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Notre Dame Football Throwback Thursday: Irish vs. Wake Forest, 2011

You’ve got to win games like this where it’s just a gritty, tough performance.

Notre Dame v Pittsburgh
Quarterback Tommy Rees #11 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish hands off to running back Cierre Wood #20.
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

As we look ahead to week three of the 2020 college football season, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish should be heading to Winston-Salem (the game was previously slated to be held at Bank of America Stadium on Charlotte), to play the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in a fanless stadium. While the game has been postponed until December, humor me as I spend this week’s Throwback Thursday post looking back on the 2011 meeting of the Fighting Irish and the Demon Deacons. Here we go!

The Fighting Irish and the Demon Deacons have met five times between 2011 and 2018, with the Irish victorious in all five meetings. Notre Dame’s largest margin of victory is the 2018 meeting in which the Irish won 56-27.

Notre Dame vs. Wake Forest

On November 5th, 2011, the Fighting Irish headed to Winston-Salem to face the Demon Deacons. This was the first meeting between the schools, and the only one scheduled in Winston-Salem, and was billed as one of the biggest in Wake Forest history with an announced crowd of 36,307 at the 31,500-seat BB&T Field. This was the smallest venue to host Notre Dame since 1945.

After a big win over Navy the weekend before, the Irish were expected to rack up another big win over Wake Forest, but that wasn’t the case. Although the win was not pretty, Tommy Rees rallied his team in the second half, threw two-touchdown passes, and had some help from his defense who shut out the Demon Deacons in the second half to secure the win.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly had high praise for his team after the game. “The words I would use? Gritty. Tough,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “You’ve got to win games like this where it’s just a gritty, tough performance.”

Tommy Rees was 14-of-23 for 166 yards for the day with scoring passes of 38 yards to Tyler Eifert and 16 yards to Michael Floyd. Notre Dame running back Jonas Gray added a 1-yard touchdown run for the Irish, who out gained the Demon Deacons 341-297. (Jonas Gray would finish the day with 92 yards of rushing.) Notre Dame scored on its first two possessions of the second half and held on to win its second game in a row.

Two different times in the second half the Demon Deacons had the gall at or inside the Notre Dame 10 yard line and came away with no points. The Irish defense was impenetrable in the second half. “That really killed us,” Wake Forest receiver Chris Givens said. “It was devastating for our offense.”

“We have a whole philosophy of, `Count on me,” Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees said. “The defense did their part, and then it was their turn to look at (the offense), and for us to go out there and make some plays and do our part of the deal. I couldn’t be more proud of our guys.”

“Obviously, the third quarter was the deciding part of this game in terms of our ability to put points on the board,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said. “We did a great job in the second half ... closing out the game running the football.”

Jonas Gray tied the game at 17 when he took a pitch from Tommy Rees and went around the left untouched for his ninth touchdown of the season. Then, just a minute and a half later, Notre Dame’s offense was back on the field. Cierre Wood’s electric 27-yard run up the middle would set up Rees’ go-ahead touchdown pass, perfectly thrown to Michael Floyd in the right corner of the end zone. That would be all the Irish needed to secure the win.

Want to see more? Here are some highlights from the game:

Now that we don’t have an Irish game to watch this weekend, how will you spend your Saturday?

Cheers & GO IRISH!