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The good, the bad, the ugly: Notre Dame vs. Wake Forest

Nov 19, 2012, 6:33 PM EDT

Irish running back Wood runs for a 68 yard touchdown against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons during the first half of their NCAA college football game at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend

At this point, it’s probably best to give up looking for a bad and an ugly from the weekend that was. Between the Irish’s demolition of Wake Forest, senior day festivities, and losses by both Kansas State and Oregon, there hasn’t been a better autumn Saturday in South Bend in quite some time.

With the #1 shining above Grace Hall for the first time in a long time, let’s run through the good, the bad, and the ugly from Notre Dame’s 38-0 victory.

THE GOOD

Fast Starts. The Irish couldn’t have asked for a better start, with Cierre Wood exploding for 68 yards around the right side on an option pitch from Everett Golson. Watching Wood burst through the Demon Deacons secondary was a thing of beauty, with the season’s longest run of the year jump-starting the Irish.

That run wouldn’t have been made possible if it weren’t for Golson’s terrific throw on third down, where the young quarterback picked up a low snap and fired a strike to Theo Riddick in drop-eight coverage.

On the defensive side of the ball, it was Carlo Calabrese that got the defense off on the right foot. Calabrese absolutely crushed running back Josh Harris, jarring the football loose and forcing a turnover on Wake’s third offensive play. That was enough to flip the football field, put the Irish in good position on offense, and make the game a quick 14-0.

Everett Golson. Every Saturday Everett Golson is getting better. And against a mediocre Wake Forest defense, Golson looked terrific. Staying strong in the pocket, Golson played his best football of the season, attacking the Deacs vertically while buying time and playing mostly as a pocket passing game.

With his confidence overflowing, Golson made one bad decision, floating a ball into the end zone for Robby Toma. But he focused, came back down to earth, and finished the strongest game of his career. Golson put up a personal best for passing yardage and nearly set a school record with his 317 passing yards in the first half.

He’ll face the biggest test of his career this Saturday, but he’ll be entering the weekend playing the best football of his career.

Louis Nix. The junior defensive tackle was everywhere on Saturday, notching seven tackles from his nose guard position and being all but immovable as the rock in the middle of the defense. You don’t often see a nose guard leading a team in tackles, but that goes to show you the improvement Nix has made this season.

“His work volume has increased dramatically through his commitment and hard work in the weight room and in conditioning. And he plays so hard.  You know, he’s a guy that is all over the field,” Brian Kelly said of Nix after the game. He’s a guy that is playing the game at the highest level, and he did it through the off‑season conditioning and the commitment he made to it.”

Saying goodbye to Kapron Lewis-Moore will be tough, but a front three locked down by Stephon Tuitt, Nix, and Sheldon Day won’t miss a beat.

Cierre Wood. It’s fun to watch a running back wreak havoc at the second level of a defense. That was Wood’s day to a tee. Amazingly enough, Wood was caught in the backfield multiple times, forced for a loss on his first carry and falling victim to Wake’s attacking defense multiple times washing away any chance at positive gains. But he broke multiple big runs, with a 20-yard, 16-yard, and 43-yard dash ripping through the Demon Deacon’s defense after his opening 68 yard scamper. That’s the type of feast or famine running that happens against USC, with the Wood heading to the Coliseum to play at home in front of family and friends.

Team Defense. The shutout of Wake Forest was the first blanking of an opponent since the Irish stopped Nevada 35-0, with future star Colin Kaepernick getting shutdown by Charlie Weis and Jon Tenuta. Tanner Price and company only gained 209 yards on the day, averaging just 3.5 yards per play.  Even with back-ups playing for much of the fourth quarter, the Irish defense was relentless, delivering a shutout at home to cap off a terrific Senior Day.

Explosive Plays. So much for that methodical Irish offense that depended on a grind-it-out running game. Saturday’s offensive explosive featured multiple “big chunk” running plays (see Cierre Wood) and an aerial attack downfield by Golson. John Goodman continued his big play season, notching another long touchdown catch. TJ Jones caught a deep touchdown as well. If it weren’t for a nice play by a defensive back, Chris Brown would’ve had another long reception as well.

