What a boring game. Just completely devoid of any fun or entertainment for roughly 58 out of the 60 game minutes. Let's see if this review can do any better.
Play-Call of the Game: Adams' 98-yard Touchdown Run
You know, that good old 98-yard touchdown play-call. Everyone's favorite!
We should call this play more often. https://t.co/HFgSM4CJnK— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) November 14, 2015
A couple of thoughts on this one. First, let's not forget the Irish defense stopped Wake Forest at the 1-yard line just two plays earlier. Twice in this game the Deacons got inside the Notre Dame 10-yard line and came away with 0 points. This game is a whole lot different if the defense doesn't tighten up in these moments.
Two, I love how Adams hits the hole here with just enough of a block from McGlinchey to avoid a possible 3rd down conversion attempt deep in our own territory. Fair or not, this a play where years ago someone like Armando Allen is tackled for 5 yards. Of course, the stiff arm and turbo jets are fun to watch from Adams but look how hilarious it is when Chris Brown flies up to linebacker Hunter Williams, pushes him out of the way, and leaves him in the dust.
This was the longest run in Notre Dame Stadium history, the longest play from scrimmage in Notre Dame history, and the longest play from scrimmage this year in FBS college football.
The good news for Kizer was that this was a bad game that at least offered a couple of touchdowns and zero turnovers. However, with the run game bottled up he just could not get into any rhythm in the passing game completing just 13 passes with a long of 22 yards.
Immediately after the game Brian Kelly mentioned that Wake did a good job of giving Kizer different looks and confusing him on his reads. That must have been the case because Kizer was hesitant quite often on the afternoon and held on to the ball for far too long. And while Wake flooded passing zones and dropped a lot of defenders into coverage Kizer wasn't able to make them pay with his legs (51 yards after sacks removed) to the point where the offense kept moving the chains.
This #GetOffTheTrainTracks run was pretty fun to watch, though.
Turning Point: Wake's Second Turnover on Downs
It's a mark of respect that once again a Notre Dame opponent went all out playing very aggressively to try and keep up on the scoreboard. The Deacons went for it on 4th down three times and failed to convert each time. Looking back, they might have been better off adding 6 points to the scoreboard and trying to change the whole complexion of the game. Yet, it's tough to blame them for thinking the Irish would score more than we did.
With just under 11 minutes left in the game Wake Forest was looking to answer a Kizer rushing score that put the Irish up 28-7. They mounted a 7-play drive that began with a 52-yard reception by K.J. Brent. Disaster struck deep in Irish territory as Wake quarterback John Wolford fumbled at the 1-yard line, recovering but losing yardage. After a 2-yard run Wolford would throw 2 incompletions effectively sealing the loss.
Surprising Stat: 49 Offensive Snaps for Notre Dame
Not really that surprising if you watched the game in real time. This was a big reason why Notre Dame could never get into a rhythm on offense--there just weren't enough opportunities to do so.
As poorly as the offense played this points to the defense's inability to get Wake Forest's offense off the field. The Deacons had 8 more first downs, 58 more total yards, and possessed the ball for nearly 12 more minutes than Notre Dame. Of course, you could say the Irish offense should have strung together some longer drives to keep the ball longer too.
At any rate, this was the fewest amount of offensive snaps in the Brian Kelly era, and the fewest since the 2008 game against USC when Notre Dame lost 38-3 and gained 91 total yards. Ha, remember those days? The previous low during the Kelly era was 50 snaps in 2012 against Michigan.
Unheralded Star: Joe Schmidt
For the first time in a month we can legitimately claim Notre Dame's 5th-year senior middle linebacker had a very good game. Schmidt was active very early in the game making an impact on several of Wake's snaps. In total, he finished with 10 tackles (his most since week 3) and added a pair of quarterback hurries.
Missed Opportunity: Final Offensive Drive
It's only fitting for this game that there weren't many outrageously missed opportunities in a frustrating back and forth slap fight with Wake Forest. The series immediately following the Deacons' touchdown would qualify as the Irish moved the ball near mid-field then suffered a sack on third down.
Perhaps the biggest was the final Irish drive of the game which could have accomplished two things. One, string together a long, multi-play 90+ yard drive that would have shown it was only a matter of time before Notre Dame finally found a rhythm. Two, a touchdown would have made an ugly game just a little prettier--and the Irish would have covered the spread.
Flag of the Game: Roughing the Snapper
Wake Forest's only scoring drive originally ended on a 3 & out thanks to a Romeo Okwara sack. Then, during Wake's punt Te'von Coney gets blocked into the snapper and his elbow brushes up against him sending the snapper in a heap of bones to the ground. That's a great by-the-book call--gotta protect those snappers from stumbling over and hurting their butts.
We'd be remiss if we did not highlight the picking up of a flag on Notre Dame's final drive, too. Yes it was the very same drive we just talked about above as a missed opportunity. Following a short 8-yard catch on third down Chris Brown was thrown to the ground (a little ticky tack for sure but hey gotta stick to that rule book, right?) while out of bounds. That would have spotted the ball at the Wake Forest 37-yard line.
