CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – As they creep closer and closer to an undefeated season, there’s that fear that a team could sneak up and pull a shocker.
Notre Dame fans might have been thinking this before their match-up with North Carolina on Friday afternoon. It’s an unusual day for the Irish to play against a ranked opponent on the road who is looking to improve their resume as the 2020 regular season concludes.
It looked as if something like that might be brewing in the first 30 minutes of football at Kenan Stadium on Friday, but the Irish made sure that their undefeated record wouldn’t suffer a blemish.
The Irish offense got enough to erase an early deficit to the Tar Heels and that was plenty for a strong defense that made the lead standup in a 31-17 victory at Kenan Stadium.
Brian Kelly’s team takes a step closer to a berth in the ACC Championship Game on December 19th and a potential College Football Playoff bid as they run their record to 9-0 on the season. They have just two games left in the regular season – December 5th against Syracuse in South Bend then the finale against Wake Forest in Winston-Salem on December 12th.
Notre Dame will be heavy favorites in both contests, and will have to avoid the upset bug like they did on Friday, but the Irish so far have shown the ability to shake off any early struggles.
Ian Book did just that when North Carolina took a 14-7 lead in the first quarter, taking the Irish on an 82-yard march in just four plays to respond. The quarterback completed the quick drive by eluding rushers at the line, then reversing field to find Kyren Williams, who dove in to score his second touchdown of the half.
After the teams traded field goals in the second quarter, Notre Dame’s defense began to take over, shutting down North Carolina’s offense that was tenth in FBS in scoring with 49.2 points per game. The Irish held them to just 58 total yards in the second half and off the scoreboard completely as Notre Dame’s defense finished with six total sacks.
Meanwhile Book was able to engineer a pair of scoring drives in the second half to put the Irish ahead. Notre Dame got the lead on a 97-yard drive early in the third quarter that was finished by Ben Skowronek’s 11-yard end around run for a score.
After missing a field goal and stalling on a few other drives, Notre Dame put on one more long march to put the game away. Williams, who had a 47-yard run earlier in the drive, finished the 89-yard push down the field with a short touchdown to make it 31-17.
He finished with 124 yards rushing on 23 carries while book was 23-of-33 for 279 yards, all which coupled with a strong defense kept the Irish perfect heading into December.