PASS OFFENSE: A.
It’s a rare occasion when a crowd of 80,000 barely blinks at an interception thrown in the end zone because A) Everett Golson was playing so well otherwise, B) Notre Dame was up 21-0 and C) It was intended for senior Robby Toma.
Interception aside, Golson had one of the best games in his young career. Granted, it was against a paper-thin Wake Forest defense, but 20-30 for 317 yards and three touchdowns and nine completions for double-digit-yardage gains in 2.5 quarters is impressive any way you slice it.
As stated last week, the Golson/Tyler Eifert dynamic is coming together at the most crucial part of the season. Congrats to Eifert for setting the school record for most receptions by a tight end (129). TJ Jones continues to be a huge target in the post-Michael Floyd era.
RUN OFFENSE: A+.
Cierre Wood and the offensive line demolished the Wake Forest front seven all night, most prolifically off of Wood’s 68-yard touchdown dash and another 43-yard gain on his last carry at Notre Dame Stadium. By the time Wood jogged off the field in the third quarter, he had tallied 150 rushing yards and 13.6 yards per carry.
George Atkinson III also got on the scoreboard with a 9-yard run for the final score of the game. Atkinson finished with seven carries for 34 yards, a solid 4.9 average. Theo Riddick didn’t do much on the ground (six carries, 20 yards) but continues to be an invaluable hybrid target for Golson, finishing with three receptions for 58 yards.
PASS DEFENSE: A.
Stephon Tuitt may be the scariest defensive lineman in college football. He knocked down quarterback Tanner Price for a 9-yard loss on the only sack of the game, but the Irish defense plenty busy otherwise. Tuitt and Kapron Lewis-Moore swatted two of Price’s passes, and Lewis-Moore hurried Price twice.
Price’s longest pass was a 16-yard completion to receiver Michael Campanaro. Two of Price’s passes resulted in negative gains.
Price finished 22-33 for 153 yards, numbers similar to his performance last year. Except this time Notre Dame gave up zero points instead of 17.
RUN DEFENSE: A+.
Carlo Calabrese nearly decapitated tailback Josh Harris on Wake Forest’s first possession of the game, knocking the ball free. Zeke Motta recovered, and Notre Dame scored again in a matter of minutes.
Harris didn’t return after the hit, and Wake Forest only managed 25 carries for 55 total rushing yards (a paltry 2.2-yard average). The Notre Dame front seven finished with four tackles for loss, including a hit for negative yardage from freshman Romeo Okwara in a game where everyone on the roster seemed to have done something.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C-.
While the special teams didn’t hurt Notre Dame, it certainly didn’t do much to help. Luckily, a missed 40-yard field goal and a 36.8 punt average doesn’t mean much in a 38-0 blowout.
Kyle Brindza continues to struggle with consistency, missing from 40 yards but making from 25. Brindza was plenty busy on kickoffs, though, booting the ball seven times for a 62.4 average and one touchback.
Davonte Neal actually registered positive yardage on punt returns — four returns for 13 yards — which should be enough to give the special teams an A+.
Notre Dame is 11-0 and finished the regular season undefeated at home in a blowout, shutout win. What more can you ask for?
Classy move by head coach Brian Kelly to call an unneeded timeout in the fourth quarter to give Manti Te’o, Kapron Lewis-Moore and Zeke Motta a special moment to come off the field one at a time. After the game, Te’o remarked that decisions like that make him love playing for Kelly.
Kelly also made sure every capable senior on the roster saw the field on Saturday, which was made possible by a 38-0 lead.
Kelly made sure his seniors didn’t get caught up in the emotions of Senior Day. Now he faces the task of taking on USC at the Coliseum for a chance at the National Championship Game.