Notre Dame bolted out to a 31-10 lead at halftime, but faltered in the 2nd half in a 48-37 win over Wake Forest last Saturday. There were rumblings that this could be a trap game, and while the game was never in doubt, it was not a strong defensive performance from the Irish. However, with Ohio State and Penn State losing, the national media seemed to forgive the Irish for their lone poor defensive performance. On the other hand, the offense was extremely impressive racking up 710 total yards. It was certainly an up and down performance, but now Notre Dame can put it in the rearview mirror and get ready for a showdown in Miami.
Notre Dame Offense vs. Wake Forest Defense
Brandon Wimbush had his best performance in a Notre Dame uniform last Saturday. Wimbush totaled 390 yards and had 3 total touchdowns. Chase Claypool was his main target at receiver as the sophomore had 9 catches for 180 yards and a TD. Many fans were surprised that Notre Dame decided to throw over 30 passes in this game, but to me they were taking advantage of a weak Wake Forest secondary. To prevent future opponents from stacking the box the entire game, the Irish had to show they can be a threat through the air. Additionally, this game helped build confidence for Brandon Wimbush for the playoff push. Hopefully, Wimbush will be at 100% after injuring his left hand in this one. Backup quarterback Ian Book was also impressive in relief, showing ability with his arm and legs.
When Josh Adams was pulled from the game in the 2nd quarter, I feared for the worst. Thankfully, we learned today that Adams was suffering from sleep deprivation due to a busy academic week. While only having 5 carries for 22 yards may have put a dent in his Heisman campaign, Adams will be fresh for a game in which he may have to carry the ball 20 times. Meanwhile, Notre Dame’s other backs Deon McIntosh, Tony Jones, and Dexter Williams did more than enough on the ground for the Irish to cruise on offense.
Defensively, Wake Forest struggled to stop the Irish the entire game. The loss of safety Jessie Bates may have hurt the Demon Deacons, but overall they were overmatched.
Notre Dame Grade: A
Wake Forest Grade: D
Wake Forest Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense
Before this game, I thought the loss of Greg Dortch would be a critical blow to the Wake Forest offense. I could not have been more wrong. Even without Dortch, quarterback John Wolford threw for 331 yards and 2 TDs. Alex Bachman, who had just 4 catches coming into the game racked up 8 receptions, over 100 yards and a TD. Play after play, the Demon Deacons torched the Irish through the air especially in the middle part of the field. Wake also ran the ball well, as Matt Colburn had 120 yards and a touchdown. Overall, it was a very strong offensive showing from Wake Forest. However, I should point out that Wake scored 21 of their 37 points in the final 16 minutes of the game.
The Notre Dame defense is aware they played their worst game of the season. The faces in the locker room following the game made it look as though the Irish had lost. Clearly, there was a lack of focus near the end of the game, allowing Wake Forest to score 21 points in the last 16 minutes. It should also be taken into account that the Demon Deacons had the advantage of practicing against Mike Elko’s defense for the last three years. In his press conference today, Nyles Morgan mentioned that the Wake offense knew exactly who would be blitzing or what the coverage would be if the Irish showed a certain look. Certainly, the knowledge of the playbook had a role in Wake’s success, but the focus and intensity of the defense also seemed to be an issue. Heading into the biggest game of the season, Mike Elko can turn this game into a positive. The defense will be put through a difficult week of practice, and intensity will not be an issue this week. Was it a poor performance against Wake? Absolutely. Should it be a major concern in the long run? No.
Wake Forest Grade: A
Notre Dame Grade: C-
Justin Yoon was 2/3 on field goals after not attempting one the prior two games. He was short on an attempt from 50 yards, but that can be an expected from a kicker who was probably a bit rusty. Tyler Newsome only punted twice, but did average 44 yards per boot. For the second consecutive week, CJ Sanders broke a big kickoff return, this time for 52 yards. Sanders seems to be gaining momentum and he could make a major impact in the Miami game.
Mike Weaver was 1/2 on the day in field goals. Dom Maggio averaged 41 yards per punt for the Demon Deacons. The Deacs did not do much in either the punt or kickoff return games without Greg Dortch.
Notre Dame Grade: B+
Wake Forest Grade: B
This game was a bit of a let down for the Irish. Sandwiched between two massive ranked wins and a top 10 battle at Miami, it’s not surprising that Notre Dame played a bit flat. However, the offense put on an extremely impressive performance and made sure the game was never in doubt. The defense did struggle, but I’m willing to give Mike Elko and company a pass based on their prior performance. With three games left and a chance to clinch a playoff berth, I don’t expect another letdown from the Irish.