Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 24, 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 38 of 55 SEPT. 24, 2018 39 were 3-8 in his debut. In year four (2007) they were 11-3 and among the top five in the Football Champion- ship Subdivision. • In his second year at Bowling Green (2010) he was 2-10, had the program back at 8-5 in year four and was 10-3 when he accepted the Wake Forest post after the 2013 season. • Like everywhere else, he had a rough inaugural year with the De- mon Deacons in 2014, finishing 3-9 with one of the most anemic offenses in college football. Yet again in year four, though, he led Wake Forest to an 8-5 ledger — the first time since 2008 it finished with eight victories and a bowl victory in the same season. The Demon Deacons had seven straight losing campaigns from 2009-15 before a 7-6 mark in 2016 and last year's breakthrough. Headlining that turnaround was an offense that set a single-season school record in points per game (35.3,) and total yards per game (465.8). The shootouts were especially evi- dent in the final month of the season at Notre Dame (48-37), followed by a 64-43 win versus Syracuse, a 30-24 upset of North Carolina State and its vaunted defensive line and a 55-52 triumph against Texas A&M in the Belk Bowl. Getting to .500 and receiving a third straight bowl invitation at Wake Forest could result in some major of- fers for the 51-year-old Clawson at the end of the 2018 campaign. IDENTITY CHANGE Interestingly, Wake Forest under Clawson originally was heralded for its sound defense. The operation that brought Notre Dame its two most recent defensive coordinators — Mike Elko in 2017 and Clark Lea in 2018 (Elko's line- backers coach at Wake Forest) — took a step back last season, finishing 112th in total defense (457.3 yards allowed per game) and 76th in scor- ing defense (28.3 points surrendered, notably 37.0 in its last nine). The unit also lost its top two play- makers in cornerback Jessie Bates III, an NFL second-round draft pick, and defensive end Duke Ejiofor, a sixth- round selection. In last year's Nov. 4 meeting, Notre Dame improved to 8-1 and remained No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings by defeating Wake Forest 48-37. The Irish were comfortably coasting 41-16 with 2:04 left in the third quarter before the Demon Deacons made the final respectable with 75- 70- and 90- yard touchdown drives, the latter end- ing with 51 seconds left in the game. Notre Dame rolled up 710 yards of total offense (barely missing the school record 720 set versus Navy in 1969), while Wake Forest had 587. Despite the graduation of four-year starting quarterback and the highly efficient John Wolford, and the ACL injury to offensive tackle Justin Her- ron, the offense was expected to re- main a strength with its line, USA To- day Freshman All-American wideout Greg Dortch (53 catches, nine touch- downs in 2017 despite playing only eight games before getting injured) and running back Matt Colburn (904 yards, 5.4 yards per carry last season). Through three games, Colburn was is the second top rusher with 196 yards, behind Cade Carney (300 yards) and quarterback Hartman (193 yards). After opening with three home games, this will be Notre Dame's first road outing of the season, and it has the makings of an intriguing matchup between Wake Forest's sea- soned, productive offense and the veteran Fighting Irish defense that returned nine starters. ✦ GAME PREVIEW: WAKE FOREST Predictions Corey Bodden: Notre Dame 31, Wake Forest 27 The Irish have struggled recently in ACC true road openers recently going 2-2 the last four years, and the Demon Deacons have enough talent on offense to scare Notre Dame. Bryan Driskell: Notre Dame 34, Wake Forest 24 Wake Forest will give Notre Dame a tough game, but the Irish will get the ground game untracked and pull away in the second half. David McKinney: Notre Dame 30, Wake Forest 13 Another game that shouldn't be all that close with the Irish getting ready for Stanford. Wake Forest will stick around for a quarter or two before Notre Dame wears it down. Lou Somogyi: Notre Dame 38, Wake Forest 27 First road games can be unsettling, and the Demon Deacons offense displayed some fine firepower in 2017. Notre Dame's defense must demonstrate that it can lead on the road. In his fourth year in charge, head coach Dave Clawson guided Wake Forest to an 8-5 record capped by a win over Texas A&M in the 2017 Belk Bowl — the first time the program finished with eight victories and a bowl triumph in the same season since 2008. PHOTO COURTESY WAKE FOREST

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