CHESTNUT HILL - Heading into Saturday night's battle for the Ireland Trophy against arch rival Notre Dame, the last thing Boston College needed was uncertainty in any form.
Yet that's just what the Eagles had to deal with all week after head coach Frank Spaziani announced that sophomore quarterback Dave Shinskie would have his starting job revoked.
Following a week of indecision, Spaziani finally named true freshman Chase Rettig as the team's starting quarterback less than two hours before kickoff.
Sadly, the move didn't pan out on Saturday night.
Rettig completed just 5-of-10 passes for 72 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game with an ankle injury late in the second quarter and Notre Dame rolled past Boston College 31-13 in the 20th meeting between the two Catholic school rivals at Alumni Stadium.
"First of all congratulations to coach (Brian) Kelly and Notre Dame, they did a good job," said Spaziani. "They came in here and licked us schematically, physically, every way. They really played a very good football game."
Notre Dame (2-3) took the ball 50 yards on four plays for the score, capped off by quarterback Dayne Crist's (24-for-44, 202 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT; 6 carries, 5 yards, 1 TD) seven yard run to the right to give the Fighting Irish a 7-0 advantage with 13:07 to play in the first quarter.
On the ensuing drive for Boston College (2-2), Rettig opened the drive by handing the ball off to junior running back Montel Harris (15 carries, 28 yards), who took the ball one yard up the middle.
Rettig's first pass attempt of his career came on third and seven. The pass was intended for freshman receiver Clyde Lee, but was off target, resulting in a three-and-out for the Eagles' offense.
Rettig didn't have much success on his second drive, either. After a handoff to Harris on first down, Rettig missed his target on back-to-back plays, forcing yet another three-and-out.
Crist tacked on another score with 6:26 left to play in the first on a two-yard pass to Kyle Rudolph, his only catch of the game, giving Notre Dame a 14-0 lead.
After starting the game 0-for-4, Rettig's completed his first pass on the Eagles' third drive with just over five minutes left in the first. It was a short pass to freshman running back Sterlin Phipher for a one-yard loss on third and 23 from their own 21 yard line.
Needless to say, the Eagles were forced to punt for the third straight drive.
The Fighting Irish capitalized on the turnover, as Crist led his troops 72 yards on seven plays for yet another touchdown. The score came on a 20-yard pass from Crist to Theo Riddick (9 catches, 70 yards, 1 TD), who took it to the house to give the Fighting Irish a commanding 21-0 lead late in the first quarter.
"We spotted them 21 points," Spaziani said. "Obviously in our situation that's not very good for us. Especially the way we were playing and going into the game."
Boston College answered with a four-play, 68-yard drive spanning two minutes that ended with a 58-yard touchdown pass from Rettig to freshman receiver Bobby Swigert (7 catches,137 yards, 1 TD), cutting Notre Dame's lead to 21-7 with 19 seconds left in the quarter.
"It was awesome," Rettig said about his first career touchdown pass. "It was everything I thought it would be since the first day I started playing football."
"He looked like the guy we thought he was," said Spaziani. "He did some good things and made some freshman mistakes. Once again, I know we all want to talk about who the quarterback is and what the situation is but there were other problems that were not the quarterback."
After a six-yard rush by tailback Cierre Wood on the first play of the ensuing drive, Crist completed a short pass to Wood, but Eagles senior defensive tackle Damik Scafe forced a fumble which was recovered by sophomore linebacker Luke Kuechly.
The Eagles took advantage of the opportunity, putting up three points on freshman kicker Nate Freese's 49-yard field goal, cutting Notre Dame's lead to 21-10 with 11:32 left in the second quarter.
Prior to the field goal, Rettig was hit hard and limped off the field. It was later reported that Rettig had injured his left ankle on the play, forcing sophomore backup Mike Marscovetra to step up under center for the remainder of the game.
"I'm pretty sure I was leaving the pocket and I did a spin move back and I think a defender that was trailing me just slid into my ankle," said Rettig. "So I sprained my ankle,"
It was a disappointing loss for the entire team, but more so for Rettig than anyone else.
