Win over BC not a day for offense
Although Notre Dame has averaged 42 points per game in their last three wins, lousy field position, lousy weather and Boston College's defense made it increasingly evident that this would be a low-scoring affair.
This was not a day for quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers. This was a day for middle linebackers, and two of the best went head-to-head as both Manti Te'o and Boston College's Luke Kuechly traded tackles during Notre Dame's 16-14 victory on Senior Day at Notre Dame Stadium.
"Both those guys were going to be all over the field tonight," said Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, who recruited Kuechly when he was at Cincinnati. "I knew Kuechly would be. He went sideline to sideline and Manti played great. It was good stuff."
An 18-yard catch and change-of-direction run by senior Michael Floyd set up a 27-yard field goal that gave the Irish a 16-7 lead with 8:08 left in the fourth quarter. With the Boston College offense struggling, as the unit that entered the game ranked 112th in the nation has done all season, the two-score advantage was too much to overcome.
Field position played a big role in keeping a Notre Dame offense that gained 417 total yards off the scoreboard. Notre Dame's average field position in the game was the 21.
The Eagles (3-8) cut the lead to two when quarterback Chase Rettig hit receiver Bobby Swigert for a 7-yard score with 1:57 left, but Notre Dame (8-3) recovered the onside kick.
"That's the best gift you can give seniors, and they have done so much for this program," quarterback Tommy Rees said. "Helping them out and getting a win means everything."
Te'o and Kuechly are both semifinalists for the Butkus Award, which is given to the nation's best linebacker, and both immediately made their presence felt. Te'o stuffed running back Andre Williams for no gain on the Eagles initial drive and levelled running back Tahj Kimble after he caught a short pass from quarterback Chase Rettig on Boston College's next drive.
Kuechly, meanwhile, ranged far to his left and tackled Michael Floyd after a 6-yard gain in the second quarter. The play not only showed highlighted his impressive range but was the 516th tackle of his career, making the junior the all-time leading tackler in Atlantic Coast Conference history.
Kuechly had six tackles after the first quarter, nine at halftime, 12 after three periods and 14 for the game. Te'o's final line read: 4-4-2-2 for a total of 12 in what could also have been his final home game. Although the junior is projected to be a first-round pick if he declares himself eligible for the NFL draft, he said he was focused on the seniors.
"Of course it crossed my mind but it wasn't that difficult to block out when you look at Jonas [Gray], when you look at Harrison [Smith] Darius [Fleming], Gary [Gray] and R.J. [Blanton]," Te'o said. "Look at those guys. For me, it was just making sure they went out with a win."
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