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Undefeated Notre Dame is movin’ on up after loss by Alabama

Troy Niklas hauls seven-yard TD pass from Everett Golsthputs ND up 14-3. | Jared Wickerham~Getty Images

Troy Niklas hauls in a seven-yard TD pass from Everett Golson that puts ND up 14-3. | Jared Wickerham~Getty Images

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Updated: December 12, 2012 6:50AM



CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Brian Kelly and his coaches caught a glimpse of a TV shortly before Saturday night’s game at Boston College and saw that top-ranked Alabama had lost to Texas A&M, moving fourth-ranked Notre Dame one giant step closer to the ­national-championship game.

Kelly immediately decided not to tell his players the news, lest it fuzzy their focus. Nice try.

“We had it on our phones. We knew,” said cornerback Bennett Jackson. “A few guys were excited about it, but we didn’t get too caught up in it. We were focused on the task at hand.”

The task at hand was advancing past Boston College, which the Irish did with a ho-hum 21-6 victory at Alumni Stadium, leaving them as one of three undefeated BCS-eligible teams. But Kelly still isn’t making stump speeches to bully Notre Dame into the BCS championship game, and the Irish certainly aren’t blowing away voters by blowing away opponents, or with flashy numbers and a highlight-reel offense.

Style points just aren’t Notre Dame’s style.

“It’s always about the win,” linebacker Manti Te’o said. “There’s nothing else that matters. Stats don’t matter. As long as we win, that’s all that matters.”

The Irish just keep winning, and if they keep doing that — and if Oregon or Kansas State slips up down the stretch — they might just grind their way to the top, just as they ground down the Eagles.

This one followed a familiar formula. The Irish (10-0 for the first time since 1993) dominated the time of possession with efficient, clock-devouring drives anchored by a reliable running game and timely third-down conversions — they converted their first 10 third-down attempts. The defense held Boston College out of the end zone, showing some of the bending but none of the breaking that nearly cost the Irish everything against Pittsburgh.

The Irish took the life out of the Eagles (2-8) and a buzzing crowd with two cruelly efficient first-half scoring drives, led by a sharp, dual-threat Everett Golson at quarterback. The Irish opened the game with a 13-play, 95-yard drive capped by a Golson two-yard touchdown run. They closed the first half with a 16-play, 87-yard drive that ended in a seven-yard TD pass from Golson to Troy Niklas. The drive ate up more than eight minutes and sent Notre Dame into the locker room up 14-3.

The Irish opened the third quarter with a nine-play, 70-yard drive that ended in Golson (16-for-24, 200 yards, two TD) hitting John Goodman for an 18-yard touchdown and a 21-3 lead.

Neither team — nor the lulled-to-sleep crowd, for that matter — made much noise the rest of the way, as the Irish ran out the clock on another marginally impressive, but mammothly important victory. Not that you’ll hear the Irish talk about the national title with two games left — Wake Forest and USC. If anything, Alabama’s loss was another cautionary tale after last week’s near-debacle against Pittsburgh.

“That’s proof that it’s college football, and any team can lose at any time,” Te’o said. “And we just don’t want to be that team.”



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