by John Vannie
Everett Golson unleashed a potent aerial attack that even made Coach Brian Kelly smile as Notre Dame crushed Wake Forest by 38-0 on Saturday. The Irish raced to a 31-0 halftime lead and coasted to their eleventh straight win of the season. Cierre Wood ran for 150 yards, including a 68-yarder for the game’s first touchdown after taking an option pitch from Golson. Notre Dame racked up nearly 600 yards in total offense and Kelly cleared the bench during the fourth quarter as his seniors took a curtain call.
The Deacons tightened up against the run after Wood burned them, and their strategy to sell out up front and dare Golson to beat them through the air became apparent. Golson, who had plenty of time to throw all afternoon, accepted the challenge and picked apart the Wake Forest secondary. He also was the beneficiary of great catches by his receivers downfield, including Tyler Eifert who became the program’s all-time leader in receptions among tight ends. Kelly also let his young quarterback launch several deep passes before inserting Tommy Rees midway through the third quarter, and the Irish connected on several of them.
Eifert, John Goodman and T.J. Jones caught touchdown passes from Golson during the first half blitz. George Atkinson scored the only points of a relatively quiet second half with a nine yard run, although Coach Kelly’s Gatorade shower in the final moments was a perfectly executed play by the Irish seniors.
Coupled with Baylor’s convincing victory over previously unbeaten Kansas State and Stanford’s overtime win at Oregon, Notre Dame should find itself atop the BCS standings on Sunday. After three months of football, it’s possible although not necessarily likely that the geniuses who vote in the polls will finally pay a little respect to a defensive oriented team rather than the flashy, high scoring teams that make their living by beating up on weaklings.
Let’s review the answers to the pregame questions for additional insights.
Can Notre Dame generate defensive three and outs to get off the field? Yes, and they did it in unconventional style on the opening series when Carlo Calabrese forced a fumble on Wake’s third play.
Will the Irish be able to start fast and take control of the game early? Finally, a laugher.
Can Wake Forest’s offensive line hold up against the powerful Irish front? Hold up, or just commit holding on most every play?
Will Notre Dame have any short field opportunities to convert into scores? Yes, but they could have scored from Elkhart today.
Can the Irish offense generate a few explosive plays to excite the crowd? Wood answered that in the first two minutes, but Golson’s touchdown passes to Goodman and Jones were part of a spectacular fireworks show.
Will Notre Dame display any improvement on special teams? It’s difficult to imagine they could make it through eleven games without a scintilla of improvement, but they did. The punting game can only be described as anemic.
Is it permissible to root shamelessly for Baylor and Stanford? At this point I’d root for the University of North Korea against Oregon or Kansas State.
It’s onward to Los Angeles to play the Trojans in the regular season finale. Early reports indicate that star quarterback Matt Barkley may have suffered a separated right shoulder when he was sacked late in this week’s game by UCLA’s Anthony Barr. Barkley left the Rose Bowl with his arm in a sling. The Irish last defeated USC in 2010 when Barkley also was sidelined due to an injury.