Notre Dame players line up at the end zone to greet fans and cheer with them after an NCAA college football game against Syracuse on Saturday. (Associated Press)
After a big win Saturday in the Big Apple, Notre Dame's football team has a chance next week to lock up a berth in the College Football Playoff.
Notre Dame hammered No. 12 Syracuse 36-3 at Yankee Stadium, putting the Fighting Irish a step away from the playoff — with the struggling Trojans of USC next on their schedule, in Los Angeles.
"I don't know that if we win our last game that we're going to the playoffs, but that's not in our control," Irish coach Brian Kelly said. "What we can control is how we prepare. If we do a good job there and win our game then we would have won all our games and we'll let people decide who should go to the playoffs."
Notre Dame leaves no questions about its Playoff credentials…
Notre Dame wide receiver Chase Claypool is congratulated after scoring a touchdown during an NCAA college football game against Syracuse. (Associated Press)
Donning pinstripe uniforms in tribute to its Bronx hosts, baseball's New York Yankees, the No. 3 Irish remained unbeaten as they took an early lead and never looked back in front of a crowd of 48,104 on a 45-degree day.
As a concept, up close, they look kind of cool, I guess. But to this scribe, on the field Saturday, they looked hideous.
How good was Notre Dame’s defense? The Irish held Syracuse to a season-low 234 yards and got one interception off starting quarterback Eric Dungey, who left with an injury, and two off replacement Tommy DeVito.
The Irish haven’t notched a win at USC since 2012, when the victory propelled them to the BCS championship game. That year, Alabama dismantled the Irish 42-12 to clinch the championship.
"If they play the way they played us," Syracuse coach Dino Babers said of the Irish, "they will probably have an opportunity to play for a national championship."
Notre Dame Is Blowing Up the College Football Playoff System
Irish quarterback Ian Book returned after missing last week’s game with a rib injury. He took over the starting position four weeks into the season.
Video: Syracuse vs. Notre Dame | EXTENDED HIGHLIGHTS | 11/17/18 | NBC Sports
Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book throws a pass during an NCAA college football game against Syracuse. (Associated Press)
Its mid-November and weve been without baseball for a while now. But at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, for a fleeting moment, it felt (or at least sounded) like baseball was back.
Video: Syracuse vs. Notre Dame 1963 Highlights
"The ribs feel good," Book said. "Wasn't even thinking about them during the game."
Video: Syracuse vs. Notre Dame 1963 Highlights
Saturday’s affair in New York drew Irish fans from nearby – comprising a fanbase of blue-collar Catholics who’ve never set foot on the school’s Indiana campus.
"We don't take for granted when Notre Dame comes to New York to play,” said Joe Delaney, a New Jersey resident who grew up listening to Notre Dame games on the radio with his father. “We're out there to support the team 110 percent.”
Notre Dames Defense Dominates Syracuse In 36-3 Statement Win
The Irish are 17-6-3 all-time in games played either in the original Yankee Stadium or its replacement, which opened in 2009.
Tirico used Sterlings call for a Notre Dame field goal, replacing “gone” with “good.” Take a listen here:
FILE – In this Nov. 9, 1946, file photo, Notre Dames Emil Sitko grabs a pass intended for Armys Bill West, center right, during the fourth quarter of a college football game at Yankee Stadium in New York. (Associated Press)
New York is considered an East Coast stronghold for the Irish. The team regularly visited the area in the first half of the 20th century. Saturday’s game was part of Notre Dame’s Shamrock Series, an almost annual tradition since 2009 of paying off-site games.
"We've played in California, Chicago and New York," Book said. "I think it's awesome. I think it's great experiences for us. We might have to fly a little bit more than other teams but I don't think it hurts anyone."
Syracuse quarterback Tommy DeVito is sacked by the Notre Dame defense during an NCAA college football game in New York City, Nov. 17, 2018. (Associated Press)
Saturday’s win could possibly put Notre Dame in the conversation with powerhouse programs at Alabama and Clemson.
The marching bands made sure to play some place-appropriate music — though it should be noted that they did not play the Aaron Judge-approved “New York, New York.”
"I've lost to both of them," Syracuse coach Dino Babers told ESPN of Clemson and Notre Dame. "I don't think it's fair to talk about them. I will tell you this, though, those — that Notre Dame is better than what people think they are."
While Syracuses defense tried its best to stop Notre Dame and held the Irish to three field goals, ND reached the end zone four times.
There was even one baseball player in pinstripes, with pitcher/tight end Cole Kmet recording one catch for 17 yards in the game:
NEW YORK — No. 3 Notre Dame (11-0) blew out No. 12 Syracuse (8-3, 5-2 Atlantic Coast), 36-3, on Saturday in Yankee Stadium.
Syracuse vs. Notre Dame LIVE SCORE UPDATES & STATS (11/17/18)
In front of an Irish-friendly crowd, Eric Dungey and Tommy DeVito together were 15-for-35 passing for 115 yards and threw a combined three interceptions. SUs defense responded valiantly, holding the Irish to field goals in several short field situations, but with the offense unable to produce at all, the Orange got embarrassed and took a big hit to any hope of a New Year’s Six bowl game.
Late in the first quarter, between two plays, Dungey collapsed to the field, clutching at his lower back with his right hand. It was later announced that Dungey was being evaluated for an upper-body injury and was questionable to return. He didnt.
In Dungeys stead, DeVito took the reins of the offense and led it nowhere. The redshirt freshman finished 14-for-31 for 105 yards and two interceptions. (Dungey threw one on the first play of SUs second offensive series.)
Notre Dame is now 60 minutes away from the Playoff
DeVito struggled with accuracy, pushing deep balls too close to the sideline and underthrowing a ball to Taj Harris that was intercepted. Even when he did hit his receivers, bad things happened. Harris later bobbled a reception over the middle that was intercepted. Early in the fourth quarter, DeVito had Nykeim Johnson come open across the middle and delivered a strike to his hands. Johnson dropped it.
DeVito settled a little bit in the fourth quarter as Notre Dames pass rush relented slightly because it was already 29-0.
From the first drive to the end of his day with 8:20 remaining in the fourth quarter when Brandon Wimbush came on in relief, Ian Book did whatever he wanted to do with the football.
Orange Has No Luck vs the Irish
He surgically passed his way to a 23-for-37 day with 292 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The pick came on a 4th and goal play where Book tripped and flipped the ball blindly into the end zone, where Andre Cisco took it out of the air.
Notre Dame crushes Syracuse, strengthens College Football Playoff resume
Book consistently put passes in spots only his receivers could get to, and they did. On his final touchdown pass, Book perfectly led wideout Chase Claypool into the end zone on a slant. And when he didnt immediately have an open man or the SU pass rush got home, Book extended plays with his legs long enough for a man to come open downfield.
With the loss, any hopes Syracuse had of making a New Year’s Six bowl took a major hit. Though it is still possible for SU to end up playing on New Year’s Day, its at best very unlikely.
Syracuse football loses to Notre Dame 36-3: Brent Axe recap
A win over the undefeated and playoff-contending Irish would have catapulted SU into the Top 10 of the rankings and set up a potential 10-win season. Instead, the Orange endured its most thorough beat down since losing 54-0 at Clemson in 2016.
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With a win at Boston College next Saturday, Syracuse still has a chance to boost itself to the Camping World Bowl — which had a representative at Yankee Stadium on Saturday. The most likely outcome, it would seem, is that Syracuse plays in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 27 right back in Yankee Stadium.