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  • Irish Rumble and Stumble to Victory

    by John Vannie

    Notre Dame raced off to a 31-10 halftime lead, and hung on despite giving up 27 points in the last 18 minutes for a 48-37 victory over Wake Forest. The Irish recorded over 700 yards in total offense, including 380 yards rushing. The defense, which has performed extremely well to date, was torched for 587 yards. Surprisingly, the Demon Deacons ran for 239 yards and three touchdowns. Coming into the contest, Notre Dame had allowed only 117 rush yards per game and surrendered just one touchdown over land this season. Various injuries to key Irish players also put a damper on the victory, which moved the hosts to 8-1 on the season and solidified their number three position in the playoff rankings.

    Brandon Wimbush was the star performer for Notre Dame as tailback Josh Adams left the game in the first period with a non-serious injury. He was held out of further action as a precaution. Wimbush ran for two first half scores, including a 50-yarder, and threw for another in a 280-yard passing performance. Costly drops by his receivers kept Wimbush from an even better statistical showing. Wimbush injured his non-passing (left) hand late in the first half but returned to action in the third quarter. Ian Book ultimately came on in relief and played the entire fourth period. Wideout Chase Claypool had a breakout day with nine receptions for 180 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown. Cornerback Julian Love was the best player on defense. He recorded an interception that he returned to the Deacon five yard line and had numerous tackles and pass breakups.

    Wake Forest showed grit and determination by refusing to go away and moving through Mike Elko’s defense with unsettling ease, particularly in the second half. Although Notre Dame answered the first four Deacons scores with remarkable speed, the final 14 points of the game were scored by Wake Forest and left a sour taste. Fortunately, the injuries to Wimbush and Adams should not impact their status going forward, while defensive end Khalid Kareem had to be assisted off the field on two separate occasions.

    Let’s review the answers to the pregame questions:

    Who will win the chess match between old friends Clawson and Elko? Clawson got the better of the matchup by racking up many more yards and points that Notre Dame had given up this season, but Elko was on the right side of the most important statistic.

    Will the Deacon backs and receivers be able to provide much-needed help to Wolford? Wolford threw for 331 yards and his receivers picked up the slack for the injured Greg Dortch. Tailback Matt Colburn ran for an impressive 120 yards as well.

    Can the Irish bottle up Wolford in the pocket and force him to throw the ball under pressure? Yes, quite a few times in fact, but the determined Wolford resurrected himself more times than Freddy Krueger.

    Will Wimbush continue to improve his efficiency as a passer? He was only 15 of 30 despite a game plan that was designed to showcase the passing game, but his receivers missed far too many catchable balls.

    Can Adams turn in another 200-yard performance? No, but the rest of the backs picked up the slack. Wimbush was forced to run more times than I would have preferred and took more hits than was ideal.

    Will the Notre Dame special teams finally demonstrate competence? C.J. Sanders had a long kickoff return and nearly broke it, while Justin Yoon barely came up short on a 50-yard field goal attempt.

    Can the Irish maintain the high level of motivation they have carried throughout the season? Frankly, it seemed as though they just wanted to get through this game and were spooked a bit by the early rash of injuries.

    Now that the playoff rankings are released, will Notre Dame start playing for style points? If the second half was supposed to deliver style points, it sure fell flat. Fortunately, however, the Irish outshone Ohio State and Penn State in the playoff derby and held service with Oklahoma and Clemson.

    The Irish need to regroup for next week’s showdown at undefeated Miami. Elko must come to terms with the notion that this game will serve as a blueprint for how to attack his defense. The concern for the offense is the health of the running backs, where Adams, Tony Jones and Dexter Williams are all operating well below 100%.

    Final Note: Our best wishes to legendary ND Football journalist Tim Prister, who took ill before today’s game but is doing better tonight. Tim is the premier source of information regarding Notre Dame athletics in the modern era. His integrity and passion set the bar at a high level that the rest of us can only hope to approach.

    22 Responses to “Irish Rumble and Stumble to Victory”

    1. Elko got torched.

    2. Saquon Barkley’s Agent says:

      Nice summary as usual from my cousin Vannie … (movie reference, not my actual cousin, mind you … though that Christmas would be cool, I’m sure)

      So, were I to summarize my reaction in emojis it would cut between: (1) Dave Matthews, “So Much to Say,” live at Ravinia, and (2) three hours of a kitten purring, … in a good way.

