Beyond the Boxscore: Notre Dame Wins Ugly for 1st Time in 2017

From an aesthetic standpoint, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish’s 48-37 victory over the Wake Forest Demon Deacons won’t go down as any sort of classic contest. However, with the Irish entering the game holding the third spot in the upcoming College Football Playoff title setup, Brian Kelly will be more than happy to take any kind of win at this point in the season.

Over the course of the game, Notre Dame nearly managed to set a new school record for offensive yardage in a single game. The 710 yards the Irish racked up was within 10 yards of the old record that was established in 1969, with both the passing and rushing sides managing to break to the 300-yard barrier.

Listed below are some key aspects of the victory:

No Adams, No Problem

Technically, Josh Adams did play in the game, collecting 22 yards on five carries. However, once he left the game in the first quarter after sustaining a possible concussion while opening up a running path for Brandon Wimbush, he never took the field for the remainder of the game.

Adams’ absence turned out to be a footnote, with Wimbush himself leading the charge on the ground with 110 yards. In addition, four other runners had carries of 30 yards or more, while the collective output of 380 yards marked the seventh time this season that Notre Dame has ended a game with more than 300 yards rushing.

Dual Danger

Wimbush has primarily made his mark this season as a runner, but he completed 15 of his 30 pass attempts against Wake for 280 yards. He broke off a 50-yard scoring run in the first half and also managed to throw a touchdown pass to Chase Claypool in the closing moments of the third quarter to give the Irish their biggest lead of the game at 41-16.

Prior to sitting out the fourth quarter, Wimbush did put a scare into the South Bend faithful. That came in the final minute of the first half, when he suffered a left hand contusion and was temporarily forced from the game. He showed no ill effects upon returning at the start of the second half. However, he still needs to add nuance to some of his red-zone throws, since one series saw him offer up bullets in an area where softer tosses would have been preferred.

Defensive Dip

As can be seen by the score, the Irish defense wasn’t quite at its previous level for the game. In addition to the scoreboard, the statistical chart shows that the Demon Deacons collected 587 yards of total offense. While a decent-sized portion of that came with the game already in hand, it still marked the most yardage allowed all season. The point total also was the first time that Kelly’s squad had allowed more than 20 points in a game this year.

One of the highlights on the afternoon for the defense was another interception by Julian Love, which he narrowly missed turning into his third pick-six of the season. Figuring out the reason might be as simple as Wake being familiar with the defensive schemes of Notre Dame defensive coordinator Mike Elko, considering he held the same position with the Demon Deacons last year.

Everyone in the Claypool

The chief reason that Wimbush managed to put up the passing numbers that he did stemmed from having Claypool as a consistent target. The two managed to team for nine pass receptions for 180 yards and the aforementioned touchdown. That amount might have broken 200 yards had Claypool not dropped a third quarter pass.

Claypool has emerged as a Wimbush favorite, virtually supplanting last year’s main target, Equanimeous St. Brown. The good news for Irish fans is that both Wimbush and Claypool could conceivably be working together through 2019 since both are currently sophomores.

Answering the Call

Bouncing back from a defensive lapse is the sign of not only a competitive team, but one that can possibly challenge for a national title. Notre Dame has been able to do that all season, having scored eight times on their next series following an opponent score.

Against Wake, they managed to do it four times, which accounted for 28 of the Irish’s 48 points. On all but the last occasion, their method of striking back was quick as each of the other three efforts averaged just over 90 seconds apiece.

Next Up for Notre Dame Football

After three straight home games, the Irish are presented with a stiff challenge as they make their first trip to Miami since the Lou Holtz era. Facing a Hurricane team that was undefeated entering their Saturday night home matchup against Virginia Tech, Notre Dame can’t afford any slip-up. That’s because the penalty would almost assuredly mean that their national championship hopes have died.

This once-bitter rivalry was resumed back in 2010 after a two-decade cooling off period. Kelly has yet to lose in three tries to this era’s version of The U, but then he’s yet to bring a team into the contentious atmosphere that will surround them next week.

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  2. Wake’s scores weren’t garbage points. ND must improve its pass rush against Miami. This is a playoff game for both teams. Navy doesn’t have it this year and Stanford is good, but one-dimensional and inconsistent. Miami is the money ball.

