Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 1, 2018

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

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Page 23 of 55

24 OCT. 1, 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED TURNING POINT Wake Forest demonstrated some grit after giving up a 52-yard punt return to Irish senior wide receiver Chris Finke that set up a short touch- down run by junior running back Tony Jones Jr. to fall behind 21-6. The Demon Deacons then responded with a 10-play, 75-yard march and touchdown to pull within one score again (21-13) in the second quarter. On the next series Notre Dame faced third-and-three at the Irish 32-yard line. Forcing a punt would have extended the momentum — but instead a quick screen from junior quarterback Ian Book to sophomore wide receiver Michael Young resulted in a game-changing 66-yard catch-and-run, with blocks by senior tight end Alizé Mack and sophomore running back Jafar Arm- strong opening the lane. Book scored on the next play with 5:24 left in the first half, and that series kept Wake Forest at bay the rest of the way. STATS OF THE GAME After totaling only 70 points at home in the first three games this season, and not scoring more than 24 in any of the last seven contests dating back to November 2017 at Miami, Notre Dame romped for 56 in its 2018 road debut — the most it tallied on an opposing team's field since a 57-7 demolition of Stanford on Nov. 29, 2003. In fact, this represented a tie for the fourth most points scored by the Fighting Irish on another team's true home field since the end of World War II in 1945. In addition to the aforemen- tioned win at Stanford in 2003, the only higher outputs on an oppo- nent's home field were 69-13 at Pitt in 1965 and 62-3 at Army's Michie Stadium in 1973 en route to the na- tional title. The 1971 Notre Dame team matched the 2018 output at Wake Forest with a 56-7 victory at Pitt. DEFINING MOMENT FOR BRIAN KELLY? The ninth-year Fighting Irish head coach admitted he did not sleep well the night before this game. It's not often a team will replace its quarterback that has started 15 times, was its top play-making threat on offense with his ad-lib running skills, and helped the team to a 3-0 and No. 8 national ranking. However, fortune can sometimes favor the bold and those who don't stagnate with complacency. Alabama's Nick Saban dared to re- place a starting quarterback who was 26-2 with a true freshman in the sec- ond half of the national title game last season, and won. Brandon Wimbush, so valuable in the win over Michigan in the opener while earning the game ball, was supplanted by Ian Book in an effort to spark and better balance the Notre Dame offense for the pres- ent and down the road. The move could be a defining one in Kelly's career. THREE OBSERVATIONS BY LOU SOMOGYI OFFENSE: QB IAN BOOK Notre Dame started hot on offense in each of its first three games and then sputtered. In the junior quarterback's first game, the Irish did the opposite, with the offense punting, turning it over on downs and then giving Wake Forest the ball on a fumble on its first three possessions. That is when Book started to heat up, and there was nothing the Demon Dea- cons could do to stop him once that happened. He completed just 3 of 6 passes for 19 yards during the first three series, but the rest of the way connected on 21 of 28 throws for 306 yards with a pair of scores while also running the ball into the end zone three times. In his first start of the season, Book finished with 368 yards of total offense and five touchdowns to fuel the offense. DEFENSE: LB DRUE TRANQUILL A number of Notre Dame players stood out on defense in the win over Wake Forest. Junior defensive ends Julian Okwara (3.5 tackles for loss) and Daelin Hayes (two tackles for loss) were disruptive, and junior cornerback Troy Pride Jr. had a strong performance as well, but Notre Dame's most consistently effective player on defense was the fifth-year senior Buck linebacker. Tranquill tied for the team lead with six solo tackles, two of them for lost yardage, including a sack. He was a vital player in space, which helped limit Wake Forest's perimeter run game and quick outside throws. SPECIAL TEAMS: PR CHRIS FINKE It was a big day for the senior wide receiver, whose career-best 52-yard punt return set up an offensive touchdown that made it a 21-6 game in the second quarter. Finke performed well all game, making sure to field both punts that were near him and ensuring that his team stayed away from the one shanked kick by the Deacons. TOP PLAYERS OF THE GAME BY BRYAN DRISKELL Senior wide receiver Chris Finke ripped off a career-high 52-yard punt return that set up Notre Dame's third score of the game. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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