      That game was so much fun to watch, … I really wish I had been there to soak it all in, … pun intended.

      It almost struck me as one of those back-yard, pickyjp tackle football games you played as a kid where you were the KO returner for one team and your brother was the KO returner for the other that went back-and-forth until everyone dropped from exhaustion and two kids got concussions from the dog 🐕 inadvertently inserting himself in the action to roll-block someone. Does anyone remember that?

      But I digress …

      I say kitten purring because to me, the game never really felt in doubt, … and I loved watching Brandon lay one rainbow after another on the fingertips of his receivers … his touch and accuracy was astonishing, given the conditions, and the drops ☔️ I felt were mostly a function of the rain and fact our receivers probably weren’t wearing the right: (1) Lester Hayes gloves, or (2) cleats, as the footing struck me as surprisingly bad for a field turf field.

      But setting a school record in total yards is still a tremendous achievement, particularly given the conditions, the drops and the fact Josh and Brandon were widely held out for significant periods of the game. Brandon’s fifty-plus yard scamper was a joy to behold, … one of those things you’d love to find a way to wrap into a Christmas 🎄 ornament or imbed into a 2017 Irish football season fathead.

      Chase played outstanding and together with Brandon, TJJ and Cole and Nic did a really nice job of answering every Wake challenge, and face it, the Forest thru the Trees and injuries they had coming in made it really interesting. They played their hearts out and could’ve won but for our D coming up big in key sitches.

      Julian Love is a beast. They’re really not words that express how much he’s meant to this team this year. His instincts are off-the-chart and if he entered the draft tomorrow you gotta think he’d be a lock first-rounder. My buddy Fred texted me during the game saying “Co-MVP???” and my response was “what about Coney Island???” which he conceded, but the reality is you’d have to also add Q and Mac and the O-line, BK, the coordinators and our strength and conditioning coach. It’s simply an amazing amazing team, … in my view, far better, as a group than the 12 squad, which is saying something.

      And the icing on the cake? The Buckeyes getting diaper-rashed by the Hawkeyes (did you see Urban Myers’ post-game presser? Now THAT was a Wake) and the Nittany Lions spiitin’ the bit against Sparty, and the Cardinal getting treed out west making the Heisman a Josh coronation.

      Wake me up, I must be dreaming. Nice work boys!!!

      Go Irish ☘️ !!!

      • Elkhart Joe says:

        Yes, when we played sandlot beside St. Vincent’s in Elkhart, we were ND. We had all the equipment and heaven help the kid who cried after he got hit!!!! Go Irish.

    3. This is the only game this year that the defense didn’t get stronger as the game wore on.

    4. Get well Tim, he’s one of the best ND writers around. Old habits resurfaced on D, but seems like they understood playing like that is unacceptable and that there is a much higher expectation set this year. Played great in all the other games. Time to take that subpar defensive performance out on Miami. Go Irish.

    5. Defense got a wake up call. Better it happened in this game. Let’s see them dominate next week.

    6. Austinirish says:

      Going into the game, my concern was that we hadn’t really played a bad game all year (can argue about GA), and might be due for one. The D, at least, delivered, and yet we won pretty easily. D’s got to right the ship, but if they had to get one out of their system, mission accomplished.

    7. This was the game I was worried about before Miami. It wasn’t pretty but a win is a win! I know the second half was a disaster but it is still 1000 times better than last year!!!!!

      Go IRISH ☘️

    8. Well, a win is a win is a win and the outcome was really never in doubt. BUT, the defense took a big step backwards and it looked like Brian Van Gorder coached the D this week as there were huge holes in the d-line, the front seven looked they they were on roller skates in the second half and the DB’s struggled to cover the Wake receivers. Another performance like that and Elko should be forced to wear a Van Gorder handlebar mustache until things improve. It was like a Big 12 contest where the defenses just show up as a formality but don’t intend to stop anybody.

      I hope this was a one off and aberration because pollsters will be looking for style points and pretty wins to help determine which four teams belong in the playoffs.

