Running off 28 unanswered points and shaking off a slow start helped the ninth-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish elevate their 2017 record to 7-1 with a convincing win over the 14th-ranked North Carolina State Wolfpack. The victory gained some revenge for last year’s water-logged 10-3 loss on the road.
The only touchdown in that game came on a Wolfpack blocked punt and this year’s clash began in similar fashion. Unlike 2016, the Irish answered in just 29 seconds, with the team’s defense allowing just a single touchdown over the remaining 50 minutes of action. The victory keeps Notre Dame in the conversation for an FBS playoff berth.
Below are some takeaways from the win:
The Josh Adams Chronicles
Despite facing a team that entered the game ranked among the Top 10 in rushing defense, the Notre Dame running game flourished once again. Not surprisingly, the main cog in that attack was Josh Adams, who ended the day with 202 of the 318 yards the Irish gained on the day.
Three runs by Adams stood out, the first coming on the game’s opening play when he gained 21 yards. Then, after North Carolina State scored off the punt block, Adams’ first touch on the subsequent series garnered 35 yards. Finally, his seventh run of the season for 60 yards or more, this one a 77-yard touchdown scamper, finished off the scoring on the day.
A Whole Lot of Nothing
One of the key stretches in the game was sandwiched around halftime, with three consecutive drives by the Wolfpack picking 109 yards of offense on a total of 22 plays. The only problem with those numbers in that the only team that ended up scoring was the Irish on pick-six by Julian Love after intermission.
The stretch began with seven plays to end the second quarter that gained 36 yards, but stalled out at the Notre Dame 41-yard-line. Then came another seven-play series that ended in disaster when Love’s interception was returned 69 yards to double the Irish lead to 14 points at 28-14. That pickoff marked the first time this year that the Wolfpack’s Ryan Finley had been intercepted.
Finally, an eight-play drive died out on the Notre Dame seven, when they stopped North Carolina State on downs. Those soul-killing stops allowed the Irish to eat up a good deal of clock over the final two quarters.
A Quarterback Grows in South Bend
The passing numbers that Brandon Wimbush put up on Saturday won’t necessarily grab anyone’s attention, with the sophomore completing 10 of 19 passes for 104 yards and two touchdown tosses. However, the fact that he didn’t throw any interceptions allows his confidence to grow.
Wimbush also managed to shake off a bumpy start that saw him get sacked twice on the first series of the game. Then, after Tyler Newsome’s punt was blocked for the North Carolina State score, he followed up the Adams’ 35-yard run with a 25-yard scoring pass to tight end Duncan Smythe.
Considering Wimbush still needs work on his touch, it’s unlikely that he’ll be expected to up his game this season. Still, not taking a step backward and two more potential years after this season gives Irish fans added hope of bigger and better things.
Though the Wolfpack were only holding trailing 21-14 at the half, their sloppy play had caused them issues throughout the first two quarters. The main area of concern were the 11 penalties over those periods, which gave the Irish 74 yards.
While they managed to clean up the issue during the second half, with just one 15-yard penalty, the first half numbers were a glaring aberration from this entire season. Prior to those miscues, the most penaties in a game for North Carolina State were the eight they committed in their only other loss of the season, that one coming against South Carolina in the 2017 opener.
Second Half Blackout
One further indication of just how well the visitors were shut down over the course of the game was that they entered this matchup having established themselves as a second half team. That was evident from the 102-64 scoring advantage that had managed during this season.
However, the Irish defense not only shut them out after the break, they managed to do it with some emphasis. On the Wolfpack’s last nine drives, they completely failed to record any points on the scoreboard. An even more noticeable number was the five times during this dry spell that they went three-and-out.
The Irish complete their three-game home stretch with a matchup against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, who come in energized off a 42-32 bombardment of the Louisville Cardinals. The Demon Deacons racked up 627 yards of total offense, good for second-best in school history and held a commanding 35-10 lead early in the third quarter. The win helped end a three-game losing skid.
Notre Dame and Wake have only met on three other occasions, with these matchups only dating back to 2011. The Irish have been victorious each time, the most recent win taking place just two years ago. In that contest, a 28-7 Notre Dame victory was part of a six-game losing streak for the Demon Deacons.