This past Saturday the Demon Deacons suffered another tough loss 48-37 as they played in South Bend against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. It was a very respectable outing for coach Dave Clawson’s team, playing in undoubtably the teams toughest road environment and against the best team on their schedule this season. It included another great performance from John Wolford, who racked up 331 passing yards and another 59 on the ground against what had been one of college football’s toughest defenses this season. Let’s break down the highs and lows
The Good: Offensive Output
Heading into the contest, 8-1 Notre Dame hadn’t allowed more than 20 points in a single game this season. Wolford and the offense more than broke that record. As Notre Dame’s defense became complacent in the second quarter , racking up a 31-10 lead, the Wake Forest offense came out in the second half un-negated and exploded. Wolford took full advantage of the uninspired defense, leading the team to four second half touchdowns. Matt Colburn had a great game pounding the rock, becoming the first rusher to go for over a 100 yards against the Irish defense this season. Wolford also played fantastic, finding open wide receivers and making excellent reads in the option game en route to a 400 total yard performance. By the end of the day the Wake Forest offense had totaled 587 yards, easily the most scored on this defense this season. Although the game never truly felt close, the offense’s confidence to stay in the game and play strong is a sign for encouragement, especially against a defense that should be headed for the college football playoff.
The Bad: Secondary Play
Don’t get me wrong, Brian Wimbush’s performance wasn’t particularly inspiring offensively, however the Deacons allowed for what was probably his best game as a member of the Irish. Wimbush only completed a measly 50% of his passes, however he still managed to compile 280 yards on those fifteen completions. What was particularly disappointing was how badly the Deacons allowed one wide receiver to beat their schemes. WR Chase Claypool torched the secondary for nine receptions, 180 yards, and a late touchdown to close out the game. As Wake Forest fans got to watch for most of this season, the presence of a dynamic receiving threat can truly change the game, and defenses must adjust if they want to stay competitive. The Deacons made no such changes, allowing Claypool to find space and make contested catches all afternoon as he brought in 60% of every pass completed by Brian Wimbush that day and drew even more targets.
The Ugly: Run Defense
Coming into this game Notre Dame running back Josh Adams was fifth in the nation with 1169 rushing yards. Now if I’d told you he only carried for 22 yards against the Deacons, fans would’ve expected a favorable income. Wrong. Instead, the Irish rushed 46 times this game for an absurd 380 yards on the ground, averaging an unacceptable 8.3 yards per carry. Notre Dame’s offensive line frequently abused the Wake Forest front 7, opening up giant rushing lanes for Deon McIntosh and Tony Jones Jr. In a game where Wake Forest needed to force quarterback Brian Wimbush to throw the ball if they were going to win. Six different Notre Dame running backs combined for 270 total yards, as essentially anyone put in the backfield was able to find the holes generated by the offensive line. Additionally, the defense failed spectacularly when tasked to contain Brian Wimbush. The quarterback scrambled for over a hundred yards and found the end-zone twice with his legs, another far cry from the game plan of forcing Wimbush to throw. This performance wasn’t nearly as embarrassing as allowing 427 ground yards to Georgia Tech, but I wouldn’t have expected our defense to give up this much on the ground.
Next week the Demon Deacons will look to continue their offensive momentum and bounce back in a challenging road game against Syracuse. Syracuse gave Clemson fits in a huge upset earlier this season but have since regressed to the mean and sit at 4-5, one game behind Wake in ACC standings. Both teams are desperately seeking bowl eligibility and need the win, so expect a closer dog fight next time around Deacon Fans.