SOUTH BEND – Javon McKinley caught three touchdown passes from Ian Book and No. 2 Notre Dame overcame an early deficit to defeat Syracuse 45-21 at Notre Dame Stadium today. The Irish finish the regular season 10-0 and 9-0 in ACC play.
- Notre Dame let its focus slip: For the last three years, Notre Dame has emphasized its "process" and treating every game as if its the same. All football teams talk about that, but the Irish have shown an ability to live up to it and the result has been 33 consecutive wins against unranked opponents. That stoic focus slipped just a little bit at the start against Syracuse. It's understandable: the Irish had already clinched an ACC title game spot and the Orange came in 1-9. But that little slippage was enough for the Orange to throw an early scare in Notre Dame, taking a 7-3 lead into the second quarter, before the Irish righted the ship. That should give coach Brian Kelly a talking point for his team over the next couple of weeks and it was encouraging to see the Irish respond after falling behind for the third time in four games.
- Ian Book earned this: With the victory today, Book becomes the all-time leader in quarterback wins at Notre Dame with 30. He is 30-3 as the starter and has led the Irish to 16 straight wins. Today was one of his best games. With Syracuse loading up to stop the run, Book tossed the ball all over the field, hitting deep, intermediate and short throws (he had a few very good throws that ended in drops) and also scrambling for two long touchdown runs. The El Dorado Hills, California, native extended his streak without an interception to 266 throws, a Notre Dame record before he finally threw a pick into double coverage in the third quarter. Overall, he and looked calm and confident in the pocket, made good decisions about when to pull the ball down and run with and the fifth-year senior seems to be playing his best football as he heads into his final games with the Irish.
- The defense can use the week off: Notre Dame's defense has been one of the best in the country all season, giving up just 16.7 points per game despite playing a double-overtime game against Clemson along the way. The second half of last week's performance against North Carolina, when the Irish held one of the best offenses in the country to just three points, was the defense's masterpiece. This week was a significant come-down from that effort. A mediocre-at-best Syracuse offense moved the ball relatively well against the Irish, advancing into Notre Dame territory on five drives. The Blue and Gold were helped by four big turnovers, including a strip-sack from Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa in the second quarter that set up Notre Dame's end-of-half flurry and took it from a 10-7 advantage to a 24-7 lead in less than two minutes. Despite those takeaways, the Irish gave up 414 total yards and 6.5 yards per carry to a Syracuse team that came in averaging just 2.7 yards per rush. There were too many open receivers in space and the Irish just seemed a little less certain than they were against North Carolina. Now they have two weeks to prepare for a much more difficult opponent.
Player of the Game: Ian Book
On a day when Notre Dame was clearly not at its best, Book did more to bail the Irish out than anyone. He finished 24 of 37 passing for 285 yards and three scores, while also running for 53 yards and two touchdowns. He finally threw an interception in the third quarter, but he ran his career record at Notre Dame Stadium to 15-0. His 338 total yards put him over 300 for the fourth straight game and fifth time this season.
Notre Dame has gone undefeated in the regular season 18 times in its history, including 2020. This is the first time since 1948-49 that the Irish have had two undefeated regular seasons in three years. ... Notre Dame has won 10 games in four straight seasons for the first time in program history. The Irish have 21 10-win seasons in their history and six have come in coach Brian Kelly's 11 seasons at the helm. ... Notre Dame has won 24 straight games at home, the longest streak for the Irish since Notre Dame Stadium opened in 1930. Only Clemson has a longer active streak. The Irish have gone undefeated at home in three straight seasons. ... Kyren Williams ran 20 times for 110 yards, putting him over 1,000 yards for the season. That's Notre Dame's first 1,000-yard rushing season since Josh Adams in 2017. Williams has run for 100-plus yards in a game six times this season and twice in a row. ... Chris Tyree ran six times for 109 yards, including a 94-yard fourth-quarter touchdown. ... McKinley had seven catches for 111 yards and the three scores, going over 100 yards receiving for the fourth time this season and second in a row. ... Former Homestead wide receiver and Fort Wayne native Ben Skowronek had four catches for 71 yards for the Irish. ... Notre Dame's current 16-game winning streak is the longest active streak in the country. ... Irish linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah had 1/2 a tackle for loss, two pass breakups and a forced fumble. ... It was Senior Day for Notre Dame. The festivities took place after the game because of the coronavirus pandemic. ... Syracuse dressed fewer than 60 scholarship players because of injuries and opt-outs. The Orange have lost eight games in a row.
Notre Dame will play in the ACC Championship Game on Dec. 19 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. The game will kick off at 4 p.m. The team that will be opposite the Irish is not yet known. If Clemson beats Virginia Tech tonight (kickoff 7:30 p.m.), Notre Dame will face the fourth-ranked Tigers. If Clemson loses and Miami wins its final two games against Duke (kickoff 8 p.m.) and No. 17 North Carolina (kickoff TBA Dec. 12), the Irish would take on the ninth-ranked Hurricanes.