Playing under steamy conditions in Winston-Salem, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish were able to shake off their early doldrums. That allowed them to eventually take control of their game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons by halftime and complete a 56-27 victory. The highlight of the game was a dramatic change on offense, with Ian Book taking the controls at quarterback.
The win keeps Notre Dame undefeated heading into a huge home battle next Saturday night against Stanford. With a matchup against another Top 10 team on the horizon and facing a weak defense, the possibility of the Irish looking ahead was a fear that never really materialized.
The Book of Ian
Turning the page after the inconsistencies of Brandon Wimbush, the shift to Ian Book at quarterback was made in emphatic fashion. By the time that Book left the contest, the Irish had a comfortable lead, largely thanks to the numbers he put up. These included connecting on 25 of 34 passes for 325 yards and two touchdowns, while Book’s running was good for 43 yards on 10 carries and three touchdowns.
Book had collected 189 yards at the half and relied throughout the game on intermediate tosses. Alize Mack was his favorite receiver, with the pair hooking up six times for 61 yards, the bulk of those coming in the opening stanza. In the game’s final five minutes, Irish fans got a glimpse of the future when freshman Phil Jurkovec made a cameo appearance in a mop-up role.
Wake Up Call
The early start of this game seemed to have an effect on the Irish, who entered the clash with a 31-3 scoring edge this season in the first quarter. They allowed the Demon Deacons to get into the red zone on their first series, but managed to keep the game scoreless after a field goal attempt bounced off the goal post. The miss may have been caused in part by the brain cramp of the Wake kicker, whose inattention caused him to rush out onto the field before making his attempt.
On Notre Dame’s subsequent series, a fumble again put Wake in the red zone. On this occasion, the Demon Deacons were able to convert the miscue into a field goal, marking the first time this season that the Irish had trailed. With alarm bells now ringing, Notre Dame answered with touchdowns on their next four drives.
Armstrong Strongarms Wake
Despite only lugging the ball eight times during the game, Jafar Armstrong continued his strong early season performance by rushing for 98 yards, an average of over 12 yards per carry. He also gave Notre Dame the lead for good in the first quarter when he broke free for a 30-yard score, the first of two times he found the end zone.
Two players who committed errors in the early going found a way to quickly erase those fleeting memories with dynamic plays that led to a pair of scores. In the first instance, Chris Finke dropped a fourth-down pass on the second series of the game for the Irish. However, the following quarter, Finke grabbed a Wake punt at the Notre Dame 44 and delivered a 52-yard return that resulted in a touchdown two plays later.
The fumble that helped set up the Demon Deacons’ first score came after a hit to wideout Michael Young, with Wake taking over at the Irish 13. Fast forward again to the second quarter, which was when Young caught Book’s short pass and was finally caught 66 yards later. One of the key aspects of that scamper was a solid block delivered by Mack.
A Different Take on Defensive Numbers
Allowing an opponent to score 27 points might not ordinarily be seen as a solid defensive effort, but the final two scores came with the Irish twice leading by more than 30 points. The Demon Deacons also managed to rack up 398 yards of offense, though 173 of that amount came in the second half, a good portion of that stretch constituting garbage time.
Gaining that yardage did come at a price for Wake’s starting quarterback, true freshman Sam Hartman, who took a beating during the course of the game. Julian Okwara ended his solid day with multiple stops behind the line of scrimmage, while Drue Tranquill delivered even better numbers.
Next Up for Notre Dame
The Stanford Cardinal will travel to South Bend for this rivalry matchup, with Notre Dame hoping to take a major step forward with a win. The last three meetings have been exercises in frustration for the Irish who’ve had opportunities to emerge with a victory, only to see it slip away.
Entering this weekend’s action, the Cardinal were ranked seventh overall and will be facing the Irish after coming off a huge Pac-12 road battle against the Oregon Ducks. For Notre Dame, getting over this giant hurdle would give them a huge momentum boost heading into October.