The Notre Dame Fighting Irish entered double-figures in the win column for 2018 by easily handling the visiting Florida State Seminoles by a score of 42-13. The victory wasn’t a surprise, but at this stage of the season, Notre Dame is content to simply get the job done and close out the regular season with two more wins.
Editor’s Note: Apologies on the late posting this week but Frankie V who handles all the posting of articles came down with a nasty little bout of food poisoning yesterday and wasn’t able to get online. We’ll be back to our normal publishing schedule now.
Coming on Senior Night, the Irish broke out their green jerseys following a request from that contingent of players. This contest had a much better ending than last time Notre Dame had worn them in front of the crowd at South Bend. That was in 2007, when they were on the receiving end of a 38-0 pounding by the Southern Cal Trojans.
Below are some of the key aspects of the victory over Florida State:
A Change Behind Center
With Ian Book nursing some injured ribs, Brandon Wimbush once again handled quarterback duties after being benched the last seven games. His performance was a mixed bag that saw him throw for three touchdowns and get picked off twice. He finished 12-of-25 for 130 yards and also ran for 68 yards.
Given that lengthy time off, some rust was expected to accumulate on Wimbush, which was why an emphasis on the running game was the focus of the Irish game plan. Still, the fact that they scored on each of their first five possessions to take a 32-6 halftime lead shows that the quarterback did the job that was required.
Given the uncertainty about the quarterback situation, the Irish needed a strong defensive game and got it early in the game to set the tone. In the Seminoles’ first three drives, they collected just eight yards on six plays. On just the second play of the game, Notre Dame’s pick set up an easy touchdown, while a fumble two series later added three more points for a quick 17-0 lead.
The first of Florida State’s two touchdowns then followed on a 16-play drive, but special teams killed any momentum on Ricky Aguayo’s block of the extra point, which Julian Love then converted into two points. The latter score came early in the third quarter when a tipped pass gave the Seminoles the ball at the Irish 30. Florida State finished with a misleading 322 yards on offense, a good portion coming with the game decided.
Weather or Not
November weather in South Bend can sometimes be difficult to predict, but the 27 degree temperatures probably worked against Tallahassee-based Florida State in the early going. An interception on the second play, a three-and-out and a fumble on the first play of the subsequent drive offered a hint that the climate change helped ice the win for the Irish.
The Williams Effect
Though Notre Dame managed to win their first four games without running back Dexter Williams, it’s now abundantly clear that he’s added a needed jolt to the offense as a whole and the running game in particular. He shredded Florida State for 202 yards on 20 carries and reached the end zone twice. That yardage marked the first time since 1982 that the Seminoles had allowed an opposing runner to break the 200-yard threshold.
Those two scores by Williams were what’s seemingly become a standard routine in Notre Dame contests this season. After Florida State scored their first touchdown, he broke off a 58-yard run for a touchdown. In the fourth quarter, he closed out the scoring on the frigid night with a 32-yard end zone dash.
Some of the passing success enjoyed by Wimbush can be directly attributed to his corps of receivers that are tall enough to out-leap their defenders for the ball. The Florida State secondary had been torched in recent weeks, though the duo of Miles Boykin and Alize Mack combined for three first half scores largely by taking advantage of their height.
Both players stand 6-foot-4, with Boykin using his height to win the battle for a Wimbush toss and score the first touchdown. Mack then combined that height with fancy footwork to make it a 14-0 contest. Following up as the half was ready to close out, Mack relied on his leaping ability to give the Irish a 26-point lead at intermission.
For the first time since Thanksgiving 1963, Notre Dame will take on Syracuse at Yankee Stadium in New York. While this locale is technically the second generation of that storied facility, there’s still plenty of mystique playing there, especially with the Irish still in contention for a national title.
Notre Dame will be facing a resurgent program that’s coming off an impressive 54-23 rout of Louisville. The Orangemen entered that game ranked 13th in the latest poll and have an 8-2 record on the year, sporting a four-game winning streak. Their only losses coming in back-to-back weeks in a four-point loss at Clemson and an overtime defeat at Pitt.