CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Notre Dame's national title hopes gained steam Saturday, and it had far more to do with the proceedings in Tuscaloosa, Ala., than what happened just outside Boston's city limits.
Texas A&M's stunning 29-24 win over No. 1 Alabama dropped the Tide from the ranks of college football's unbeatens, meaning Notre Dame will move up to at least No. 3 in tomorrow's BCS standings, pending the outcome of Oregon's contest against Cal. No. 2 K-State beat TCU 23-10 and will likely be No. 1 on Sunday.
Oh, and Notre Dame beat Boston College 21-6 to improve to 10-0.
"We heard it before the game," cornerback Bennett Jackson said of Alabama's loss. "There were a few guys that had it on their phone. But we had our minds focused on what we had to get done, and we weren't really too concerned about it."
Among the things Notre Dame could control, Everett Golson completed 16 of 24 passes for 200 yards, rushed 11 times for 39 more yards and accounted for three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) while Theo Riddick rushed for 104 yards as Notre Dame once again managed an easy win away from South Bend.
Notre Dame set the tone early, with Golson engineering a 95-yard drive -- the longest of the season for Notre Dame -- that ended when he rushed two yards for a touchdown. That was key, given how Notre Dame's first drive against Pittsburgh petered out into a field goal, setting the stage for poor offensive play until the fourth quarter.
"Everett Golson played the way he needs to play, especially in the red zone," coach Brian Kelly said. "I think we said once he starts playing at the level that we need him in the red zone, we'll start scoring touchdowns and not just field goals."
The Irish tacked on a second touchdown at the end of the first half, with Golson leading the Irish on an eight and a half-minute drive to increase Notre Dame's lead to 11 after 30 minutes. The third quarter saw Notre Dame again march downfield with ease, and Golson found a wide-open John Goodman to put the Irish up by 18. All Boston College could muster was another field goal the rest of the way.
The game was another step in the right direction for Golson, who was efficient but not flashy running the Irish offense. Notre Dame's three scoring drives totaled 18:25, with the Irish wearing down a BC defense that couldn't get itself off the field. Those long drives -- Notre Dame converted its first 10 third down tries -- wound up helping the team's defense, which put together a fantastic effort after allowing a season-high 26 points last weekend.
"It definitely helps us physically and helps us get the corrections we need from (defensive coordinator Bob Diaco) and the rest of the defensive coaches," linebacker Manti Te'o, who recorded his sixth interception of the season in the fourth quarter, said. "A lot of instruction. None of the defensive players are watching the game going on. We're all getting instruction, getting the corrections needed for the next drive."
That instruction paid off, as Chase Rettig and the Boston College offense threw the kitchen sink at the Irish.
"You thought you were at Disney World," Te'o said. "There's Mickey Mouse plays everywhere, just reverses, screens -- that was the most screens I've ever defended in one game. But our guys came out, they flew to the ball and when something happened, somebody was there. I'm just proud of our guys."
The only blemishes on Notre Dame's stat line were a pair of fumbles, one by George Atkinson and the other by Riddick. A week after being pushed to the brink by Pittsburgh, the Irish were able to cruise to a much less heart-pounding victory.
"I thought or kids understood that we have to play really hard, and we did," Kelly said. "We played physical, we ran hard. Like I said, the only thing I'm not happy with is the turnovers. We have to take better care of the football, but they played hard and they played physical for four quarters."
Still, Notre Dame's win wasn't stylish, and those two fumbles curbed the Irish's margin of victory. But at this point, all Notre Dame needs to do is win and hope for attrition.
Both those things happened Saturday, and because of it Notre Dame is one step closer to playing for a championship -- even if they aren't paying attention to that goal as a team.
"You can't really look forward to anything like that, or you'll kind of drop the ball and not stay to the course," Golson said. "My head is down, just sticking on just trying to get prepared and trying to get the next win."