Duranko’s Digest – What We Saw Against Wake

george atkinson wake
Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back George Atkinson III (4) runs into the end zone for a touchdown in the third quarter against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame won 38-0. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-US PRESSWIRE

At last! Exerting total domination from the opening whistle, the Irish efficiently built a 31-0 halftime lead enroute to the 38-0 final tally against Wake Forest. The maturing offense, a far worthier and more cohesive unit since the September off week, was cold-blooded in its first five drives. The Irish, in a mere 31 plays, racked up 366 yards and 28 points, with the one annoyance the interception in the Deacon end zone.

The defense pitched its first shutout. but for the 6th time did not allow a touchdown to the opposition offense. The string of quarters not allowing an opponent to score a touchdown is now at 9, relating back to the 4th quarter against Pitt. They suffer the delicious curse of the excellent: we now take our defense for granted! Per omnia saecula saeculorum.

Two notes on the Irish pass offense. First, we saw the coaching staff’s approach to problem-soving in the multi-pronged manner they filled the Daniels gap. More Goodman, more Daniel Smith as a passing target, more diverse roles and patterns for Chris Brown, with a dash of Atkinson split wide. The passing game continues to stretch more deeply into the opposing secondary (this offense is really improving!), with Golson averagain a nifty 17 yards per completion.

Just like in the Navy and Miami games, the second and third stringers got serious work in. This boost motivation and practice focus.

A word about Te’o, the Moses of this three year journey back to the top. Young men are human beings before, during, and after they are football players. Don’t be deceived by the X or the O. Te’o’s introduction was iconic, but when he was taken out of the game, his passion shone through ever more brightly. He could not get enough of the moment, and did not want it to end. He will be a vibrant part of Notre Dame for years to come.

A word about Kelly. His whistle is sometime too high for the fans and the web-blog-knucklehead-osphere. Many were puzzled by his refusal to give traction to the ratings or the BCS. Even Swarbrick missed the point. Kelly, as all great men do, learns from his scar tissue as well as his brain tissue. He avoids energy vampires and their issues. Kelly kept his eye on the prize and those things within his sphere of control. Simple, but rare. Kelly focused, and fools rushed in, blindly and everywhere. Kelly knows.


Apparently, there were some other games played after the Irish ended their festivities. Yipee-Ki-Yay!

The rest of this weeks Digest will focus on Southern Cal.

The historical background

Since Ara revived the Irish in ’64, starting from that glorious February night on Sorin’s steps, the Irish have traveled West as an unbeaten 5 times: ’64, ’66’, ’70, ’80, ’88. They were amazing years, and they were amazing games. We beat Southern Cal twice, in ’66 and ’88, and then won the national championship. In 1966, it was a week after the epic tie against Michigan State, in which Hanratty had been injured. Coleman Carroll O’Brien stepped in and it was Notre Dame 51-SC 0. The game was not as close as the final score indicated!

In ’88, the congnoscenti predicted that Rodney Peete and SC would “expose the overrated Notre Dame team.” Well, Rice went deep to Ismail, Rice ran left a long way for a TD, Smagala intercepted, and Stams knocked Rodney Peete into the cold hard reality of what it’s like to face a better team. Notre Dame 27-Southern Cal 10. They beat us three times. In ’64, it prompted Father Hesburgh, noting the sad ending to the comeback season, to pen a poignant letter to the student body talking about the emotional vacuum from the loss. In ’64 SC was 6-3 when they played us.

In ’70, the Theisman team had looked like a national champion through October, but the offense suddenly dissolved in tight home wins over Georgia Tech and LSU, and Irish hopes dissolved in a torrential downpour in the Coliseum against a 5-4-1 SC team. But that Irish team found its offense in a memorable Cotton Bowl win over #1 Texas.

In ’80, Devine had announced his swan song, and parlayed a great defense and a jumpy freshman qb named Blair Kiel to an amazing home win over Michigan and a defensive epic, 7-0, over Bryant and the Tide in the belly of the beast, Birmingham’s Legion Field. But there was not enough Irish offense in the Coliseum and a 7-2-1 USC won, 20-3.

And then of course there were ’72 and ’74. Folks conflate the two, but the first was the Davis 6 touchdown game, while the second was the complete collapse in the third quarter, the most surreal, soul-numbing game in modern Notre Dame history. If you did not experience it in real time, words fail in communicating the meaning and the feeling. The Horror! THE HORROR!

We said earlier that Michigan was a “must win” game. We said Oklahoma was a “big” game.

This game? Mortal prose is inadequate.

But the game’s essence was captured in a little book written by John the Divine. Some call it “Revelation” and the forthcoming contest in the Coliseum was treated thus by the Apocalypst in the 16th Chapter, verses 16-17: “And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon. Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying “It is done.”

