Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel spoke with Boston College head coach Jeff Hafley about his experience coaching against Notre Dame and what the Irish need to do to have success in the Rose Bowl against #1 Alabama.
PETE THAMEL: You obviously played Notre Dame at home this season. The most impressive part of them to me was on the hoof, that offensive line and what they were able to do. Is it fair to call that a strength? And then how do they know and utilize that strength?
JEFF HAFLEY: Yeah. You're right on. Their offensive line combined with their tight ends, and there's three of them, and I think that's where they're different. That inner line is really physical, very aggressive, they finish blocks, they're really well-coached, I think one of the best coached up units in the ACC. I mean, 24 is one of the most aggressive players, whether he's playing tight end, lining up in the backfield, catching the ball. It looks like he has fun blocking people.
And then the other guy is just so athletic where he can move around, and it's almost like he's a wideout. And then get 88, who's this giant wideout where it's not like they're going to overwhelm you with their speed, it's the size, the physicality. And then you get the running back who kind of like a younger ETN, right? I mean he's 23 is dynamic. The way he runs the ball, he's got so much juice to him.
And what you're seeing from Ian Book, which I didn't really, really see until they beat Clemson that first game. And he's very quick-footed, he's got great short area movement, better than people think. Can you keep him in the pocket and make him play quarterback from the pocket? Because his strengths are moving around in the pocket, getting on the perimeter, making big plays with his feet, and then finding those big tight ends and those big receivers down the field. I give Ian a lot of credit, that guy's a really good football player. And I think that after you see him live, every coaching staff would say the same thing. A ton of respect for him or what they do.
PETE THAMEL: There are obviously more than two touchdown underdogs. You don't know Alabama well, but you've been in enough football games as favorites and underdogs. Do you think, if there is a recipe for them to win, it revolves around riding that offensive line, running the ball, controlling the clock, Ian playing mistake-free football and converting the third and 3s with his legs? Is that-- if they are going to keep this game close and going to author an upset, do you feel like it has to-- they have to kind of ride that line that way?
JEFF HAFLEY: Yeah. And again, this is for me not studying Alabama, and I know Coach Saban, and it looks just like they're so explosive on offense. Notre Dame's really good on defense, too. You know, they got good ends, their backers are really good, I think one of their safeties is going to be a big time player, 14, just from watching them play and watching their game this year. To me, it's got to be about possessions. You've got to limit Alabama's possessions. This can't be a-- you go back and you look that they have 15 possessions in the game, or they're just going to score too many points.
So you said it, can they convert on third down and keep the chains moving? Worst case scenario, they punt and make Alabama drive the whole length of the field. You can't give them short field, you can't give them the ball, you can't give them explosive plays. You know, they got to play great defense, keep the ball in front of them, attack the football, and they got to score points in the red zone. And that's-- even looking back to the Clemson game last year, when we played Clemson, in these playoff games and these big games, you can't kick field goals in the red zone. When you get in there, you got to score touchdowns.
It's the same thing when you watch the Notre Dame game last week, right? They got into the red zone really early in the game, and they settled for field goals. You have to score touchdowns in the red zone to win these games. And I'm talking about all these teams playing and all these big games, field goals just aren't going to do it. It's going to be fun. While I wish I was still coaching in them, I'm going to look forward to watching them. And it's pretty cool, we played two of the four teams in the matter of three weeks. So I guess we already went through the playoffs. So--
PETE THAMEL: [LAUGHS]
JEFF HAFLEY: --our playoff run is done.