5 Things I Liked: Notre Dame v. Florida State ’18

Dexter Williams & Alize Mack had memorable senior nights for Notre Dame.

Notre Dame sent their seniors out in style on Senior Night this year with a 42-13 beat down of Florida State on a freezing night in South Bend.  Notre Dame improved to 10-0 on the season with the win and gave a special senior class a special way to remember their time at Notre Dame.  Here’s this week’s 5 Things I Liked from one of the better Senior Days in recent memory.

1. Brandon Wimbush going out a winner

To say Brandon Wimbush has had a rollercoaster career at Notre Dame would be an understatement.  After entering the 2017 season with a lot of hype, Wimbush’s tenure as the starting quarterback was largely a mixed bag.  Over the last two years he’s made some amazing plays and whenever he’s played he’s always scored touchdowns.  There was a reason he lost his starting job to Ian Book though and that the offense really took off after that happened.

Throughout it all though, Brandon Wimbush has been the ultimate teammate and team first player.  He handled the benching as well as anyone possibly could.  That is why it was so great to see him get one last chance to lead Notre Dame to a victory on Saturday.  He was vintage Wimbush in Notre Dame’s thumping of the Seminoles too with 3 passing touchdowns and 68 yards on the ground.

It seems pretty obvious that Wimbush will use his graduate transfer option for next year, but for one last time he got to be the starting quarterback in Notre Dame Stadium on Senior Night.  It was a special moment for him and the program.

2. Early turnovers setting the tone

The only way Florida State was going to have a chance in this game was if Notre Dame turned the ball over early let up a big special teams touchdown to give them life early.  Instead the exact opposite happened.  Notre Dame forced turnovers on two of Florida State’s first three drives of the game and before you knew it Notre Dame was up 17-0.

Nick Coleman got things started with his first career interception on the second play of the game.  Coleman hauled in a pass that probably should have been caught but instead careened off the FSU receiver.  Like Wimbush, Coleman has had a very up and down career.  Getting his first career interception on senior night was a very fitting way for the corner to cap off his final home game.  Two plays later Notre Dame was up 7-0.

On the third FSU drive of the game with the Irish already up 14-0, Ade Ogundeji forced a fumble on the first Seminole play on the drive.  Daelin Hayes promptly recovered to set Notre Dame up with great field position once again.  Notre Dame could only muster a field goal off of that turnover, but they still had a 17-0 lead just nine minutes into the game.

3. Notre Dame’s 97 yard TD drive without throwing

After Brandon Wimbush threw a pair of third quarter interceptions, Brian Kelly and Chip Long decided it was time to run the football.  After the second pick, Notre Dame got the ball on their own three yard line following a Florida State punt.  The Irish ran the ball 12 straight times on their way to a 97 yard touchdown drive capped off by a Dexter Williams 32 yard touchdown run.

For an offensive line that has struggled to provide the backs the kind of lanes we have grown accustomed to, the 12 play drive that didn’t see the ball in the air at all was a thing of beauty.  Notre Dame’s ground game was held in check in recent weeks by Pitt and Northwestern.  Florida State came into the game with a top 20 run defense too and Notre Dame ran it down their throats when they knew it was coming.

4. Dexter Williams 202 yard outburst

Florida State had not allowed a 200 yard rusher since 1982 until Dexter Williams ran through the Seminole defense for 202 on 20 carries.  As a team, Notre Dame ran for a season high 365 yards – on a team that featured the #17 run defense in the country.

Despite missing the first four games of the year, Williams is within striking distance of a 1,000 yard campaign.  He currently has 770 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season.  It is not out of the realm of possibility that he tops 1,000 yards before the post-season.

Williams is just another example of a senior who had a bit of a tumultuous career who went out in style on senior night.  After having his fair share of off the field trouble which was highlighted by his unacknowledged four game suspension to start the season, Williams has finally evolved into the all around dynamic running back everyone envisioned he would be.

5. Alize Mack’s 2 crazy touchdown catches

In keeping with the theme of seniors who had big games on Senior Night after rollercoaster careers, Alize Mack showed the world what we’ve all been waiting to see for the last few years with his two crazy touchdown grabs.  On his first Mack somehow got his foot in bounds when it looked like he would be well out of bounds when the pass was the thrown.  The second didn’t require toe tapping, but it did require some acrobatics.

