First, it was nerve racking. Then it was a romp. Finally, it was (somewhat) a disappointment. Notre Dame found the let down (defensively anyway) everyone has been talking about for weeks, in its 48-37 victory over now 5-4 Wake Forest.
There was no such let down on offense, even after losing Heisman candidate Josh Adams early in the game to some sort of ailment. No, they racked up 710 total yards on 8.5 yards per play and as head coach Dave Clawson noted, it could have been 900 if the Notre Dame receivers didn’t do them the favor of dropping several passes in which they were headed for the end zone.
The defense, though, left a lot to be desired. 587 yards given up on 6.7 yards a play and 37 points surrendered. Disgusting. Of course, a hefty portion of that came in the latter stages of the third and fourth quarter. We saw something similar from Michigan State late in that game, with Notre Dame leading 35-10. The only difference was they didn’t find the end zone as often as Wake Forest did to end that game.
Here’s the thing: if you’re the type of person who gets upset about garbage time yards and points, then you had reason to this week. It was pretty ridiculous at the end with Wake basically being ok to run the clock out, except they were picking up huge chunks. If something is bad, it’s ok to say it’s bad. Noting the defense couldn’t stop a nose bleed doesn’t mean they suddenly stink and the sky is falling. Enjoying the victory and wanting better from the defense isn’t mutually exclusive.
For the record, I’m not too upset about the end of the game. Football is weird and sometimes you can’t play with an edge on a given day. We’ve basically been daring this team to let down since just prior to USC. And lets not forget, in 2012 the let downs were a 17-14 win against BYU, and a miracle in triple overtime against Pitt. This game was close for about a quarter. Even the let downs aren’t really let downs.
It’s close to criminal negligence that he wasn’t in this category last week, so he makes it this week following another solid performance. He’s been excellent for a better part of the season with his only poor performance coming against Georgia, but, there are a lot of people in that boat.
Finally healthy, he’s been able to be something of a safety valve for Brandon Wimbush, and the Irish quarterback definitely has a rapport with Smythe, especially in the last few games. After catching just four balls in the first five games, he’s caught eight in the last four, for 130 yards and a touchdown. Modest numbers in the modern game, but he’s been effective enough to where the defense has to honor his presence and it opens up things for the receiving core that is also coming on as of late.
Smythe’s strength has always been in the run game, and as we all know, that part of the offense has been quite excellent this season. Can’t happen without blocking at tight end, and Smythe has been the best on the team out of this position.
Wimbush The Passer
We all know the Irish signal caller can run the ball (he averages 80 yards a game with 13 rushing scores), but his passing has really opened up lately with the addition of Stepherson and Claypool to the regular receiving rotation. I no longer have that cringe on the stomach when he lets the ball go, for fear it will be picked off or widely inaccurate. He actually had a chance for much greater passing numbers this week, if Claypool and St. Brown wanted to help him out a little bit. But, the important thing is those passes were on the money and I’m willing to count on those guys making those plays more often than not.
Colin Cowherd said a dumb thing a few weeks ago, talking about how Notre Dame had peaked and it was downhill for them the rest of the way. Not that he was thinking about the ability of the Notre Dame passing game to evolve when he said that, but anyone who might have bought into that notion should look at what Notre Dame has got going in the air the last three weeks. It’s not that Wimbush can beat defenses through the air, but he can gash them. And with an offense as good running the ball as they are, the ability to get deep is lethal. And now Wimbush is getting more comfortable. Look out, folks.
I’ve mentioned him in this space before, but I’m just going to put him here again. He’s playing great and I’m glad he has another year in this defense. That’s all I’ve really got.
Rushing With Two And Using The Nose Guard As A Spy
So, what was that? That had to have been something Elko daydreamed one time and implemented it in garbage time as a thought experiment right? I’m not really interested in questioning the magician in this space, but that was bizarre and it went as well as one would expect. Let’s tuck that one away and never see it again until VanGorder steals it and makes it a feature scheme in a game that matters.