The case for Southern Cal

(1) Southern Cal has the best offensive skilled players in America. Barkley is in his fourth year as starter. Marquise Lee has entered the arena of discussion for the greatest college receiver of all time. He has eclipsed Robert Woods who has over 230 receptions and over 30 touchdowns in his career. And beware Nelson Agholor, who is coming. The have a vevy of TES and three dangerous tailbacks.

(2) Curtis McNeal had 121 yards rushing against Notre Dame last year. Most of his offensive line returns.

(3) Defensively, USC was able to shut down Michael Floyd last year. This year, the Irish wide receivers are limited in ability to separate from DB’s of the caliber of SC’s.

(4) The Trojans are not big, but very quick at linebacker, and will challenge Golson’s scrambles and called runs.

(5) last year, Troy was able to run 79 plays to Notre Dame’s paltry 57, and USC won the time of possession battle by 19 minutes.

The case for Notre Dame

(1) Notre Dame’s front seven is unlike anything Southern Cal has encountered this year. The closest resemblance is Stanford, and they manhandled SC on both sides of the ball.

(2) Mobile quarterbacks like Nunes (a little, 3 carries, 33 yards, Arizona’s Matt Scott(15 carries, 100 yards) Marcus Mariota (15 carries, 96 yards) were, well, productive against the great Monty Kiffin.

(3) Notre Dame’s offensive line is not as physical as the Irish DL, but they can mouth-hit the SC DL, which is not of Carroll caliber. In 2010 we ran the ball down their throats in the fourth quarter against a superior DL array.

(4) For the first time since Miami, the schedule sequence favors Notre Dame. SC will have played Arizona, Oregon, ASU and UCLA in the four games preceding our tilt.

(5) ND’s road game advantage: getting away from South Bend, the parasites and back slappers, the Irish team will rebond more strongly from Thanksgiving Day through the game. More than in any game in recent memory, this team will not want to have Te’o’s last regular season game be a loss.

(6) Lane Kiffin coaches USC

(7) Chris Galippo’s big mouth. ’nuff said.

What will be the article in the LA Times on Sunday, November 25th?

This version?

“A game band of Trojans demolished Notre Dame’s national championship hopes in a thrilling 31-20 USC victory. Flipping the script of Notre Dame’s iconic fight song, it was the Men of Troy who “woke up the echoes” of 1964, Fertig and Sherman, 1970 and 1980 ending an unbeaten Irish season in the Coliseum.

“Marquise Lee returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, silencing the blue and gold and green flecks in the Coliseum stands. While Bob Diaco bumped and then double teamed Lee in his pass defense, a liberated Robert Woods had another 10 reception performance. With the Irish committing extra players to cover SC’s receivers, Curtis McNeal gashed the Irish for 121 yards rushing.

“SC’s defense combined a clever menu of blitzes with a ferocious pass rush to keep Notre Dame’s Everett Golson off balance……..”

Or THIS version?

“Notre Dame climbed to a perfect 12-0 in a brutal, physical win over outmanned and outmuscled USC, 30-17. SC had the most beautiful player on the field, Marquise Lee, but it was the beasts of Notre Dame who mauled the SC offensive line.

Matt Barkley received more physical punishment than he ever had in his four years in Cardinal and Gold under duress from Stephon Tuitt, Prince Shembo and Louis Nix. Barkley threw two interceptions into the hands of Notre Dame’s captain, Manti Te’o.

“The Irish OL got the best of the SC DL and a clever blend of power running, intermediate range passes, and quarterback scampers from Everett Golson kept the Irish in control of the ball, matching three touchdowns with three field goals.

“Awakening echoes of 1966 and 1988, an unbeaten Irish team arrived in the Coliseum and finished business. They came, they saw, they conquered, and as Kiffin and his minions walked off the field, they were shaken, beaten men and a beaten team…..

Which version will it be?

Well, that’s why we play the games!!

Go Irish

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  1. The team with the biggest heart and least TO’s wins this game. I never discount USC especially when they are underdogs and have lost 4 games. That can be a dangerous combination.But I do think ND goes to the NC game. BK won’t let them be “out hearted”.

    As far as the media goes, it seems they are very reluctant and almost anti-Notre Dame when passing out kudos. All of them say college football is best when ND is relevant. I am not seeing the love. Lots of crow to go around for those who didn’t pick ND to finish in the top 10-20.

    Lots of folks outside the ND family do not want to see the Irish back. Too late!

  2. Im proud of the Irish. –Always am–even through many years of ups and downs and all of that we have all endured.
    That said, this has been a team which has stopped Stanford, found a miracle against Pitt (whew-thank GOD for the missed fg) the Blast and dominance over Oklahoma, the clutch and tenacity over BYU limiting them to 0 in the second half, holding Denardo Robinson to 0 touchdowns and Mich getting two field goals, the thrill over Purdue ( again, whew)

    Off the field in real life, being simultaneously empathetic and inspired by Manti Teo. That man is an inspiration and a witness to the resilience of faith in God. He is a testimony to inner strength while hie is surely grieving–and will be for some time. My prayers and heart go out to him. I wish him all the best as he is a man among men. He is a golden chapter for Notre Dame and we have been blessed to have had him here. God Bless him.