"It's tough to get in the game and have things start flowing and then you get pulled out," Rettig said. "That's disappointing and hard to swallow."
As for the severity of Rettig's injury, Boston College won't know more until Sunday.
"The x-ray was negative and what exactly is wrong with the ankle, right now I am just not sure," said Spaziani.
On the next Eagles' drive, Marscovetra (22-for-37, 193 yards, 2 INT) handed the ball off to Harris for a two yard gain on first down, but his pass attempt on second down was incomplete. After a seven yard pass to Harris on third down, punter Ryan Quigley was forced to punt, pinning Notre Dame inside its own 20 yard line.
"When you come off cold off the bench, you have to get ready really quick," Marscovetra said. "I was staying warm on the sideline and I wanted to play. It's Notre Dame, it's a big game. I was ready to play but I just didn't come in and get the job done."
However, the Eagles defense stepped up to the call. After stuffing Allen on first down and sacking Crist on second down, Scafe forced a fumble on Allen's run, which was recovered by Boston College junior safety Dominick LeGrande.
Boston College couldn't put the ball in the endzone, but was able to get three points out of the fumble as Freese split the uprights from 25 yards out to cut the deficit to 21-13 with 8:56 left in the half.
The Fighting Irish erased the Eagles' score as senior kicker David Ruffer hit a 37-yard field goal (his 13th in a row) with 5:22 left in the half to build Notre Dame's lead to 24-13, which would hold until halftime.
Neither team was able to put any points on the board through the first 10:21 of the third quarter. However, Notre Dame took the ball 76 yards on 14 plays for the score, a two-yard scamper by Allen, to take a 31-13 advantage with 4:39 to play in the quarter.
Both Crist and Marscovetra threw interceptions in the fourth quarter, with Crist throwing one and Marscovetra throwing two, but neither team could make the other pay coming off the turnover.
"I think a lot of it has to do with the fact they were thinking a little too much," said Spaziani about the play of his defense. "Once again that's a good offense with some good players over there and they made some plays."They didn't do anything to us that we didn't expect."
"I don't think it's as much as what they're doing to us as what we're doing to ourselves," said Kuechly, who had a game-high 14 tackles in the game. "We came out flat. They start rolling like that and getting down in the red zone and there's not as much you can do. We had good play calls we just couldn't execute on defense. They didn't do anything to us that we didn't expect."
Notre Dame amassed 315 total yards (203 passing, 112 rushing) while Boston College managed only 270 total yards (265 passing, 23 rushing).
"I am very concerned," said Spaziani about his team's dismal rushing attack. "There are certain things that we have to be able to do. We have to be able to run the ball. We left a lot of plays out there. We dropped a few passes that would have helped. We can't go back and keep throwing the ball all over the place. We have to be able to run the ball."
Still, some players were able to take away positives from the loss.
"It definitely exposes a lot of the problems that we have and maybe it's a good thing it happened now before this run in the ACC," said senior defensive end Alex Albright. "We're going to need to run the table if we're going to be in contention for anything. SO I guess that's positive too if we're able to figure out the problems now before it's too late."
The Eagles finish their season-opening four game home stand at 2-2 and travel south to face ACC foe N.C. State next Saturday.
Boston College falls to 9-11 in the all-time series and 4-3 at home against Notre Dame...This was the first time BC has lost consecutive games at home since 2003...The last time either side scored 30 or more points in a game was in 1999, when Boston College defeated Notre Dame 31-29...Alumni Stadium has been filled to capacity (44,500 on Saturday night) for each of the seven meetings between the Eagles and the Irish...Sophomore linebacker Luke Kuechly became the fastest Eagle to record 200 tackles, doing so in the 17th game of his career. The record was previously held by Stephen Boyd, who turned in a 13 tackle performance against the Irish on November 7, 1992, reaching the milestone in his 19th game...Senior defensive end Alex Albright wore No. 78 in memory of his friend and former teammate at St. Xavier, Matt James.