  3. Just a couple of quick notes on the passing game.

    1) Wimbush was on the money a few times and receivers just plane dropped the ball. Squeeze the ball boys.
    2) Haven’t read much about Ian Book. He stepped in and delivered well with his

  4. Burgy, whadda you know, whadda you say. Can’t wait to see you on the tube cheering on the Irish. Put on Major Hoople Fez.

  5. One nice thing about Miami beating VTech convincingly is it will help our SOS. If we can get our defense back together and if our offense continue to improve and we beat Miami, that will be a good win for our resume. Plus MSU, while not an elite team, is still managing to win most of it’s game. That helps our SOS too. Too bad NC State couldn’t hold off Clemson though. That would have been a double dose of help, with our SOS and knocking off a fellow 1 loss team. Right now OK looks to be the most likely to lose a game going forward.

    According to an article I read on ESPN, they didn’t think ND did anything to hurt it’s top 4 ranking. We’ll see. I think OK basically having to run for their lives to beat OK State may keep them from overtaking us this week. Miami may sneak in the mix, but I’m not concerned about that, after all if we beat them that will take care of that, and if not it’s irrelevant then.

  6. SFR, just catching last 10 minutes of Miami/Va Tech. Wimbush better put both hands on that ball, or else Canes will ball strip Him and make him look foolish. We will be fighting for our lives next week. Loved the days when Ara could beat Canes 51-0. It will be a thriller.

    1. Bid difference when Ara was coaching against the Canes. They were horrible. We will beat them soundly enough I believe.

      1. When I was just a little kid, ARA took a team down there and we tied 3-3 (I think – it was a very long time ago). Let’s just say ARA was a little annoyed about a beer party for the team at a certain faculty member’s house during the practice week before that game! (Never happened again).

        La Crosse, IN

  7. You know, we should all blame Frank. He finally predicted a blow out and he jinxed us. No more predicting blow outs.

  8. We’ll find out quickly if this was an anomaly for the defense. I’d be happy to discover this was just WF’s coach knowing our DC just a little too well. They just need to pick themselves up, learn from their mistakes this week and get back to doing what they were done the rest of the season. Offense at least continues to make progress. And I too noticed whenever the defense does give up a score the offense has a quick answer usually. I thought ST’s seemed a bit better tonight as well. They seemed more attentive to detail. I know Yoon missed a FG, but it was probably a bit beyond his range. His aim was good, he just didn’t have the leg to put it through.

    And that is one other thing I noticed this year compared to other years, that when there is a weakness it seems the coaches work on fixing it. Last week the ST’s wasn’t so hot whereas this week they were more on the ball (pardon the pun). If that trend continues then I’d expect the defense to do the same.

    Where does that leave us in the playoff hunt? We may drop out of the top 4 this week. I don’t foresee Clemson falling out and it all depends on how the committee views OK. They beat a better team then WF certainly, but they had to do it on all offense, their defense was worse then ours. I say it’s 50-50 we stay in. But if we don’t it’s not the end of the world. If ND can have 3 dominating wins to close out the season they still have a good chance of getting back in it. But there is absolutely no margin for error now.

  9. GK,

    What I’m seeing tonight of Miami, I’m seeing their O will give ND’s D fits.

    Their D is too fast. Faster than UGa’s. BW will not outrun Miami’s LBs to the edge like he did against WF and others this season.

    ND will have to outphysical Miami on both sides of the ball. I think this is the game that we find out the size of the Irish’s cojones.

    If they don’t bow up Miami will run them out of Hard Rock Stadium before HT.


  10. Good thing we have Sparky road experience. It will be rock em sock em game next week. Clock control will be key. Defense has to get back to work. Liked Claypool taking over the catching duties. Glad McIntosh ,Jones , Williams got carries.

  11. Miami will be one of the top three D’s the Irish face, arguably the most athletic front to back end. Good luck scoring on every possession on that D.

    The Miami O has been catching fire and is on tonight against a good VaTech D. Their QB is a combination of the two WF QBs who tore the Irish D to shreds.

    The atmosphere next Saturday will be the most hostile ND has faced in a while, certainly this season.

    Good luck Irish, they’ll need it!

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