A somnambulant, diffident Notre Dame team did just enough to beat young, eager Wake Forest 28-7, to move to 9-1. The win completed the second unbeaten home slate under Kelly, with the other in 2012. That feat had not been accomplished since Bob Davie’s relative home masterpiece in ’98.
Notre Dame’s Offense
A week after physical, skill and artistic domination of Pat Narduzzi’s Pitt Panther defense, the Notre Dame offense mustered only two sustained drives and punted 5 times while forcing only 3 Wake Forest punts. The Demon Deacons garnered a repugnant 8 tackles for loss and three sacks.
The offense, which succeeded against two sound defenses of Temple and Pitt seemed sluggish against the Demon Deacons.
Notre Dame’s Defense
The Notre Dame defense, after a run of Clemson, Navy, USC, Temple and Pitt, found someone it could bully in the Wake Forest offense. The Irish accrued 8 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, Trumbetti’s interception and a forced fumble, when the Irish defenders had a brain cramp and permitted the Deacon offense to claim the unclaimed pigskin property that lay on the turf. Several defensive penalties extended Wake drives and the Irish defense played its most dim-witted game of the season.
Defensive Line Experiment
With Cage out, Keith Gilmore tinkered with this defensive line, with mixed results. Isaac Rochell was moved inside to tackle. Rochell was merely adequate at tackle, not the edge-setting and disruptive force he is at defensive end. Trumbetti showed that he is ready for prime time. Grant Blankenship, Jon Bonner and even Doug Randolph got some snaps at defensive end.
His only shortcoming is that he is not twins. Wake’s last significant drive to the Notre Dame goal line showcased Smith’s greatness, range and playmaking ability. On third and goal, Smith lasered into Wolford on a blitz to force an errant throw. On fourth down, Jaylon dropped into coverage and prevented the reception. He checks every box of the linebacker job description. It has been an honor and pleasure to watch him play for the Fighting Irish.
Was this a statement game by the Notre Dame Defense?
No. It was domination of an undermanned opponent. It has no probative value of what might occur in Palo Alto. But keep an eye on Max Redfield. He had a second outstanding game in a row. Notre Dame just might have a solid pair of safeties for the stretch run. Greer Martini, as is his wont, was a solid fill-in for James Onwualu, he of the ominous iced left knee.
Andrew Trumbetti & Josh Adams
While all of Notre Dame’s points were scored by frosh and sophs, Trumbetti’s was the most fun, grabbing an interception when Sheldon Day tipped not the ball but Wolford’s psyche and Andrew romped into the North End zone. Josh Adams had a nice 98 yarder, punctuated by a serious stiff-arm with some some nice downfield blocking and companionship from Chris Brown and Will Fuller.
Quiet Improvement in Special Teams
The Irish are much better, ranking 24th in America in the Phil Steele rankings published weekly. Tyler Newsome showed his ability to kick the ball both far and into the ancient “coffin corner” when required. He nestled three of his five kicks inside the 20.
Notre Dame Against the Numbers
Wake Forest came into the game averaging only 18.7 ppg. The ND defense held them to 7. So there’s that Wake came in averaging 340 yards of total offense. The Irish D held them to 340 total yards. So much for being average! Wake’s relatively stingy Deaconite Defense had allowed 23 ppg. The Irish totaled 28. The lads from Winston-Salem were allowing only 345 yards per game. Notre Dame totaled a shameful 282 yards.
Players who exhaust their eligibility this year
THE FIFTH YEAR PLAYERS
- Amir Carlisle
- Matthias Farley
- Jarrett Grace*
- Chase Hounshell
- Nick Martin
- Avery Sebastian*
- Joe Schmidt
*there has been a strong indication that Avery Sebastian will be eligible for a Sixth year, and that Notre Dame might pull the trigger, less strong indications that RKG Jarrett Grace would be eligible for a Sixth year.
FOURTH YEAR PLAYERS WHO EXHAUST ELIGIBILITY
- Chris Brown
- Sheldon Day
- Romeo Okwara
- Elijah Shumate
FOURTH YEAR PLAYERS WITH ELIGIBILITY LEFT
- Nicky Baratti
- Scott Daly
- Mark Harrell
- Jarron Jones
- C.J. Prosise
- KeiVarae Russell
- Ronnie Stanley
- John Turner
Stanley is expected to leave. Russell, Jones, Prosise and Russell are locks to be offered a fifth year if they want it. While it would promote great weeping and gnashing of teeth, it would not be a shock if Scott Daly is offered a fifth year.
THIRD YEAR PLAYERS WHO MIGHT LEAVE
- Will Fuller
- Jaylon Smith
To summarize, the only players who CANNOT play another year are
Brown Carlisle, Day, Farley, Hounshell, Martin, Okwara Schmidt, Shumate. That is only 9. Grace and Sebastian have a scintilla of an argument for a 6th year because of multiple year injuries. Baratti, Harrell and Turner seem unlikely to be invited back. That’s 12.
Last Home Game
Always a nostalgic moment. In days of yore, it would even bring a tear to Fat Eddie’s eye, as the rich supply of newcomers at the Rock, glistening, yearning for towels, would dry up until next Fall! O tempora, O mores!
But this home season ended differently. Not only is Team 127 unbeaten in Notre Dame Stadium, it won every home game by 8 or more points, with Georgia Tech scoring two late touchdowns to create a deceitful final tally. This team leaves not with despair or futility but with hope as it embarks on the open road, to Boston, Palo Alto and beyond.
What will we see against Boston College
- Notre Dame’s coup d’etat against Boston College. Shamrock Series, Green uniforms and return of the Native, Kelly. Boston’s Irish will feel about Addazio about the way Whitey Bulger felt about the connected denizens of the North End.
- A woeful, pitiful, insipid, feckless offensive team. Boston College has averaged 8 points per game against ACC opponents, including a 3-0 loss to defensive juggernaut Wake Forest! Yeah that Wake Forest, the one we saw today.
- Not much, if anyone sits in the same seats at Fenway as Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) and Terence Mann (James Earl Jones) did in “Field of Dreams.” Fenway is built to watch Teddy Ballgame, not football.
- Last chance for the backups on offense and defense. If they play it enhances the vigor of their role in bowl preparation.
- A chance for win #10. This would be the second time Kelly has won ten or more in a season. Kelly is the first coach to have multiple double digit winning seasons since Louis Leo Holtz accomplished it five times.
- Last easy Saturday. They get tough after this.