5 Things I Didn’t Like: Notre Dame – Wake Forest ’18

Notre Dame WR Chase Claypool

Sometimes this column is tough to write and it’s a beautiful things.  After a resounding win like the one Notre Dame had this weekend with their 56-27 victory over Wake Forest, finding five things I didn’t like leads to some nitpicking.  Notre Dame needed a performance like this one after back to back subpar showings against Ball State and Vanderbilt and they got it.  Obviously there was a ton to like in this one, but after looking closely there is still plenty of work for the Irish.

1. (Lack of) Penalties – specifically holding

You know it was a good week when the first thing I have on my list of things I didn’t like is the lack of holding calls again this week.  Wake Forest was not called for a single hold even though there were multiple blatant examples of it again this week.  Perhaps the ACC has told its refs to let a lot go this year because we didn’t see any called against Ball State, just one against Vanderbilt that was clear as day, and then none this week.

I’ve mentioned the “no calls” in this column three weeks in a row now.  Last week Brian Kelly was even asked if they had sent in plays to the ACC asking for clarification.  Kelly was quick to say they had and wouldn’t go any further while clearly conveying his displeasure with the officiating.

Again, it’s a good week when this is first on the list.

2. Leaving some meat on the bone in the running game

Ok, now we’ll get into some critique of the actual performance.  Notre Dame left some meat on the bone in the running game again this week – some of it by poor reads and some of it by just lacking the explosion to exploit a hole.

Early in the first quarter Tony Jones Jr ran around the corner through a massive hole.  It was the kind of hole that Josh Adams would have exploded through last year, but Jones picked up a more modest 14 yard gain.  A year ago that’s a touchdown.  Next week if that hole is there again, it’s a touchdown for Dexter Williams.  Notre Dame is still missing the home run threat in the ground game now, but not for long.

There were some other instances where it appeared as though Jones had opportunities for longer gains but made some reads that lead to shorter gains.  On the game he had 39 yards on seven carries so he still had a productive afternoon.  Once Notre Dame gets Dexter Williams back into the mix and the offense has a home run hitter again, more of the offense will open up.

3. Downfield Passing

For all of the improvement we saw in the Notre Dame passing game this weekend under the direction of Ian Book, there was one element that still needs work – downfield passing.  The Irish didn’t really attempt many downfield passes on Saturday because they didn’t have to, but when they did, they weren’t overly effective.

A 35 yard pass to Chase Claypool could have went for six if Book gets the ball out in front of Claypool.  Instead it was behind him and Claypool got tackled shortly after hauling it in.  Timing on plays like that will come with more reps and more playing time together though.

The only really deep ball that Book unleashed traveled over 40 yards in the air to Kevin Austin.  The freshman was able to draw a pass interference penalty on the play, but the pass wasn’t in great position either.  Stanford will challenge Notre Dame to get the ball downfield by clogging up the passing lanes just like they did to Tommy Rees in 2011 and 2013 so Notre Dame will need Book to connect on a couple of those next week.  Book does not have the cannon that Brandon Wimbush does so it will be interesting to watch how much better Book can get in this department.  How much he improves will determine the ceiling of this offense – and team – moving forward.

4. The Early Offensive Game Plan

It’s been tough to find five things this week so we are getting into real nitpicky area here, but as a whole I didn’t love the early offensive game plan that called for Notre Dame to air it out.  With a Wake Forest offense that wanted to run 100 plays and wear out the Irish defense in some sweltering temperatures, I was hoping to see Notre Dame come out and try to establish the run and work the clock from the get go.

Notre Dame came out firing though and when the offense didn’t click immediately, it put a lot of stress on the Notre Dame defense early.  Wake Forest ran 28 plays in the first quarter alone.  Once the passing game began to click it was not an issue, but early on Notre Dame was on pace to get its defense worn out.  I would have hoped for a game plan built around preventing that from happening.

5. Virginia Tech Losing to Old Dominion

The last one was already pretty nitpicky so instead of stretching for more, let’s talk about how Old Dominion’s upset of Virginia Tech was bad for Notre Dame because I certainly didn’t like it.  Notre Dame’s trip to Blacksburg didn’t get any easier because of the upset.  In fact, it might have gotten harder because of the pressure now on the Hokies.