Mack’s two touchdown catches are the kinds of plays everyone envisioned he would be making with regularity when he signed on with the Irish four years ago.  Instead, his career has been highlighted by drops and a number of off the field and academic issues that have caused him to miss time over the years – including the entire 2016 season.

Mack still has a year of eligibility remaining and could return for a 5th season.

BONUS

Shout out to all of the Notre Dame seniors but especially Tevon Coney, Drue Tranquill, Jerry Tillery, and Jonathan Bonner.  The return of these four defenders fueled Notre Dame’s defensive resurgence that has led to this playoff run.  Without the return of those four players, we are probably not having a discussion about Notre Dame and the playoffs right now.

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11 comments

  1. Damian 4 months ago

    Also, Flutie seemed less annoying to me this week. Of course it would have been hard for him to rag on ND this week.

    He and Tirico both were adamant that an undefeated ND still deserves a higher ranking over Michigan because of their head to head match up. They both were convinced that to do so otherwise would render the CFB rankings meaningless if they threw head to head out the window. I found that interesting since there are some out there that are floating the idea that since it was the first game that maybe head to head shouldn’t be counted in this case (which is complete nonsense IMO).

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    1. David Fredlake 4 months ago

      There’s plenty of ESPN folks that would love to see Michigan ahead of ND, because clearly they’d rather have ND playing Alabama instead of Michigan (if it comes down to that).

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  2. Drue Johnson 4 months ago

    Could not be more in agreement of the decision by those four players leading to the success of this season. Especially, with the leadership displayed daily by Drue Tranquil. Maybe someone will get the message and step into his shoes next year as he has set a great example of what a Notre Dame Captain should be.

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  3. Bruce Gregory Curme 4 months ago

    Jeff, I’ve watched Syracuse a few times too. Louisville did not protect the ball against them at all, and were blown up.
    Clearly, we must protect the ball, and protect the QB as well. If we do those two things our chances to win will be greatly enhanced. If not, our chances to lose will be greatly enhanced. Syracuse is not a team that beats itself.

    BGC ’77 ’82

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  4. Greg Kelly 4 months ago

    Back a few games ago during the Alma Mater there was Brandon anonymously in the back row. Then after His stellar performance He was moved up to the front row. Hope He remains there for remainder of this season.

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  5. Michael the Archangel 4 months ago

    Thanks, Frank, for celebrating what almost most certainly will be BWs last game in ND stadium. A class act and a team-first attitude deserves this recognition.
    Brandon’s first half was outstanding, converting on 6 of 8 third downs with passing and running, passing for three TDs, with the only two third downs not converted because of FSU pressure rushing.
    Seniors Williams, Coney, Tranquil, Tillery, Yoon, Bonner, and Coleman all contributed, as well as two others with eligibility remaining who more than likely will not be back (Mack and Love).
    Truly a memorable senior night for the seniors.

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    1. ChrisJ 4 months ago

      MTA,

      I’m honestly not sure Wimbush requests a transfer. It will be really interesting to see. He is a great backup and Kelly knows in this offense with our QBs running that one wrong hit and the backup is in. It’s not like Book is a big kid. And we really don’t know what we have in Jurkovec yet. It would be a safe plan to keep Wimbush on if he wants to in my opinion. I don’t think Jurkovec is going anywhere regardless. This is a storyline to keep our eye on in the offseason for sure.

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  6. jimbasil 4 months ago

    Frank – Do you think ND could have scored more or even, should have scored more?

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  7. Lawrence Thompson 4 months ago

    Always enjoy your “5 things I liked” column Frank.
    I’m really looking forward to the flip side “5 things I didn’t”
    It may stretch your writing skills and imagination to come up with five. 🙂

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  8. jeff 4 months ago

    Had Dexter Williams played a Full Season we would be talking Heisman Trophy candidate for the young man. But more importantly now is we have a stud running back with fresh legs for the stretch run to the playoffs. Brandon Wimbush was Awesome Saturday night and we are lucky to have him as a backup and arguably one of the best backup QBs in college football. But it is very clear that Kelly made the right choice in choosing Book as the starter when he did. I watched Syracuse play Friday night and was not impressed. Notre Dame should be able to run the ball at will against there defense. Syracuse will score some points maybe as many as 28-31 but ND will score 50 plus.

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    1. ChrisJ 4 months ago

      No doubt about Williams, Jeff.

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