After struggling to stretch the field vertically, the Irish exploded with down field receptions, as Jones, Goodman, Theo Riddick, Robby Toma, and Tyler Eifert all had receptions of 24 yards or more. That’s an easy way to rack of passing yardage, and score a lot of points.

Clearing out the bench. Want to see a thing of beauty? How about the participation report from Saturday. Check out some of the names on there, including:

Charlie Fiessinger
Joe Romano
Nick Fitzpatrick
Jake Golic
Blake Breslau
Andrew Hendrix
Ben Councell
Eric Lee
Connor Calavaris
Conor Hanratty
Bruce Heggie
Dennis Mahoney
Nick Martin

At one point, two sets of brothers were on the field at the same time, with Jake and Mike Golic and Nick and Zack Martin all in the offensive huddle. A nice moment for two families that won’t easily be forgotten.

THE BAD

It’s hard to complain about a missed field goal by Kyle Brindza, but the sophomore is struggling from the right hash. While his kick percentage slides closer to 70 than you’d like, he’s still made just about every clutch kick he’s been asked to make.

Both Chris Brown and George Atkinson struggled to make some routine catches, answering questions from fans wondering why they weren’t getting the ball via air more often.

THE UGLY

This stays empty. Nothing ugly for an Irish program with the top graduation rate in the country to match their No. 1 ranking on the field.

  1. norcalirish - Nov 20, 2012 at 5:23 AM

    Last time there was this much confidence going into a usc game was last year, and we got killed. I’m not looking past anybody.

    Start fast, put the pressure on and don’t let up at ALL.

    ABSOLUTELY CRUSH THEIR SOULS.

    • 4horsemenrideagain - Nov 20, 2012 at 10:55 AM

      Agreed, except that it’s USC; they don’t have souls.

  2. bernhtp - Nov 20, 2012 at 7:10 AM

    Let’s beat them up. Physically abuse them. Inflict maximum pain. Force them to take off red shirts just to be able to field enough players to complete the game. Show them who the real quitters are.

    God I hate USC. I can’t tell you how much joy I experienced out in the rain in the Coliseum two years ago. Let’s do it again, but more emphatically.

  3. irishadrian - Nov 20, 2012 at 7:20 AM

    Great win ! I hope everyone realizes what a big time running back Cierre Wood is and why he dosen’t get more carries just puzzles me. I know he’s waiting to see where he would go in the draft before he declares if he is coming back for a 5th year but I think he’s checked out at this point. Theo Riddick has played well in the passing game (like Saturday) but gets caught from behind and clearly not the back Cierre is.

    • bb90grad - Nov 20, 2012 at 12:20 PM

      All I can think of is BK doesn’t like the Rolling Stones big lips design (or whatever it is) on CW’s mouthguard.

      GAIII continued to waste his speed sideline to sideline on several toss sweeps and reverses. Turn upfield already. At least he ate some clock in the process…

      Not that I’m complaining. It is VERY satisfying to see the team (appear at least) to avoid the style points and other white noise issues, take care of business and get rewarded for solid play.

      I’m not worried about USC because this team will do what it’s done all year: focus, do what needs to be done in the right way and leave it all on the field. Win or loss, they are totally in control of their future. I’m good with that.

  4. dermmite - Nov 20, 2012 at 10:29 AM

    The Good: Everetts two pump fakes in which he went through the full motion of throwing the ball only to hold it and find an open reciever. Dude must have some seriously big paws.

  5. kazmar619 - Nov 20, 2012 at 10:46 AM

    In regards to the four times ND went into LA unbeaten and got beat by USC. First of all, in three of those, the PAC-10 officials made numerous bad calls to help USC win. For some reason all college football has weeded out these cheating officials over the past three years (another reason ND is number 1 this year). And in the 55-24 game, USC had ND’s side line signals (a mole was in the ND organization). USC decided not to use them at the beginning of the game but at halftime and losing 24-0, the USC coaching staff decided to start using their “intelligence” and beat up ND in the second half know each and every play being called.

    • kapnd73 - Nov 22, 2012 at 8:16 AM

      Hello? robertg?