That is until Demon Deacons head coach Dave Clawson spent 5 minutes in the referee huddle complaining about the call and the officials picked up the flag.
Red Zone TD Success: 100%
Whoa, a positive from the game. Two straight weeks of 100% touchdown scoring in the red zone, too!
Although if you still want to quibble the Irish only entered the red zone twice against Wake Forest. That's not exactly all that great. Be that as it may, Notre Dame has moved up to 49th nationally in touchdown percentage in the red zone. Factoring in strength of schedule I'd imagine the Irish would be ~15 spots higher.
Schemes n Such
There's been a lot of talk about the Irish playing things pretty conservatively on offense. That could be the case although other than a lack of really deep throws this approach didn't jump out to me. At least in the run game we weren't too vanilla and tried to work the perimeter of the field and didn't eschew the jet sweep from the gameplan.
Brian Kelly believes Wake Forest changed up its defensive looks by taking advantage of the bye. Doesn't expect a similar move from BC.— Irish Illustrated (@PeteSampson_) November 15, 2015
This honestly felt like just a really indecisive game from Kizer when the offense badly needed him to be efficient and quick getting the ball out of his hand. Factor in, according to Kelly, a bunch of new looks from Wake Forest and I got the sense Kizer became a little tense trying to force throws in a not-quite blowout situation.
Wake Forest had 10 tackles for loss on 49 Notre Dame snaps. That's not a winning formula. For running back Josh Adams 12 of his 17 carries went for 4 yards or less, including 10 rushes for 2 yards or less. We'll always remember the record-breaking 98-yard touchdown but beyond that this was a really tough time for the Irish offensive line. Wake had a pretty decent defense yet only 5 rushing plays of 10+ yards severely limited the usual big-play Irish offense.
The defensive line mostly had their way on Saturday. The starters played really well but also gave way to significant snaps to several backups who clearly weren't as strong. Day, Okwara, Trumbetti, and Rochell combined for 17 tackles, 5 TFL, 4 quarterback hurries, and 1 interception.
Especially early in the game, it didn't feel like the line was overwhelming the Wake Forest run game, and despite strong games from Jaylon and Schmidt, they were cleaning up a lot of rushes after positive yardage. For example, the Deacons had 13 rushes that went for at least 5 yards--not a strong effort against a poor running offense.
My take was that we were sitting our safeties deep early on not taking Wake's run game seriously figuring they'd throw it all over the place as heavy underdogs. Once we adjusted, the Deacons had a lot less success--just 3 of their 13 runs for 5+ yards came in the second half.
Alize Jones, Te'von Coney, C.J. Sanders, Justin Yoon, Nick Coleman, Nicco Fertitta, Dexter Williams, and Jerry Tillery were the freshmen to see the field. For the second straight game Yoon didn't attempt a field goal. Coney made a special teams tackle and was flagged for the roughing the snapper. Sanders did not attempt a kick or punt return.
This was an odd game from the perspective of the Notre Dame defense. At times, Wake was doing just enough to keep the chains moving with 23 first downs. Then the Irish defense was doing just enough to prevent Wake Forest from scoring and making it a closer game. At the end of the day, the Deacons gained 340 yards, averaged 2.8 yards per rush, and averaged 4.6 yards per play. With the 7 points scored all those number feel about where the Irish defense should be in a game like this but in real time it didn't always feel so rosy.
Notre Dame's biggest weakness on defense is giving up the big play, and while Wake Forest's offense came in well below average in this regard, the Irish still limited them to just 2 plays of 20+ yards.
After the game Clawson told the media he thought his team beat themselves which is never the best thing to say after losing by multiple touchdowns. Still, I can kind of see his point. The final pass play of the game was the Deacons' 6th time getting to mid-field. They missed a field goal that would have been much easier before a personal foul penalty. They got only 7 points on 4 red zone opportunities, missed all of their 4th down attempts, and gave up a pick six. It wasn't exactly beating themselves but the game was there for the taking, or at least to make it very tight, and Wake kept blowing it.
Do you know who is tied for 8th nationally in sacks? If you answered Romeo Okwara please collect your prize! The senior has been on an absolute tear lately with 8 sacks over his last 5 games. For the season, Okwara has 32 tackles, 12.5 TFL, 9 sacks, and 7 quarterback hurries. That's just about the production we've been asking for from the weak-side defensive end position.
Notre Dame had averaged at least 6.4 yards per play in every game prior to this Saturday when the Irish only put up 5.76 YPP. That's not a God awful performance but it was still painstaking to watch outside of the 98-yard run. Averaging 3.8 YPP on the other 48 plays from scrimmage should be a nice wake-up call on the heels of a matchup against a Boston College defense that leads the country with just 3.9 YPP surrendered.
For so much explosiveness this has been a very up and down season for Will Fuller. He's 5th in reception average among Power 5 wideouts with at least 500 receiving yards but only tied for 70th nationally in total receptions among all pass catchers. This was the 4th game this season where Fuller had 4 or fewer receptions--plus he tied his season low with only 37 yards. Despite that he's almost to 1,000 receiving yards. Imagine what his senior season will be like with a better rapport with his quarterback.