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The Notre Dame Fighting Irish (6-3) became bowl-eligible with their hard-fought 24-17 win over the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (5-4). The Irish, who went into the half down by 7, dominated defensively during the second half, shutting out the Wake Forest offense.
The first quarter started fast with each team putting up ten points quickly, but only the Demon Deacons seemed ready for the two-minute drill, driving late in the second quarter for a touchdown. In his own attempt at a late scoring drive, the Fighting Irish quarterback Tommy Rees connected with Wake Forest defender Josh Bush for a half-ending interception.
However, in their first two drives of the second half, the Fighting Irish quickly captured their first lead of the game. On their first drive of the second half, the Irish poured down the field on the shifty shoulders of RB Jonas Gray, who made two big runs and then zipped in for a touchdown with less than a yard to go.
On their second touchdown drive, RB Cierre Wood broke a 27 yard run to set up an impressive 16 yard touchdown pass to Michael Floyd along the right corner of the endzone for a 24-17 lead.
From there out, the story was all about missed opportunities for the Demon Deacons and clutch plays from the Irish defense. After Notre Dame took the lead, Rees threw yet another interception to Josh Bush, but a key redzone fumble from Wake Forest RB Brandon Pendergrass gave the Irish the ball back.
Then, late in the fourth quarter, the Demon Deacons were able to drive deep into the Fighting Irish territory, but Jimmy Newman missed his 42 yard field goal attempt, giving Notre Dame the ball back and sealing the win as the offense drained the remainder of the clock on a 10 play, 5:24 drive.
The Fighting Irish moved quickly on their first drive of the second half: Two impressive back-to-back runs from Jonas Gray brought Notre Dame to the one yard line, and after a failed quarterback sneak, Gray zipped around the left edge to tie the game at 17-17.
On the ensuing Fighting Irish drive, WR Michael Floyd made an amazing corner catch in the end zone, boxing out two Demon Deacons defenders while snatching a looping toss in corner of the endzone, tapping a second toe for good measure and a Notre Dame 24-17 lead.
However, after the Irish defense forced another punt, quarterback Tommy Rees delivered yet another toss into double coverage on a flea flicker pass, netting Wake Forest an interception and a huge return. The return expanded on yet another terrible call against the Irish as tackle Zach Martin drew a late hit penalty for knocking Josh Bush out of bounds on what looked like a perfectly legal hit.
Fortunately for Notre Dame, Brandon Pendergrass fumbled in the red zone, ending the scoring threat.
With the fourth quarter starting, the Notre Dame defense will look to stop the driving Demon Deacons from staging a late comeback.
Despite scoring a combined 20 points in the first quarter, the two teams punted three out of five drives in the second. One of the non-punt drives was the Demon Deacon's 81 yard, 11 play touchdown drive.
The Fighting Irish defense could do no right during the drive, giving up three plays over 10 yards and drawing a crucial pass interference penalty on a ball thrown well out of bounds. The penalty set up the Wake Forest offense on the 3 yard line, setting up a Josh Harris touchdown run up the middle.
The Fighting Irish got the ball back with enough time to drive for a field goal, but quarterback Tommy Rees made several ill-advised throws, eventually getting picked off to end the drive and half.
Notre Dame will get the ball to start the second half, looking to recover from their late second quarter mistakes.
While much of the nation is tuned into the matchup between Alabama and LSU, anyone that is looking for some impressive offensive performances should check out Notre Dame at Wake Forest, as the two teams combined for 20 points in the opening quarter.
Wake Forest opened the game with an impressive drive that was capped off by a 20-yard TD pass from Tanner Price to Brandon Pendergrass. Price was excellent throughout the 1st quarter, completing 6/8 for 67 yards. However, the Fighting Irish responded with their own TD late in the quarter. Tommy Rees hooked up with Tyler Eifert for a 38-yard TD pass to tie the score at 10.
Notre Dame visits the surprising Wake Forest Demon Deacons on Saturday night; it's Notre Dame's first game against the Deacs in school history, though they're no strangers to the state of North Carolina.
Notre Dame is currently 4-3 all-time while playing in the state of North Carolina with wins coming over UNC in 1951, 1953, 1955, and 1975. The Irish have lost to UNC on the road in 1960 and 2008, as well as against Duke in 1961.
(Notre Dame also met NC State in the Gator Bowl on Jan. 1, 2003.)
Wake Forest is coming off a 2010 season that looked as though it might signal the beginning of the end for head coach Jim Grobe, but in true Grobe fashion, the Deacs have bounced back with a mix of experience and solid quarterback play.
Notre Dame comes in winners of five of six, and should have enough of an edge up front to make it six of seven.
Game date, time: 8:00 p.m. ET, Saturday, Nov. 5
Location: BB&T Field, Winston-Salem, NC
TV channel: ABC or ESPN2. (For areas in which the game is unavailable on ABC, the game will be broadcast on ESPN2.)
Spread: Notre Dame is favored by 14 points
Series history: Notre Dame and Wake Forest are meeting for the first time on Saturday.
For further reading, news, discussion and more, visit Notre Dame blog One Foot Down and Wake Forest blog Blogger So Dear. Here’s the complete Week 10 college football TV schedule, and stay tuned to SB Nation’s college football news hub for more.
Irish running back Jonas Gray has 502 yards rushing this season on just 63 carries--that's an average of 7.97 yards per carry, which is one of the top marks in the country. That average also threatens a longstanding Notre Dame school record held by George Gipp (yes, 'the Gipper'), who averaged more than eight yards per carry in 1920:
At the top of that list is the legendary Gipp, his 8.1 yards per carry in 1920 still the school season standard with a minimum of 100 attempts. If Gray continues at his current rate of eight carries a game, he will need more than 351 yards over the final five outings to eclipse Gipp. The real point is that it's even a discussion.
If Gray does in fact push his per-carry average past Gipp's, he probably owes his offensive line a meal or three.
Through eight games apiece, both the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Wake Forest Demon Deacons have posted identical 5-3 records. But the odds makers aren't buying the wins and losses for this Saturday's match-up between the two teams, as the Fighting Irish are tabbed as 13-point favorites against the Demon Deacons for this weekend by our partners over at Odds Shark.
Wake Forest has legitimate upset potential at home, though, as the Demon Deacons actually upset then-No. 23 Florida State at home in October. They've lost two of their past three games, and managed to beat Duke by just a single point in their lone victory, but they have typically played much better in front of their home crowd this season.
The game's over/under is presently set at 55.5 points, and Notre Dame's offense is presumably shooting high against a pretty weak Wake Forest defense. The Irish are coming off a dominant 56-14 victory against Navy last week, but they also looked pretty over matched the previous week while facing USC.
For more on Saturday's matchup, check out One Foot Down, SB Nation's Notre Dame blog and Blogger So Dear, SB Nation's Wake Forest blog. For more lines and odds, check out SB Nation's NCAA Football odds section.
On Saturday, Notre Dame visits Wake Forest, which is a deceptively difficult place to play.