Notre Dame's Opponents: Irish hopes of Cotton Bowl hinge on Tennessee - Inside the Irish | NBC Sports (2022)

The Minnesota native laughed at the cold, thinking back to an eighth-grade game with a windchill pushing 0 degrees. The Louisiana native grimaced at it, twice saying, “It was cold, it was cold,” before adding the weather was “doable,” as if that wasn’t obvious in No. 18 Notre Dame’s 44-0 drubbing of Boston College on Saturday.

Would it be too cliché to say the Irish ground game hit the Eagles like an avalanche in the first half before the snow actually showed up after halftime? Nordic countries supposedly have about 180 words for snow — more than triple the actual number in Eskimo languages — but the more pertinent number tied to the snow on Saturday was 214, as in Notre Dame’s first-half rushing yardage on 22 carries.

When the six inches of snowfall dropped on South Bend on Saturday clouded all vision and reduced most traction after halftime, Boston College’s fate was already buried beneath that avalanche, a 37-0 halftime deficit more than the Eagles (3-8) may have been able to overcome against even an FCS team in September, let alone the Irish (8-3) as they round into the form expected in September.

Averaging 9.73 yards per carry in the first half will do that. That rate was more indicative of Notre Dame’s rout than anything diminished by 67 yards on 16 second-half rush attempts, both the score and the snowfall removing any version of active aggression from the competition.

“We’re challenged to run the ball every week,” sophomore left tackle Joe Alt said. “Being able to go out and put up a number like that for our seniors, especially our senior offensive linemen, send them out on the right foot at Notre Dame Stadium, it was so much fun for us as a group.”

From a Minneapolis suburb, Alt could be believed to think the 25-degree afternoon and heavy snowfall was “fun.” It was still a bit difficult to trust his, or anyone’s, embracing of bare skin on the day. The Irish offensive line spurned head coach Marcus Freeman’s repeated requests to dress for the occasion and all played without sleeves.

There was no surprise in that. The standard so consistently espoused by sixth-year right guard Josh Lugg and fifth-year left guard and two-time captain Jarrett Patterson is as much about mentality as fundamentals, and that mentality would never allow the perceived display of weakness from wearing long sleeves. Irrational? Perhaps, but not surprising.

“For us offensive linemen, it’s never going to be sleeves,” Alt said. “… It’s also a mindset. It’s going to be cold, it’s cold for everybody. You don’t want to let that affect your play. The cold is going to be there, it’s there for everybody, but let’s just put that out of our heads and go play.”

Fair enough. Not quite logical, but the focusing and motivating aspect of that cold may hold merit. Nothing more, though.

Then Notre Dame gave Alt every ounce of credibility imaginable.

The Irish offensive line regularly stays after practice on its own to work through a few more drills, another example of that long-held “standard.” Apparently, at some point in the past week — Notre Dame practiced outdoors two of the three midweek days — the offensive line finished its drills and made snow angels, put a helmet on a snowman and had an all-out snowball fight. All, of course, without sleeves.

Prepared all week#GoIrish

— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) November 20, 2022

Pennsylvania’s Lugg (No. 75) made one of the taller snow angels ever known, his 6-foot-6 ⅞ frame pushing aside the snow. Illinois native Pat Coogan (No. 78) helped Pennsylvanian Michael Carmody (No. 68) with the snowman. Indiana native Ashton Craig (No. 70) drilled Alt with a snowball.

These idiots really did enjoy the snow. Alt was not blustering after the rout. If he unexpectedly stuck around in South Bend for his senior season and the College Football Playoff expanded smoothly, an unprecedented thought, before the 2024 season, the thought of an on-campus Playoff game would clearly bring Notre Dame’s offensive line utter joy.

They may try to act like the snow is falling next week in Los Angeles, too.

“We’ll look back today and look at this past week of our preparation and say next week’s not going to be a snow game, but two of the three days this week, we went outside, because it’s a mentality,” Freeman said. “We’re going to be tough.”


