Notre Dame’s defense shut out North Carolina in the second half on the way to a 31-17 win over the No. 19 Tar Heels.
No. 2 Notre Dame (9-0) tied the game at 17-17 just before halftime and took the lead in the third quarter on a Ben Skowronek rushing touchdown. That was all that the Irish needed thanks to a steller defensive effort that forced punts on five of North Carolina’s six second-half possessions.
Oh, it didn’t hurt that Ian Book was pretty damn good too.
Book was a magician throughout the game and seemingly escaped pressure from the North Carolina defensive front whenever it came. This crazy underhanded flip pass to Michael Mayer in the second half even worked out too.
Ian Book is having the time of his life pic.twitter.com/vYMkNoy5cD
— Yahoo Sports College Football (@YahooSportsCFB) November 27, 2020
Book finished the game 23-of-33 passing for 279 yards and a touchdown. He also had to 48 yards rushing on eight carries.
Notre Dame put North Carolina away with a stellar drive at the end of the fourth quarter. The Irish got the ball up seven with 5:40 to go and promptly went 89 yards in eight plays and took 4 minutes and 20 seconds off the clock before Kyren Williams scored his second touchdown of the game. Williams finished the game with 23 carries for 124 yards and two touchdowns.
Notre Dame sacked Sam Howell 6 times
As Book was able to escape from pressure over and over again, North Carolina QB Sam Howell could not. The Irish sacked Howell six times and held North Carolina to its lowest offensive outputs of the season.
Entering Saturday, the Tar Heels hadn’t scored fewer than 26 points or had less than 401 yards in their first eight games of the season. Against Notre Dame, North Carolina had just 298 total yards. In those first eight games, UNC averaged over 563 yards per game.
The game looked like it was going to be a shootout at the start. Both teams traded touchdowns in a 28-point first quarter that ended 14-14.
But Notre Dame locked Howell and the UNC rushing attack down after that. North Carolina’s two touchdown drives totaled 125 yards. The Tar Heels had 173 yards over their final nine drives.
Notre Dame’s path to the ACC title game
It’s pretty simple for the Irish to get to a likely rematch with Clemson in the ACC championship game.
All Notre Dame has to do to clinch its first — and maybe only? — ACC championship game berth is to beat lowly Syracuse at home on Dec. 5. A win there means that Notre Dame doesn’t have to worry about the outcome of the Wake Forest game on Dec. 12 for ACC title purposes.
The outcome of that Wake game is pretty important for the playoff, of course. As long as Notre Dame keeps winning the Irish will stay in the top four of the playoff standings. And an undefeated Notre Dame could even potentially lose that rematch with the Tigers and still make the playoff.
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