The Notre Dame Fighting Irish jumped out to an early lead on Saturday against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, and then let the opposition pile up yardage and points. The Irish still won by double digits; here’s how the stats tell the story.
Stats That Lie
Wake Forest piled up 587 total yards and 37 points against a Notre Dame defense that at times looked uncharacteristically out of position and didn’t tackle well. Wake Forest QB John Wolford was 28 of 45 (that’s a lot of passes) for 331 yards with two touchdowns, and the Demon Deacons rushed for 239 yards and three scores on 40 carries.
Simply put, that’s a lot of offensive plays and a lot of time to be on the field for the Irish defense. With a big lead, the Irish went pretty vanilla, so I’m not too worried about the “garbage time” yards and points (it was 31-10 at the half). You must also consider the fact that Mike Elko worked for Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson for decades at multiple different programs. Coach Clawson probably new just what the Wake Forest offense needed to do to confuse a Mike Elko defense. I don’t think the stats are fully truthful in this instance for those reasons.
Stats That Don’t
Heisman hopeful Josh Adams had only five carries on the day, and Brandon Wimbush even sat a few series with injury concerns. Despite this fact, the Irish still amassed 710 total yards on offense. They were incredibly balanced, as well, as Wimbush and Ian Book combined for 330 yards through the air and the ground game piled up the customary 380 yards.
The truth is something we’ve already known for a while. Notre Dame is very, very good at running the football. Adams only contributed 22 of those yards, while Deon McIntosh (63 yards), Tony Jones Jr. (59 yards), and Brandon Wimbush (110 yards) ran behind the beast that is the Notre Dame offensive line. Even Kevin Stepherson (42 yards on two carries) and Ian Book (54 yards on three carries) chipped in on a rushing effort that Wake Forest had no answer for.
Notre Dame faces a very athletic Miami defense on Saturday, but the adjusted stats all suggest that the Irish should again have no problem running the ball. With warmer weather in Miami, I expect to see the offense attempt to air it out a bit more, as the Wake game appeared to be an effort to get Wimbush even more comfortable throwing the ball (30 pass attempts).
It’s a top-10 matchup, and it should be exciting to see what happens between the Hurricanes and Irish this Saturday.