  6. bernhtp - Nov 20, 2012 at 11:11 AM

    While USC is generally a classless program, Kiffen brings it to new lows. For example, in this quote below, look how Kiffen throws Barkley under the bus:

    “You wouldn’t think we would lose this game with a senior quarterback versus a freshman,” Kiffin said. “But then again, when you turn the ball over like we did and get a couple of kicks blocked, those are the things that take them out of the game.”

    Barkley turned down an almost certain first round draft pick to return. He three three TDs and for over 300 yards before getting hurt. Kiffen is a piece of work. Pat Haden is not without integrity, and I expect a Kiffenless program within a couple of years as he ups the standards.

    I wonder how many of their top recruits figure this out and decide to bolt prior to NSD.

    • papadec - Nov 21, 2012 at 12:51 AM

      bern – ucla & ND are the two rivalry games that usc can’t lose, similar to tOSU & ND @ Blue. With ALL the crap that has been going on @ usc, even after Pat Haden got there, if usc loses this game, especially if it’s a blowout, Haden will have no choice but to dump Kiffin – IF he really is serious about changing things there. The big question will be – where will Kiffin take his BS & cheating? CAL?

  7. dutch31 - Nov 20, 2012 at 11:54 AM

    Yes it was Tommy. Watch the replay, it was a Phil Niekro special
    Go Irish!!

  8. 4horsemenrideagain - Nov 20, 2012 at 11:57 AM

    I’m sure Max Wittek is a nice kid and his mother probably loves him, but I want the defense to play at such a level that Mike Mayock can’t help but mention these two games:

    Back in those days, it was a pretty bitter rivalry, but at least Larry Smith was a stand-up guy and USC tried to keep their cheating scandals to a minimum. These days, USC is an outlaw program, with an outlaw defrocked Heisman Trophy winning player and an outlaw former coach who fled to Seattle when the roof began to fall in, and now another outlaw coach who left Tennessee in shambles holding the bag for his misdeeds. Even picking up free-agent Silas Redd (though the move was blessed by the NCAA in its infinite wisdom) is an outlaw move. Bill O’Brien not-so-subtly lambasted Kiffin for not even having the common decency to let him know that he was coming after Redd, unlike other head coaches who decided to contact Penn State’s players. All in all, there is nothing to like about USC anymore, and many, many reasons to loathe them.

  9. runners00 - Nov 20, 2012 at 12:37 PM

    In the very back of their minds — way behind things like the tendencies of the offensive line, whether the defense is likely to run-blitz, how likely SC’s wide receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee go long or cross, if/when Silas Redd will get the ball — the players should remember what SC’s players said last year after the game. I believe it was something about how Notre Dame “just quit,” that football game (and that quitting is what Notre Dame football is all about).

    We still need to prepare. It’s USC. I don’t care what people say about Barkley being out. It’s irrelevant as to whether we win the game unless we fully prepare for this game. USC is loaded and is a football powerhouse — even with the sanctions. If anything, what the sanctions mean is that the four-star and five-star recruits are the only players on this roster. Wittek himself was a highly recruited quarterback and while we’re all sure that it will be a huge battle to go in against the number 1 defense, he’s still a very talented guy. We need to get to him. We need to shut down Redd and McNeal. We need to stay focused and, yes, in the back of our minds, we need to remember what SC said about us last year.

  10. ndnumber1 - Nov 20, 2012 at 1:17 PM

    This upcoming game is for everything! Yes we all want this one terribly bad I know I do! Start fast,don’t turn the ball over,maintain field position,play to win,pressure the QB. Most important WIN THIS GAME! Don’t let them take away from you what is YOURS! Beat them down and then slit their throat. GO IRISH!

  11. sfspider - Nov 20, 2012 at 1:50 PM

    Keith,

    Hate to be a downer after such a great game (and evening of upsets), but our punt game, and punt return game remain “Ugly.” We had a whopping 13 total return yards on 4 punts, and Turk averaged under 37 yards per kick. These things matter, and whether its USC, a BCS Bowl game, or the big one for all the glory, our continued inabilty to flip the field or return a punt could be the difference maker.

    • runners00 - Nov 20, 2012 at 2:13 PM

      I agree. I don’t understand why every other FBS team can block in the return game. It’s amazing to watch. I’m not sure if there is a philosophical object to punt returns or what but we don’t seem to be able to block anyone in the return game.

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