Notre Dame has to travel to Blacksburg in two weeks on the heels of what figures to be a physical, knockdown, drag-out fight with Stanford.  The body blow theory could be in full effect for that trip.  Now that the Hokies lost to freaking Old Dominion, that game becomes almost a no-win for the Irish.  If they win, they won’t get much credit for the road win since Tech already has that awful loss.  If the Irish lose, the story will be that Notre Dame lost to a team that got beat by Old Dominion.

Was it too much to ask for Virginia Tech to beat Old Dominion and then Duke so they would be undefeated when Notre Dame visits?

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  1. C-Dog 5 months ago

    For the first time, I was disappointed that the defense let Wake move down the field as easily as they did. Hopefully, it was because they were experimenting, or it was the heat, or at least the two late sores were because of reserves.

    I’m hopeful yet apprehensive about the offense. On the one hand only a fool would be upset about the performance on Saturday. Not perfect, but an incredible improvement. It’s testament to the notion that small things matter. Look, Wimbush is an amazing athlete and he should be on the field. Perhaps sometimes at QB and sometimes at RB. Book’s timing and decision making are just a hair crisper and that made all the difference. So amazing optimism.
    But I’m worried that the coaches may not turn the elements into the unstoppable force that this offense can be. If the coaches string together a full game plan quarter by quarter, with room for adjustments, nothing stops this offense. But if it becomes the stubborn Brian Kelly show as in recent past, then they’ll still flounder against Stanford and the very best teams.

    This team is close, but only with full coaching game prep, that accounts for adjusting to how a team adjusts during the game will they go all the way.

    AND THEY CAN GO!! ALL!! THE!!! WAY!!!!

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    1. Damian 5 months ago

      Yeah I agree on all fronts. The defense is getting the job done, yes. But I think they are capable of more. They are the cusp of being a great unit but they just haven’t taken that step yet.

      And my opinion of the coaches would notch up if they convinced BW to take on other roles on the offense. He is an incredible athlete with the ball in his hands and could probably break records if he were a RB, I think he’s that good. How many times did he turn a sure sack into a big gain, a first down or even a TD. He can’t be on the bench stewing. He can have a place, a valuable place in this offense if they all work at it.

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      1. jeff 5 months ago

        Sure put BW at RB and risk injury and then have Book go down with injury or fail to get the job done then what? IMO BW should stay at QB regardless of any other circumstances. With Dexter back in the mix we don’t need BW at RB or any other position.

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      2. Damian 5 months ago

        That’s crazy. You don’t keep your best players on the sideline because someone MAY get hurt. You put the best players on the field to win the game, pure and simple.

        If BW is sidelined for most of the rest of the year, he will transfer somewhere else next year. That’s my prediction.

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  2. Bruce G Curme 5 months ago

    Yes Frank, I can see that no-win narrative forming in the “ND is overrated” crowd’s mouths already, as predicted in your Number 5 today…but (1) It doesn’t matter unless we beat Stanford, so let’s get that done…and (2) There’s nothing we can do about it anyway…and (3) It may be an issue if we end up 11-1 (though it was not for Ohio State in year one of the 4 team format)… and (4) It will not matter what they say, nor will their “eye (I) tests” matter, if we are 12-0.
    Watch the ND haters criticisms get more and more shrill (and hollow) as we continue to WIN, until we finally see their mouths moving, but hear nothing different from David’s mouth farts coming out.
    OH NOOOO! Must be the season of the witch for those guys.

    BGC ’77 ’82

    BGC ’77 ’82

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    1. Damian 5 months ago

      I agree, Stanford must come first for the team, though as fans we have the luxury of looking ahead. I’m still keeping my eye on Syracuse. What looked like a tune up game for USC is starting to look more and more like they may be a dark horse team. That of course can help our SOS where VT didn’t (I don’t expect Syracuse to rise to the level of VT on our schedule, but it may help take some of the sting out of VT’s inexplicable loss).

      Syracuse of course has a big game coming up against Clemson. If they come out of that unscathed I think they are going to start getting some notice. In any event I’ve sort of moved them up in my list of challenging teams they’ll face this year to about middle of the pack.

      Another think to thank Jack for in giving up a home game. If Syracuse is still doing well in November more Syracuse fans may decide to travel to the game since NYC is a lot close to South Bend, esp. considering it’s against ND. We may discover what was supposed to be a home game may be more like an away game.

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  3. David R 5 months ago

    Here’s something I didn’t like about the game. The freaking, unbelievably hot Sun. I was roasting in the stands. Five rows behind the Irish bench incidentally. $20 tip for a golf cart ride back to my car might have been the best money I ever spent.