    9. This game should be called The Ghost of VanGorder. The defense reverted to missed tackles and soft coverage. The only saving grace had they had a let-down against a weaker opponent. If this happens in Miami, the outcome could be different. Winbush is pretty versatile but he has to get sharper on the delivery. As you noted, the receivers didn’t do him any favors with dropped “catchable” balls, but he still misses the mark. He QBR should have come up since the beginning. I like Book’s arm, if we could take his zip and accuracy, if we could take that and put it into Winbush, there’d be a perfect QB.

    10. Frank Dunn says:

      Another impressive Irish win, a win we seem to be taking for granted due to the remarkable turnaround from last season and the last 3 seasons. If DC Van Gorder was still at then OC’s Brian Kelly’s side this year, the two of them would have found a way yesterday to turn this talented team into frustrated losers yet again. Instead, the Irish are 8 and 1 and will be preparing to hand Miami its first loss of the season. Go, Irish!

      Weather forecast for Mami: Mostly sunny, high near 80.

    11. Terry McManus says:

      This was a stinker, and it’s good that they got it out of the way against W.F. I would wager that Elko will make life a bit difficult for the D during practice this week, because if he doesn’t and they play anything like this AT Miami – they’ll get blown out. If last year’s team had played this (correspondingly) badly against W.F. it wouldn’t even have been close.

      This team still doesn’t strike me as a playoff-worthy team, hope I’m wrong.

      • Agreed. I noticed defensive tackling actually started to get soft during the NC State game. My hope that it was a short-term lapse was crushed yesterday. I watched some of Miami/Va Tech and concluded UM is loaded for bear this Saturday. The fans will be hostile after a taste of Gameday and, dare I say, BK has yet to win a big game on the road. May he make me eat my words this Saturday night as the game clock reaches zero. GO IRISH!!!

    12. No two ways about it, our defense was not very motivated. They appeared listless. Like everyone else, I thought BVG was back.

    13. Scary that WF gashed our D with every TD coming on big plays. Mark Richt will be analyzing this all week.
      No physicality on defense for first time this year.

    14. ND defense was a mirror image defense to WF. Wake knew how to attack. This one was a stinker so better to have got it out of the way. Team will be retooled and hungry going against the Canes. This could be the biggest game of the year. GO IRISH!

    15. At this stage of the season every team is who they are. While Miami can learn things from the Wake Forest video it is inconceivable that they can mirror the pluses that Wake brought to ND stadium. They are a different team … different quarterback … different coaching. Same for ND.

      We will do what we do well and attempt to spend the week in a constant and daily repetition and progression with each group of running backs, tight ends and O line, D line and backers, back end D backs, and special teams. No one will really know what the other group is doing. Absolute attention to every detail that the coaches know they can exploit on Miami.

      I would like to se ND do what they used to do with the USC game around Thanksgiving Day out in So Cal … go a day earlier and make it a back to camp progression in warm weather at a local Catholic High School with natural turf and hit two birds with one stone.

      Marc Brammer

    16. goirish1988 says:

      Frustrating watching Wake Forest run up points after the outcome was determined, but taking a 41-16 lead was all I think anyone needed to see to know which team was much better. And, thanks to the pace at which WF ran plays, I suspect there were far more plays in this game than most ND games, thereby providing the opportunity for more points. I still have my Catholics vs. Convicts t-shirt from 1988 and, after watching Miami rough the passer, taunt, wear big gold chains, and hold up “Ball Game” signs during the last four minutes of the Virginia Tech game last night, I will be wearing it after work each night this week. Would be in Miami if not for a non-ND friend (ND alums know better) using poor judgment and scheduling his wedding on a Saturday afternoon in the fall.

      • Some friend he is, but I’m betting his fiancé is running the show. Just turn off the volume to your phone and watch the live updates during the ceremony!

      • Why is an afternoon wedding a problem when kickoff is at 8:00 pm?? I would agree with you most other Saturdays when the games are afternoon kickoffs. But this shouldn’t be a problem for you to find a TV somewhere during the reception, or LEAVE EARLY with a headache, etc.

        • goirish1988 says:

          Reception will be getting into full swing around 8ET, but I surely will fall ill around that time.

    17. Miami …Are we ready ?. ..this will no doubt be the test .? A win moves
      Us to Stanford and before Navy… I’ve been here before.. how
      About you