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Boston College takes big step backward in brutal loss at Notre Dame

A week after stunning then-No. 17 North Carolina State in the final seconds, Boston College reverted to its old habits and turned in its worst half of the season in an eventual 44-0 road loss to No. 18 Notre Dame on Saturday in South Bend, Ind.

The Eagles (3-8, 2-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) trailed, 17-0, through one quarter and 37-0 at halftime. The Irish (8-3) racked up 336 total yards in the first half, compared to 81 for BC, and held a 214-1 edge in rushing yards.

“Going into the week, we felt good,” BC receiver Zay Flowers said. “We had a plan and ran with the plan. We felt like it was a good plan. It just didn’t go the way we wanted to today.”

Blake Grupe drilled a 26-yard field goal two minutes into the game, Logan Diggs scored from 1 yard out, and Drew Pyne hit Matt Salerno for a 1-yard strike late in the first quarter. Grupe added 41- and 46-yard field goals to make it 23-0, then Audric Estimé delivered from 7 yards out and Chris Tyree from 12 yards to extend the margin.

Eagles coach Jeff Hafley said the Irish have the biggest offensive line his team has seen all season, along with really big running backs, yet he made it clear his defense also missed tackles.

BC redshirt freshman quarterback Emmett Morehead (9 for 22, 117 yards, 3 interceptions), who showed plenty of promise in his first two starts, played a part in four first-half turnovers. He threw two costly interceptions, fumbled, and threw a backward pass to Flowers that resulted in another fumble.

Starter Phil Jurkovec remained out with a concussion, broken rib, and sprained MCL. Hafley reiterated that Morehead has a bright future and will inevitably have ups and downs early in his career.

The coach noted the Eagles simply never got in a rhythm and couldn’t recover. Hafley is well aware five turnovers won’t cut it.

“You really don’t have a chance against a good team,” he said. “You don’t have a chance against anybody.”

Flowers became the Eagles’ all-time leader with 192 career receptions, freshman Alex Broome showed his versatility, and Vinny DePalma had a career-high 12 tackles. Beyond that, it was all Irish.

All of Boston College’s starting offensive linemen — left tackle Ozzy Trapilo, left guard Jackson Ness, center Drew Kendall, right guard Dwayne Allick (RG), and right tackle Jack Conley — battled illness and were limited in practice during the week, but all five played.

“I appreciate our guys,” Hafley said. “We had a bunch of guys who didn’t practice all week and came out and gave it everything they had. That is not an excuse of why we did not win this football game, but I appreciate their effort.”

Those linemen were outmatched individually and collectively, as they’ve been the bulk of the season, which led to the Irish racking up four sacks on the day.

Following a light flurry in the first half, it started to snow considerably more early in the third quarter and the field eventually was covered in white. The Irish didn’t need another advantage, but they got one, as their ability to run the ball and stop the run continued to pay dividends.

“In the second half, you really couldn’t do much throwing the football,” Hafley said. “Snow covered the field pretty quickly, it was pretty windy, and we just had to hand the ball off a bunch.”

Freshman Benjamin Morrison (three interceptions) picked off Morehead once again, then Estimé scored for a second time, this one from 6 yards out, to push the margin to 44-0 through three quarters.

Neither side scored in a dreary fourth quarter, and that was that.

The Eagles entered with momentum on their side after knocking off an Associated Press-ranked opponent for the first time since 2014. They were looking to register back-to-back wins over ranked foes for the first time in team history and earn their first victory over the Irish since 2008. Instead, BC turned in a flat and uninspiring performance that mirrored the way it played against Virginia Tech, Florida State, and UConn.

The sobering reality in Chestnut Hill is that epic wins are outliers and duds like Saturday’s game have become the norm. BC’s opponents have a 332-190 edge in points, 1,851-670 cushion in net rushing yards, and 4,100-3,383 advantage in total yards.

The Eagles, who host Syracuse on Saturday to close the season, have one more shot to build some much-needed momentum toward next year.

“Just go,” said DePalma, a graduate linebacker. “Everything that’s happened before this doesn’t really matter. Just got to go let it all hang out. Last one at Alumni [Stadium]. Just go let it rip.”

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