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    1. Greg Kelly 5 months ago

      Just be happy you had the strength to get to the game and enjoy a nice resounding Notre Dame Win. I was at last years Notre Dame vs Navy game but couldn’t go due to poor health. But, thanks for being there. We probably saw you on the tele cheering on the Irish.

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      1. David R 5 months ago

        Thanks. Hope you are feeling better. Go Irish!!!!

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  4. R Hollcraft 5 months ago

    The game rejuvenated my enthusiasm for ND
    football. It will be interesting to see what kind of separation recievers can get from St db’s.
    And can Book hit his wr’s in stride on those
    deeper routes. I believe should the ND wr’s get separation, Ian Book has the arm to deliver on target throws.

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  5. positive pete 5 months ago

    Hard to find anything that you did not like about this game. It was a gem!!!!!! I do agree with your concern on the Virginia Tech loss. It is a no win situation 🙁

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  6. EJS 5 months ago

    It’s hard to tell on TV but my understanding was that Wake was pulling out all the stops to prevent huge long gainers from the passing offense. I thought ND did a fantastic job of taking what their defense was giving. I’m also pretty confident that Book will be accurate on his deep throws, just as he is on the short and intermediate routes.

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  7. Fitz 5 months ago

    In a game where it’s difficult to dislike the best one was the Hokies from Muscokie losing to the friggin Monarchs!

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  8. Damian 5 months ago

    One other thing I dislike—and this is something I’ve harped on before. This weekend’s coverage by ESPN I found to be more balanced then NBC’s coverage. I’ve come to intensely dislike NBC’s coverage of ND Football. It’s sad when ESPN of all places is more fair to ND then it’s own network.

    I get that NBC wants to avoid showering ND with praise. That’s not what I expect. But has anyone noticed that the last few years NBC seems to go out of their way to praise and hype ND’s opponents. Whenever another team makes a great play and burns the Irish in some way the announcers almost seem gleeful that ND has faltered.

    I couldn’t help but notice ESPN’s coverage was much more fair in its approach to both teams. Ironic since in a way ESPN doesn’t owe ND anything.

    I miss Mike Mayock at NBC. He was probably the last decent guy NBC had.

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    1. EJS 5 months ago

      Mayock is an excellent analyst and I appreciated the fact that he actually talked about the game instead of whose parents worked for UNESCO (yes, Pat Haden, that’s aimed at you), but I also thought that he was infected with NBC’s apparent desire not to be a “homer” for ND, so that he also showered the opponents with undue praise and always assumed that ND was in the wrong on every even controversial play or referee call.

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      1. EJS 5 months ago

        There should be a “faintly” in there, between “even” and “controversial.”

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    2. Joe 5 months ago

      Yes, it was definitely refreshing not to have to hear “Notre Dame got away with one there,” “lucky break for Notre Dame,” or “[insert opponent] was this close to really breaking that one….”

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    3. SteelFanRob 5 months ago

      Damian and EJS,

      I have been complaining about this for years.

      It’s one thing to strive for balance and objectivity. It’s another thing altogether to have to hear the utter glee in the voices of Tirico and “Flutie Flakes” when ND’s opponents score, get a TO, etc.

      Mike Mayock was the best since I think the late Bill Walsh and the late Todd Christiansen. Neither was a ND man but they were at least balanced. Plus Mr. Christiansen (RIP) always taught his audience a new word or two!

      Heck, even the “Juice” on the sidelines was less annoying than Tirico and “Flutie Flakes”!

      Go IRISH!

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      1. Damian 5 months ago

        That’s all I ask for, fair and balanced approach to ND by NBC. It almost seems that they are embarrassed about ND’s exclusive contract with NBC and they are trying to overcompensate.

        I thought in generally the game was pretty well called this weekend by the ESPN guys doing the game. That’s all I ask.

        But yeah, Flutie and Tirico are almost anti-ND in their bias. God, they make me miss Pat Haden, how bad is that? And how sad is it that ESPN is more fair to ND these days?

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      2. C-Dog 5 months ago

        You know Flutie hates us as his next game after winning the Heisman was a loss to Notre Dame in the Liberty Bowl.
        Plus he’s probably butt hurt that he played for the “Drunken Irish” instead of the Fighting Irish!!

