Notre Dame improved to 8-1 on the season yesterday with an uneven performance against Wake Forest. The Irish offense didn’t miss much of a beat despite star running back Josh Adams getting injured and registering just five carries, but the Irish defense sprung leaks for the first time this season. Notre Dame prevailed 48-37 though in large part due to these four players.
1. Brandon Wimbush
He is close guys, he is really close. Brandon Wimbush took another step forward this week in his development as a passer. He set a career high with 280 yards on 15 of 30 passing with a long touchdown to Chase Claypool. Oh, he also ran for over 100 again with 110 yards and 2 more touchdowns on the ground. He did all of this while Notre Dame’s star running back essentially sat this one out after getting banged up early and while nursing his own left hand injury.
(Side note: Adams should be fine for this weekend and was actually cleared to return medically, but was held out because he just wasn’t fully right according to Kelly).
Wimbush was still far from perfect in the passing department, but it was clear Notre Dame wanted to work on their downfield passing game with all of the bombs they called. Wimbush was just a hair late on a couple that would have been easy scores that turned into drops because the receivers had to adjust a bit. Yes Wimbush was late on some of them but Chase Claypool, Equanimeous St. Brown, and Kevin Stepherson all had their hands on passes in or near the endzone that Notre Dame needs their receivers to start making.
The point of this isn’t that the wide receivers still need to get better though (they do but that’s not the point). It’s that Wimbush is getting closer and closer to being a complete quarterback. Some will still be frustrated that he isn’t a finished product yet, but he keeps getting better each week and we keep seeing just what a dangerous weapon he is when he takes off. This was the best we’ve seen Wimbush look since the Michigan State game.
2. Chase Claypool
Had Chase Claypool hauled in the one deep pass that slipped through his fingers, he would have been over 200 yards receiving on the day. As is, Claypool set a career high and more than doubled his season total with 180 yards on 9 catches including a 44 yard touchdown. We’ve been waiting for a receiver to step up all season and start to become THE guy. Claypool took a step in that direction on Saturday.
Aside from the deep passes, it was clear that Wimbush was looking for Claypool on the short and intermediate routes as well and the Canadian product delivered. His 9 catches were more than double his previous season/career high of 4 that came in the Michigan State contest. Hmmm, Claypool’s best games seem to be aligning with Wimbush’s best games. Coincidence? I think not. If what we saw from Claypool and Wimbush yesterday is a sign of things to come over the final three games, this offense could take a step into the downright unstoppable territory.
3. Tevon Coney
It was a rough day for the Notre Dame defense on Saturday. The Irish surrendered nearly 600 yards of offense and gave up 37 points to a Wake Forest team missing their best wide receiver after not allowing more than 20 all season long. Tevon Coney, however, did everything he could to slow down the Demon Deacons. He was all over the field for a third week in a row and lead Notre Dame with 12 tackles including 3 TFL and a sack. The rest of the Notre Dame defense had 4 TFL and 0 sacks.
I’ve been saying for a while now that Coney is going to be an All-American next year for the Irish. I’m going to up the ante a bit here and say that he is, right now, the best linebacker on the Notre Dame roster. He now leads the team in tackles (74) by 10, leads the team in TFL (9) by 2.5, and is tied for the team lead in sacks (3) with Jerry Tillery, Daelin Hayes, and Khalid Kareem.
4. Julian Love
Another Notre Dame defender who had a solid afternoon was Julian Love. His second quarter interception helped open up the Irish lead in the first half. His first two interceptions on the season went for six and his third nearly did too but he was tripped up at the five. Tony Jones Jr took it the rest of the way on the ensuing play though. Love had another fairly easy interception fall through his hands later in the second quarter. He isn’t going to drop many of those in his career.
Love ended the day tied for second on the team in tackles with 7 while adding a TFL and leading the Irish with 3 pass breakups. The rest of the defense tied for two as a team.
Josh Adams’s injury opened up the door for the standings to get closer and Brandon Wimbush stepped right in. It looked like Adams was going to run away with this one, but by coming in first this weekend, Wimbush is within striking distancce with three games to go. Tevon Coney now sits alone in third place
|Player||1st Horseman||2nd Horseman||3rd Horseman||4th Horseman||Total Points|
|Equanimeous St. Brown||0||1||0||0||30|