— Matt Cashore (@mattcashore) November 20, 2022

The first snap from scrimmage.

Past descriptions like that have been glib, accurate but glip. This was not a “Kickoff” moment a la Bowling Green in 2019. Rather, sophomore running back Logan Diggs’ 51-yard carry on the first play of the game set the tone and immediately made it clear, Notre Dame could plow through Boston College with reckless abandon.

A couple poor throws stalled the drive inside the 10-yard line, leading to the first of Blake Grupe’s three field goals, but the point was made all the same. The Irish would not only dominate the Eagles’ offensive line but on both sides of the trench.

“Five people just this past week were telling me, ‘Logan, you’re going to have a big one,’” said Diggs, the aforementioned Louisiana native who was a bit less enthusiastic about the temperatures than Alt. “I was just like, ‘I hope so.’

“First play of the game, they blocked it up well. I had the perfect opportunity to go, when I was running like, I don’t want to go down.”

Diggs breaking that play confirmed Notre Dame’s offensive approach. A week ago, Navy’s all-out blitzing in the second half hassled Irish quarterback Drew Pyne and stifled the run game. Initially, Freeman intended to adjust if Boston College employed a similar defensive strategy.

“One of my keys, it said, run the ball or make them pay,” Freeman said. “What happens if a team doesn’t let you run the ball, they bring nine guys into the box? You have to make them pay. They’re playing zero and they’re pressuring, you’ve got to throw the ball.”

Freeman headed to an offensive meeting with that thought process. Then he heard from offensive coordinator Tommy Rees.

“Coach Rees said something about, ‘We’re going to run the ball, there’s no other option,’” Freeman said. “I said, you know what, that’s right. So we went to the Friday night meeting, I said, listen, we’re going to run the ball and make them pay.”

Particularly in the second quarter, Notre Dame ran the ball and made Boston College pay. On 19 offensive plays, it ran 12 times for 112 yards and two touchdowns.

“We had to run the ball,” Freeman said. “I don’t care what they’re playing defensively. I don’t care if they brought everybody they had, similar to Navy, we’re going to have to find a way to run the ball.”

Yep, Benjamin Morrison has tied the #NotreDame record for interceptions in a game with three.
The last player to do it?
Clue: There was snow.

Harrison Smith in the 2010 Sun Bowl against Miami.

— Douglas Farmer (@D_Farmer) November 19, 2022

Cornerback Benjamin Morrison may not be remembered for making a freshman All-American team. He could end up on thee All-American team. With five interceptions in the last two Irish home games, Morrison is now among the nation’s leaders in picks. Heading into the weekend, only Miami’s Kamren Kinchens had more interceptions with six. He did not add one this weekend.

“He finds a way, he keeps finding a way,” Freeman said. “He’s a talented young man.”

To hear Morrison walk through his interceptions, the lead-up varies. His first was during a scramble drill initiated by defensive line pressure, Morrison “plasting” himself to the receiver as he is coached. The second was an instinctual snag. The third came courtesy of a ball with a bit too much air under it, perhaps hard to see in the flurries but otherwise easy.

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Notre Dame scored on its first eight possessions. Its ninth stalled out inside the 10-yard line, a turnover on downs in the snow. Only on the 10th Irish possession did Harvard transfer punter Jon Sot get in some work.

Meanwhile, 10 of Boston College’s 11 possessions should be chalked up as failures.

In other words, Notre Dame controlled 90.5 percent of the game. That remaining 9.5 percent was deep into garbage time, not to mention it came when Lugg would rather have been making a snow angel and Diggs would have preferred to be drinking some of the hot apple cider stashed on the sideline.

“Just fun,” Morrison said when asked to summarize the day in the snow as Notre Dame recognized 25 seniors. “To have a game like that with the seniors, not even talking about my performance, but a day like that, felt like I was a kid out there around a bunch of other grown kids. It was a fun day.”

tweet to @d_farmer

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