Chicago Sun-Times
with Mark Lazerus

Final: Notre Dame 21, Boston College 6

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CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Brian Kelly and his coaches caught a glimpse of a TV shortly before Saturday night's game at Boston College and saw that top-ranked Alabama had lost to Texas A&M, moving fourth-ranked Notre Dame one giant step closer to the national championship game.

Kelly immediately decided not to tell his players the news, lest it fuzzy their focus for the night's game. Nice try.

"We had it on our phones, we knew," said cornerback Bennett Jackson. "A few guys were excited about it, but we didn't get too caught up in it. We were focused on the task at hand."

The task at hand was surviving and advancing past Boston College, which the Irish did with a ho-hum 21-6 victory at Alumni Stadium, leaving them one of three undefeated BCS-eligible teams left. But Kelly still isn't making stump speeches to bully Notre Dame into the BCS championship game, and the Irish certainly aren't blowing away voters by blowing away opponents, or with flashy numbers and a highlight-reel offense.

Style points just aren't Notre Dame's style.

"It's always about the win," linebacker Manti Te'o said. "There's nothing else that matters. Stats don't matter. As long as we win, that's all that matters."

And the Irish just keep winning, and if they keep doing that -- and if Oregon or Kansas State slips up down the stretch -- they might just grind their way to the top, just like they grinded their way past the Eagles.

This one followed a familiar formula. The Irish (10-0 for the first time since 1993) dominated the time of possession with long, efficient, clock-devouring drives anchored by a reliable running game and timely third-down conversions -- the Irish converted their first 10 third-down attempts. And the defense held Boston College out of the end zone, showing some of the bending but none of the breaking that nearly cost the Irish everything last week against Pittsburgh.

The Irish took the life right out of the Eagles (2-8) and a buzzing crowd with two cruelly efficient first-half scoring drives, led by a sharp, dual-threat Everett Golson at quarterback. The Irish opened the game with a 13-play, 95-yard drive capped by a Golson 2-yard touchdown run. They closed the first half with a 16-play, 87-yard drive that ended in a 7-yard TD pass from Golson to Troy Niklas. The drive ate up more than eight minutes and sent Notre Dame into the locker room up 14-3.

The Irish opened the third quarter with a comparatively brief nine-play, 70-yard drive that ended in Golson (16-of-24, 200 yards, 2 TD) hitting John Goodman for an 18-yard touchdown and a 21-3 lead.

Kelly was heartened to see his team capitalizing in the red zone.

"We said that once he starts playing at the level we need him in the red zone, we will start scoring touchdowns, and not just field goals," Kelly said

Neither team -- nor the lulled-to-sleep crowd, for that matter -- made much noise the rest of the way, as the Irish ran out the clock on another marginally impressive, but mammothly important victory. Not that you'll hear the Irish talk about the national title with two games left -- Wake Forest and USC. If anything, Alabama's loss was another cautionary tale after last week's near-debacle against Pittsburgh.

"That's proof that it's college football, and any team can lose at any time," Te'o said. "And we just don't want to be that team."
 

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Lazerus published on November 10, 2012 10:11 PM.

Halftime update: Golson leads Irish to 14-3 lead was the previous entry in this blog.

DaVaris Daniels hurts shoulder, could be out till bowl game is the next entry in this blog.

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