Duranko’s Digest: What Did We See Against Wake Forest?

Romeo Okwara - Notre Dame DE
Photo: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Jaylon Smith

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.

Go Irish!

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12 Comments

  1. Jack said re Alabama “I think ND is better on the d-line and the LB’s are bigger, faster and better, minus Schmidt.”

    Well, Jack, on that I go full Pontius Pilate, washing and toweling my hands and the rest of me!

  2. Duranko,

    I was listening to Taylor Zarzos and McClolry on Sirius and McColory(sp) said what you miss with Joe Schmidt physical you gain mentally. He may be a liability but he gets ND’s defense in the right calls 95% of the time. He is invaluable to the defense. I just wish I could take his mind and implant it in #5’s head, then ND would have the perfect Mike LB.

    I have been a person that has crushed this coaching staff with criticism, and I will say this is the best coaching job he has done since he has been at ND. They are 9-1 and have lost three key starters on offense and one on defense. Look at Georgia and the mess they are and they just lost one running back. I will give BK all the credit he learns from his mistakes and doesn’t make them again.

    Finally, the comment about seeing Alabama and being scared, I am also, but you don’t need to out scheme Alabama, you just need to beef up on the LB’s and play smash mouth football. I think ND is better on the d-line and the LB’s are bigger faster and better, minus Schmidt. It will be interesting if ND wins out if they make the playoffs.

  3. Big D,
    If you build it, they will come.

    “The one constant through all the years has been Notre Dame Football.
    America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again.
    But ND Football has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again”

    Oh… people will come. People will most definitely come.

  4. Duranko: This really was heinous – Failure to cover the fumble laying there on the home turf. Kelly had the right to be purple-faced on that one.

  5. Duranko , liked your Fenway Park–movie “Field of Dreams” tie in. Kinsella and Mann left the game early after hearing the words “Go the distance.” Notre Dame is on cusp of a great season. Irish team , coaches and fans are hearing those words every week — “Go the distance.” Go Irish.

  6. Don’t underestimate BC. Agreed they “should” be no match for ND. But they always play ND tough and seem to get an extra shot of adrenaline whenever they are up against the Irish.

    I hope for a nice relaxing blowout, but the team better not let up on BC. Make sure they know they are beat before letting up on the gas.

  7. Pete, thanks for the response about the defense structure and complexity. After waiting the last several weeks to fully absorb the defensive performance, ( as you suggested when I first asked the question ), I believe there has been some improvement (pass rush and DLine play) in general. However I do see, and agree with your point on execution failures especially in linebacking (not including Jaylon) and the secondary. I do feel some of that is still coaching, and some is due perhaps to talent level.

    I’ve judged the defensive performance intently because I am of the “old school” that a strong defense is essential to winning championships. We are still in the hunt, and that is very exciting. I hope ND can make it’s way to playoff success!!

  8. Thanks for the “eligibility” update Pete much appreciated mate. One other question Has Winbush already played “too much” to be considered a red-shirt for this season?? The reason I ask is it seems Kelly never takes opportunities to put in a backup qb in games that are over (one way or another) for all the years he has been at ND. With Malik back next year along with Kizer there will be a LOG JAM at QB and if no injuries it would seem Winbush would again be relegated to holding a clipboard for the second year in a row unless Malik decides to do a Kiel, Golson, Crist, Hendrix etc and go elsewhere to get some playing time. Is there some magic formula re: Minutes or games entered etc that determines when a player ceases to be eligible for a Red Shirt category? Thanks Mate

  9. Bill, Hounshell did suffer two years of shoulder injuries, but he basically had to beg Kelly for a fifth year.
    With Smythe, Weishar, Luatua and Jones returning, it is unlikely that the Irish would work to get Hounshell the 6th year. Sebastian’s sixth year is probably the most critical.

  10. peter, on our ongoing discussion about whether Van Gorder’s defensie is too complex for college, I now find myself leaning toward thinking that it is NOT too complex. First, offenses are getting more sophisticated, with more skill players, and vanilla makes you more vulnerable to the kind of matchup exploitation that was unthinkable as recently as 15 years ago. Think back to the Oklahoma-Florida State championship game when OU basically shut Florida State down. Think back to two years later when the Ohio State Miami game, in REGULATION was low scoring.

    It’s different now. With all the elite 11s and Nike , Adidas and Under Armour camps, throwing fuel on the preexisting 7-on-7 fire, offenses and their component skill players are much more sophisticated. The gamed has evolved beyond “bend but don’t break,” it seems.

    AS I examine Notre Dame’s defense this year, I see more failure of execution than scheme confusion. 28 points were allowed in let down late game situations against Georgia tech and Pitt. Lack of focus, not schematic awareness. Russell’s in-play tongue-lashing of Redfield while Tyler Boyd was running past Russell was one of the most undisciplined, self-absorbed episodes I’ve ever seen from a Notre Dame player, far more heinous than the accidental targeting attributed to Elijah Shumate against Temple.

    Yesterday, there were four mental lapses, undisciplined or poorly refereed, but not SCHEMATIC, that extended Wake Forest drives.

    Failure to cover the fumble laying there on the home turf
    Bonner’s facemask penalty (tho I thought it was Okwara)
    Cole Luke’s interference.
    the penalty on the punt for smashing the snapper.

    I thought Luke’s penalty was wrong, and Coney’s contact with the snapper de minimis, more unfortunate than stupid.

    That’s four drive extenders.

    FWIW, I think that refereeing is basically a random walk, and I find the search for “justice” laughable. There will be bad calls in the game, one merely hopes that they are even or tilt in favor of Notre Dame!
    i
    The thing that flummoxes me most about this defense is the failure to play the depth on the DL. they are whistling past the graveyard with Sheldon Day, and he nearly came undone against Temple.

    And I remain mystified about Schmidt. There are things I disagree with while understanding the rationale for doing them. But playing Schmidt is simply a bridge too far. I cringe every time I see Alabamas name. I shudder to think of Derrick Henry approaching Joe Schmidt in the second level.

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