They say a win is a win, no matter what the product looked like on the field.
For Notre Dame, that product didn't look worthy of a 31-13 victory over Boston College on Saturday night, but in the end it was good enough to pull the Irish to 2-3 on the year.
Getting off to a start in which the Irish jumped out to a 21-0 lead before the end of the first quarter, the Irish were never able to put the game away early as they let the Eagles crawl back into the game until the fourth quarter crept around. Many Irish fans were satisfied with the victory, but not satisfied with how that victory was attained.
Although there were plenty of positives to take away from this victory, there are also negatives looming.
Some bright spots for the Irish included the play of some unknown players making big plays. Freshmen Bennett Jackson and Prince Shembo both shined in their minimal playing time—Jackson bringing promise to the kick return game and Shembo providing much, much needed pressure off the edge of the defense.
In addition to the stellar play of the youngsters, the middle linebackers of Notre Dame continue to make noise. Manti Te'o (leading the nation in tackles) and Carlo Calabrese, both only sophomores, make up one of the best MLB-units in the country.
And, surprisingly enough, the Irish defense impressed last night by holding the Eagles to a total of five rushing yards, even with big-name Montel Harris in the backfield for Boston College. Although they have almost no playmakers on offense, the Irish defense played very well besides a long touchdown pass given up in the first half.
Quarterback Dayne Crist again struggled to take that next step in his development and has shown little (if any) improvement over the course of the season. His accuracy and on-the-run throwing remain to be his biggest question marks.
Turnovers are also becoming an issue for the offense as they are now ranked 94th in the country in turnover ratio. With fumbles coming almost every game from a running back or a receiver, Kelly needs to make ball security a focus in practice. One of these games, a turnover will cost the Irish a game that they should have won.
And again, an abysmal showing by the punting game. It's the little things that matter in winning football games, like holding onto the football and turnovers. If Ben Turk can't get the job done on a consistent basis, the Irish will need to look deeper in their program for an answer—that may even mean checking out the Interhall league where they found their diamond in the rough kicker, David Ruffer, who is a perfect 13-13 in his career.
All in all, this win was huge for Notre Dame. A loss would have really brought some heat for Kelly and his team and would only add to the struggles of rebuilding a program under a new system.
It wasn't pretty, but the job was accomplished. From here on out, improvement from week to week is key for Kelly and his team, especially while entering the weaker portion of their slate. Leading up to the ultimate "measuring stick" game against USC in the final week of the season, Kelly still has plenty of work to do.
But for now, a win is a win—no matter how ugly it is.