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      3. ndcrazymike 5 months ago

        SO TRUE SFR!! I almost feel like its doom and gloom watching the NBC telecasts! The way Tirico and Flutie describe the games make you feel like something is gonna go wrong!! This is ND’S home telecast however NBC wants to spin it, its our home team broadcast!! How you replace MAYOCK with flutie just doesn’t make sense!! I agree ESPN’S team were much better and praised the effort from BOOK and the physicality of our defense!! Wish we could get a pat on the back once in a while from our own HOME TEAM CREW!! Has anybody tried to see if ND’S radio crew and the NBC broadcast are in sync with each other?

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      4. WillyT 5 months ago

        I don’t know if anybody noticed this. On Saturday one of the ABC commentators was recounting how the offensive coordinator from Wake Forest had referenced Julian Love. Apparently, the coordinator told the ABC commentator that Julian love was a good player but also a “cheater”. This is the sort of inside scoop that should not be repeated by a commentator on air. I can’t recall who the ABC commentator is but that kind of comment is akin to an accusation. Its’s bad form. We’re talking about a 20 year old who works very hard, who’s been trained by good coaches. And those same good coaches if they were coaching elsewhere would coach the players similarly. Every person who’s played defensive back knows how to “adjust.” Just like every person playing defense in basketball knows why Rodman and Laimbeer were so good. Todd Lyte played in the NFL. He knows what he’s coaching. But you don’t speak explicitly about young men at any college as “cheaters.” That was reprehensible.

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    4. bc 5 months ago

      Yes. This ^^^^

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    5. A68domer 5 months ago

      I agree 100% about the quality of the ESPN commentators compared to NBC.

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  9. James Adcock 5 months ago

    Williams is strong and fast. He can get alot of real estate on his own. And he brings alot of sauce. Can’t wait!

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  10. Greg Kelly 5 months ago

    The tree has just removed Fray Junipero Serra’s name from two buildings on their Spanish architectural themed campus. Just another reason to BEAT them. Well, they already changed their nickname, so it’s par.

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  11. Damian 5 months ago

    I hope you’re right about Dexter Williams because I’m not sure we will see much of Dexter next week. BK seems to have it in for him. I’m not saying his suspension wasn’t warranted. Maybe it was. But it seems even when he is eligible he doesn’t see the field a whole lot.

    Another area that my be a bit nitpicky is that I haven’t seen the defense rise to the level I thought they were capable of at the beginning of the year. They’ve gotten the job done, but I can’t help feeling they are capable of being much more. I think they are going to have to take it to the next level over the next few weeks. It’s just a perception I have, maybe others disagree.

    BK is in a situation where Book now has to be a starter. Unless he falters or gets hurt, I don’t think we’ll see much of Wimbush the rest of the year. I keep harping on this but I would love to see him on the field in another role because of his speed and elusiveness. It’s going to be a shame if he stews on the bench thinking about where he’s transferring to next year….just like Golson then Zaire. But in BW’s case he has a great talent for the run.

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    1. Clark 5 months ago

      I’m not sure BK has it out for Dexter Williams or just for guys who had previously been arrested for carrying an unlicensed handgun while joyriding high. Just a hunch

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      1. Damian 5 months ago

        Yeah, well the point is, I don’t expect to see much of Dexter this year. Nothing leads me to believe he’ll see the field much. A lot of people seem to think that once Stanford comes to town that Dexter is going to be leading the rushing attack. I just don’t buy it. I think he’ll be riding the bench much of the year.

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  12. ChrisJ 5 months ago


    You’re absolutely right with #2. A couple times Jones would break free into the second level but it’s like he lacks the 2nd level vision of knowing which way to cut to break a run all the way. He always seems to run right into the tacklers and honestly, he needs to stop running into the backs of our blocking receivers down field. This has happened on several occasions and he is going to get them hurt rolling up on them from behind like that. Armstrong seems to have better 2nd level vision and clearly a bigger home run threat than Jones. But you’re spot on by saying that these are TDs for Dexter Williams because he definitely has that all around vision to make the right cuts and use his downfield blockers correctly. The vision is definitely what sets him apart from the other backs right now. I bet Armstrong is just as fast as Williams but he’s a brand new back. These two are going to be a hell of a 1-2 punch considering their big play ability with Jones being a nice change of pace physical runner.

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    1. David Todd Knight 5 months ago

      Hard worker, hard runner, but he is slow for a RB.

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