments.”
This means that Book and the Irish receivers should once again have plenty of opportunities to burn Boston College deep.
This is an issue Addazio is well aware of and hopes his team is able to fix coming off of a bye week. He also acknowledges that preventing blown assignments is easier said than done with an inexperienced secondary.
“No one goes out and says, ‘Hey, I’m going to give up the deep ball today,’” he said. “You go out there and you’re playing and these are learning experiences for some DBs that don’t have a lot of game experience. That’s what happens when you’re a young defensive back there. This is part of the maturation process.
“We’ve had a lot of really good DBs here that have gone on and are currently playing in the NFL, and this is another batch that we have right now that will have the same opportunity, but not yet.”
On Playing In The ‘Holy War’
Notre Dame and Boston College have a long-standing rivalry, which is something Addazio understands having also worked at Notre Dame as an assistant coach from 1999-2001.
“I think there are a lot of similarities [between the schools]. I just think it lends itself to a natural rivalry kind of game,” he said. “These are two programs that do it the right way. You’re talking about placing tremendous emphasis on academics and scholarship and faith and character and all those things that go into making these two Catholic institutions elite.
“Amongst the wild, wild west of college football right now, these are two of the places that have completely got that perspective in hand. So I think that creates a great rivalry.”
Currently, Notre Dame has a five-game win streak against Boston College, dating back to the 2009 season.
But that hasn’t always been the case. Everyone remembers when the Eagles upset the Irish in 1993, but in Addazio’s three seasons at Notre Dame, he had a 1-2 record against Boston College, losing in both 1999 at home and 2001 on the road.
“I can remember when I was at Notre Dame and they beat us out there, Boston College beat us,” he said, “and the guys came in and at that time it was still the grass field, and we’re cutting out pieces of the turf and bringing it back.”
Can BC Prevent An 18-Game Home Win Streak?
Addazio knows it will be a challenge to go to South Bend and leave with a win, especially given Notre Dame’s current 17-game home win streak.
“As I told our kids, you’ve got to have great preparation because you’ve got to go into that stadium with great confidence, and you’ve got to have a warrior mentality,” he said. “When you go out into that tunnel and get ready to go on the field, it’s not easy to go beat Notre Dame at Notre Dame.”
None of the Eagle players have been to Notre Dame Stadium. In fact, the last three times the two teams have played, the game has been in Massachusetts, with the most recent matchup in Notre Dame Stadium taking place in 2011.
“I’m going to do some other things as the week goes on to try to make sure they understand the intensity of this game and what it means because, yes, these guys, they have not been there,” Addazio said. “But we also deal with guys who are very bright guys, and they get it and understand it, and they feel it.
“You still are playing a national team, and they get that, too, that this is still a grand stage, and if you’re a competitor, you’re playing a top-15 team on a grand stage, that's what you want to do.”