Onward Notre Dame!
Yesterday’s 35-14 win over NC State was a huge statement win for the Irish. Pundits had been predicting that the #6 Rushing Offense (ND) facing the #6 Rushing Defense (NC State) would be an epic battle that the Irish would eventually lose. I think I saw just one analyst give Notre Dame the victory, and just by three points at that. I’m glad to see the sports expert collective eating cake this morning.
Admittedly the game started off badly, with ND allowing a blocked punt that was recovered in the end zone, but two plays later the offense woke up and made it 7-7. NC State scored in the first few seconds of the second quarter, but that would be the last time they had the lead as the Irish got the ball into the end zone and evened up the score five minutes later, then scored again four minutes after that to take a 21-14 lead.
The Wolfpack got the ball starting the third quarter, but the quarterback for NC State made a crucial mistake and threw his first interception in 340 passes, which Julian Love intercepted and then ran 69 yards in the other direction for a Pick-Six. Extra point made it 28-14, and from that point on Notre Dame let the defense take charge. On the next series NC State had a very nice kickoff return and got the ball to start the drive at the ND 42-yd line. Over the next 4-1/2 minutes the Wolfpack drove the ball down the field to the ND 6-yd line, but on a crucial 4th-and-1 play the runner was stuffed in the backfield and Notre Dame took the ball over on downs.
Both teams were forced to punt on their next possessions, but with 4:22 left in the third quarter Josh Adams received a hand-off and took it straight up the middle in the “2” gap between the center and right guard. Adams put on a huge burst of speed and angled left to avoid the diving tackle attempt by an NC State defender, and nine seconds later he was 77 yards down the field in the end zone. Extra point was good and the Irish went up 35-14. That was the fourth game in a row where Josh had a rush of 73 yards or longer, and his 6th game this season with a 60+ yard run. It’s his second game with 200+ rushing yards (and he would have had four if he hadn’t been sitting in the fourth quarter for the Miami(OH) and USC games).
The kid is a beast, with a 8.9-yd rushing average per carry. Saquon Barkley of Penn State, widely considered to be the Heisman front-runner, got absolutely pulverized in the running game last night against tOSU, with only 44 yards on 21 carries. SB has 1,279 all-purpose yards, while JA has 1,259. They both have 9 rushing touchdowns for the season, although JA has an edge with an 84-yd TD run vs SB’s 80-yd TD run. SB definitely has the edge in special teams, where he is a threat (as OSU found out last night when he ran the kickoff back 97 yards for a TD).
By this point in the game Notre Dame was content to let the defense play hard and control the ball (and clock) on offense. ND used up the final 8 minutes and 40 seconds of the 4th quarter to run out the clock, with the ball resting on the NC State 4-yd line when Brandon Wimbush took a knee to close out the game.
Notre Dame is now 7-1 for the season, with Wake Forest coming into Notre Dame Stadium next Saturday. WF is nothing to take lightly, but the big challenge ahead of the Irish are the Miami Hurricanes, currently ranked #8. With the College Football Playoff rankings coming out Tuesday I have a feeling that Miami is going to drop somewhat as a result of the difficulty they’ve had winning against teams that, on paper, they should have thoroughly dominated. I would be fine if Notre Dame got ranked 6th or higher, and the funny thing is that analysts are actually putting them even higher than that based on how dominating they’ve been and on account of their only loss coming against Georgia, and that by only one point. No one else has played UGA as close, or come so close to beating them.
Make no mistake – this season is one for the record books for everyone in college football.