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After almost beating Clemson, Boston College aims to upset No. 2 Notre Dame

BC quarterback Phil Jurkovec and his teammates get another crack at a top-five opponent, facing No. 4 Notre Dame at Alumni Stadium Saturday.Dennis Nett | dnett@syracuse.com/Associated Press

The Boston College football team got off the plane from its road trip to Syracuse, N.Y., Saturday with plenty of time to see Notre Dame pull off what the Eagles had come close to doing the week before.

Clemson star quarterback Trevor Lawrence was once again out of the lineup after testing positive for COVID-19 recently, but the Tigers still had plenty of firepower when they faced Notre Dame.

The Fighting Irish just had more. And after the game stretched into two intense overtime periods with the momentum swinging with each series, Notre Dame pulled together and pulled out the biggest upset of the season, a 47-40 victory over top-ranked Clemson.


Parts of Notre Dame’s stunner felt familiar to BC coach Jeff Hafley.

“Kind of similar to our game, right?” Hafley said. “Notre Dame gets out on top, and Clemson fights back, and Notre Dame found a way to finish them off at the end of the game.”

Hafley watched Saturday night with the same eye as a fan. His immediate observations were mostly surface-level.

“I thought the quarterback played really well, the running back played really well, and [the offensive] line looked good,” he said. “I’ll probably watch it a lot tonight on the coach’s version, but just watching on TV, they showed a lot of fight, well-coached team, and they’ve got some juice to them.”

With Notre Dame ascending to No. 2 in the Associated Press Top 25, the Eagles can look at their matchup at Alumni Stadium Saturday in the annual Red Bandana Game as another challenge against a top-five team just two weeks after playing Clemson, another opportunity to pull off what they fell short of against the Tigers.

Hafley’s choosing the latter.

“You just want to play the best teams that you can and clearly, right now, they’re one of the best teams in the country,” Hafley said. “No one else has beaten Clemson in [39] straight regular-season games.”


For the first time since 2016, when BC played No. 3 Clemson followed by No. 5 Louisville, the Eagles will face a pair of top-five teams in the same season. Their run of futility against college football’s top tier is well-documented.

Notre Dame was the last top-five team the Eagles beat, but that was Nov. 2, 2002, in a 14-7 victory over the fourth-ranked Fighting Irish in South Bend, Ind. The Eagles are 2-32 all-time against top-five opponents and 0-13 against them at home.

The Eagles are coming off a 16-13 win at Syracuse that was far from pretty but pushed their record to 5-3. While BC’s defense played arguably its best game of the season, the offense lamented all the points it left on the field.

“If you gave me this stat sheet and you didn’t give me the score, it would look like we probably won by 30 points,” Hafley said. “But we didn’t. You have some games like that. You have to learn from them, and we will.”

BC will have to keep an eye on Notre Dame’s COVID testing. Student fans stormed the field at Notre Dame Stadium to celebrate the win over Clemson, many without masks.

Notre Dame players and coaches attempted to leave the field as it was being flooded with people. The university mandated that all students go through coronavirus testing. Hafley said he trusts the protocols that are in place.


“They’re going to get tested,” Hafley said. "They’re going to get tested probably today and then they’re going to get tested Wednesday, and then they’re going to get tested Friday. So we’ll find out.

“And I’m sure coach [Brian] Kelly did a great job of getting them off the field and into the tunnel before any of those students rushed the field like he said he did. And I’m sure they’ll be fine.”

For now, the Eagles will focus on another chance to topple a goliath.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Hafley said. “You’re playing [one of the top-ranked teams] in the country again, and let’s see what we can do. Put together a great week of practice, get confident and go swing as hard as we can and have some fun.”

Julian Benbow can be reached at julian.benbow@globe.com.