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.
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.