    THIS–ladies and gentlemen—–is Notre Dame!!!!



  4. thehidden advantage that Notre Dame has is Galippo’s undisciplined
    outburst. This will be intriguing, as I would suspect that Kelly
    will invoke a comment blackout that would leave players back in South
    Bend if they violate it. But you have to believe that there is tape
    or video, and Kelly’s only challenge is when to “remind” the team
    by showing them the smoking gun.

  5. I could totally see Barkley come in and play at the very last minute. It is exactly how Kiffin and USC have been all year (i.e. changing player numbers or deflating their footballs). Also would be a cool throwback to an episode of coach when his star qb came out of a wheelchair to play in the title game. That being said, I don’t think it is going to matter to ND if he plays or not, because Kelly has had them ready to play every week no matter who they go against.

    And in response to all the media and ND non-fans out there who complain about the Irish in the title game and how they will be underdogs to whomever they play. They were 11 point dogs to Oklahoma and that did not faze them one bit, and we all know ESPN wants the Irish there so the nation will be happy if we win at SC this week whether they admit it or not.

    Go Irish!

  6. I happend to see the play were Barkley got drilled. After getting blind-sided and having his shoulder driven into the turf, the pain on his face looked pretty real to me. He was down for longer than useual, and then left the sidlines for the locker room.

    Even if it’s just a bad bruise, it is his throwing shoulder.
    If they find a way to get him on the field next Saturday, then so be it.
    Just don’t blame us for what might happen to him if they do.

    Try as they will, there was no way around not putting ND first.
    Of course, being ranked first only matters after the very last game is played. (just ask K-State or Alabama)

    But the wall has been torn down, the Dam busted, the door left open.
    And now that we are in… there will be no stopping us!

    1. Not that I trust Kiffin, but SI.com has a story out this morning that says Barkley will NOT play. Kiffin confirmed this. They are calling it a ‘severely bruised shoulder’. Whatever it is, he’s not going to be able to practice with that shoulder and it will take longer than 5 days to heal.

  7. I don’t see as ND as protecting anything. They are #1 in the polls, not defending champs or media darlings. The media was forced to put ND #1 due to losses by Oregon and k state. Forced. They will also be underdogs, if they win, against the sec champ.

    This team understands being hunted. They’ve been hunted all year.

  8. I wouldn’t be shocked at all to see Barkley play. I find it odd that a school and coach that are so adamant about not releasing injury details on its players has already ruled out Barkley a week in advance. Would it shock anybody if Kiffin thought this was some sort of ruse to get a competitive advantage??

    As stated before, this team called us quitters last year. You might not hear BK or then players mention it, but there is probably nothing worse you can call an athlete or competitor.

    The biggest challenge is that now we are the hunted, rather than the hunters. The tendency is to feel like we are protecting something rather than trying to get it.

    I literally cannot wait for Sat night!!!

    1. We are hunting, for another victory in the next game and if that occurs, hunting for a NC. SC said we quit last year. I hope the boys in Blue & Gold get that drilled in their head.Show them how we will hunt Troy’s scalp and a so called quitting team will smashmouth them.

      Go Irish

  9. I wonder what is running through Aaron Lynch’s mind after deciding to high tail it to Florida? Bet he’s regretting that decision big time.

    1. Zeke,
      Not only Lynch but there’s a slew of guys I bet battling regrets & mental battles: Greenberry, Shepherd, Darby, Lynch, Silas Reed thinking this would be USC’s year (look at Penn St!), Manti not going to USC but his last regular season game is there and Cierre Wood being from Cali & spurning USC as well. LOVE IT!!! Go Irish!

    2. In trhe big picture, really doesn’t matter. For whatever reason, they did not want to be here, they didn’t feel part of the ND family. I hope they find what they were wanting where ever each ended up going. Of course, should they play ND during their time at their respective places, a resounding pounding by ND certainly wouldn’t be a bad thing, haha.

      Go ND

  10. Excellent article … except now it is being said that Barkley will not be playing Sat night. That will even things up a LOT, if not give ND the offensive advantage. Seems as though all the pieces of the puzzle are falling into place. This has indeed been kind of an uncanny season. Every time they play a game, things just happen to work out for the Irish. Who would have guessed at what happened with Oregon and KState. Amazing, and suddenly the Irish are right in the catbird seat. Now it looks as though they are going to find another small break in the fact that Barkley got hurt in the UCLA game. With things like this happening, the missed FG with Pitt, the non penalty of two players on the field with the same number, the review of the last gasp by Stanford in OT. The review of the touchdown at the end of the Oregon Stanford game. The whole story of Manti Teo, what he has had to deal with. Dare I say it?? It almost appears that ND is just destined to win the National Championship. This season has been so amazing. WHAT A RIDE!!!! Go Irish… Steamroll USC.
    (Somebody should make a movie)

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