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Notre Dame Defeats Wake Forest 28-7: The Deacs Failed to Execute in Critical Situations

The Deacs did not execute in critical situations. That dramatically altered the outcome of the game.

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish defeated the Wake Forest Demon Deacons 28-7. If you just saw the final score, or saw the one clip they showed on SportsCenter, then you would assume that Notre Dame dominated the Deacs. While the scoreboard shows that this was a 21-point defeat, this was arguably Wake Forest's best performance of the season.

Wake Forest was coming off of a bye week, and head coach Dave Clawson said that the team was as healthy as they had been since week two of the season. I thought their health showed on Saturday afternoon.

The Wake Forest defense gave up just 282 yards of offense to Notre Dame. Keep in mind that the Irish had been averaging nearly 490 yards of offense over their first 9 games of the season. Not to sound completely dismissive of one play, as it was a massive one, but more than one-third of those yards came on just one play (which had atrocious tackling).

Wake Forest's offense moved the ball very well against Notre Dame. The Deacs accumulated 340 yards, and had 23 first downs. That's 8 more first downs than Notre Dame had. Wake just failed to convert on a number of opportunities, but I loved the aggressiveness, and, quite frankly, intelligence of the coaching staff to go for it on fourth downs.

The staff set that mentality from early on in the first quarter when Wake opted to go for it on 4th and 8 rather than attempt a 50-yard field goal. Wake Forest was not going to beat Notre Dame by kicking field goals, so I applaud that decision, even though it resulted in a turnover on downs. The pick six from Wolford was really a fluke play. Somehow it slipped out of his hand, and give Notre Dame credit for making the play. That said, turnovers have killed Wake all season. Wake is nowhere near talented enough to lose the turnover battle and win games.

Wake responded in the next drive by driving 74 yards to get down to Notre Dame's one-yard line, but Tyler Bell was stuffed on a zone read on 4th-and-goal. Again, regardless of the result, that's absolutely the right decision to go for it in that situation. That was essentially a gimme field goal, but it does Wake zero good to be down 14-3 at that point. If Wake converts there, this is an entirely different play. Again, give the Notre Dame defense credit, but I applaud the decision to go for it. Naturally, two plays later, Notre Dame's Josh Adams took it 98 yards to the house. Even though Notre Dame has been playing football since Jesus was born, that was somehow the longest play from scrimmage in Notre Dame history. That play made it 21-0, and the game completely changed over those three plays. Also, Wake has to do a better job of tackling. The Dalvin Cook run was the same thing. It should have been a gain of a few yards, but a missed tackle costs the defense a touchdown.

Mike Weaver probably would have made a 35-yard field goal to end the first half, but Cortez Lewis had another personal foul penalty. I love Cortez's emotion, but that penalty cost us three points, and I believe his unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Syracuse cost us three or seven points. That has to improve moving forward.

Wake's lone touchdown drive of the afternoon came in the third quarter, and featured a gorgeous 19-yard strike to Tabari Hines, which was inexplicably not ruled a touchdown. Either way, Wolford ran it in on the next play to make it a two-possession game. On Notre Dame's first full drive of the fourth quarter, they were rewarded a gift of a pass interference call on third down, that set up a 5-yard touchdown run by DeShone Kizer on the next play. That pushed the lead back to 21, and all but sealed it.

To Wake's credit, their first play on the next drive was a 52-yard pass from John Wolford to K.J. Brent. After a nice pass to Chuck Wade, Wake had 1st-and-goal from the 1-yard line, but got cute on a Wolford run, and lost 8 yards on the play. The Deacs failed to convert, and turned it over on downs. If the 5-yard touchdown run from Kizer didn't officially seal it, then this did.

Ultimately, this game was determined by a handful of a plays. Wake's failure to convert on a critical 4th-and-goal from the 1. A slipped ball that results in a pick-six. Wake allowing a 98-yard touchdown. Wake botching an opportunity with 1st-and-goal from the 1. That was the story of the game.

So while the score may have indicated a blowout, I'll maintain that Wake Forest having this performance on the road against the #4 team in the nation, is the best performance Wake has had all season. I think it bodes well for the future. We just need to start making those critical plays that dictate the outcomes of games.


And, while I probably buried the lede here, Alex Kinal now holds an NCAA record.