2011 Prediction & Game Story
Week 10, ND at Wake Forest
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Nov. 5 Notre Dame 24 … at Wake Forest 17
CFN Analysis: Consistency isn’t exactly the norm for the Irish this season, but this week, the poor play didn’t result in a loss. The one thing that is consistent is the turnover problem, with Tommy Rees getting picked off twice, but with its back against the wall, the Irish defense came up with two excellent stops inside its own ten. The defensive front came through with a nice game making three sacks and seven tackles for loss. Wake Forest is a good, sound team, so this might not seem like a brand-name win, but it was a better one than it looks. The Irish shouldn’t have to do more than put on their uniforms to beat Maryland and Boston College, but they’ll have to be perfect to beat Stanford, and this late in the season, they’re just not.
Wake Forest did just enough to win the game … except close. There was only one turnover, and the defense did a terrific job of keeping the high-powered Irish offense under check, but two stalled drives when knocking on the doorstep killed the upset bid. RB Brandon Pendergrass couldn’t get loose, running for 47 yards on 17 carries, and his lost fumble ruined one drive, and poor pass protection and a missed field goal killed another. Tanner Price was solid, completing 17-of-24 passes, and Josh Bush had a whale of a game with eight tackles and two interceptions, but the missed opportunities meant a third loss in four games with Clemson up next. If the lines aren’t far better than they were against the Irish, there’s no chance of getting by the Tigers.
(AP) WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- With the game on the line, Notre Dame gave up plenty of yardage to Wake Forest. What the Fighting Irish refused to surrender was the lead.
Tommy Rees threw two touchdown passes and Notre Dame shut out the Demon Deacons in the second half of a 24-17 victory on Saturday night.
"The words I would use? Gritty. Tough," Irish coach Brian Kelly said. "You've got to win games like this where it's just a gritty, tough performance."
Rees finished 14 of 23 for 166 yards with scoring passes of 38 yards to Tyler Eifert and 16 yards to Michael Floyd. Jonas Gray added a 1-yard touchdown run for the Irish (6-3), who outgained the Demon Deacons 341-297. Notre Dame scored on its first two possessions of the second half and held on to win its second straight.
Twice in the second half, Wake Forest had the ball at or inside the Notre Dame 10 while down by a touchdown -- and came away with no points.
"That really killed us," Wake Forest receiver Chris Givens said. "It was devastating for our offense."
Tanner Price was 17 of 24 for 187 yards with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Pendergrass. Josh Harris added a 2-yard touchdown run for Wake Forest (5-4), which led 17-10 at halftime but has lost three of four.
The Demon Deacons squandered Josh Bush's long interception return midway through the third quarter when Pendergrass fumbled at the Irish 9. Wake Forest then had a first-and-goal from the 10 midway through the fourth, but lost 15 yards on its next three plays and David Newman's 42-yard field goal sailed wide right with 5:24 left.
Gray and Cierre Wood then took over on the ground for the Irish, who ran out the clock.
"We have a whole philosophy of, `Count on me," Rees said. "The defense did their part, and then it was their turn to look at (the offense), and for us to go out there and make some plays and do our part of the deal. I couldn't be more proud of our guys."
Gray finished with 92 yards for the Irish.
"Obviously, the third quarter was the deciding part of this game in terms of our ability to put points on the board," Kelly said. "We did a great job in the second half ... closing out the game running the football."
Gray tied it at 17 when he took a pitch untouched around left end for his ninth touchdown of the season. That came two plays after Gray appeared to score from 26 yards out, but an official review determined his elbow touched the turf inside the 1-yard line.
Notre Dame went back to work 1 1/2 minutes later, with Wood's 27-yard run up the middle setting up Rees' go-ahead touchdown pass. Floyd slipped behind a pair of Wake Forest defenders and pulled down a perfectly thrown ball in the right corner of the end zone before 6 minutes had elapsed in the half.
Ball security has been a problem all year for the Irish, who entered ranked 118th nationally in turnover margin, and it looked like the Demon Deacons were going to make them pay for Rees' second interception to Bush before Pendergrass' costly fumble swung momentum back to the Irish.
"I didn't think we were very sharp for two series to start the second half, on either side of the ball," Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said. "And then we kind of got going pretty good again, and the offense moved the ball pretty good at times, but we didn't get anything out of it."
Harris put Wake Forest up 17-10 when he powered in with 28 seconds left before halftime. That capped an 11-play, 81-yard march that chewed up nearly five minutes and ended with just the fifth rushing touchdown allowed all year by the Irish.
The first meeting between the schools -- and the only one scheduled in Winston-Salem -- was billed as one of the biggest in Wake Forest history with an announced crowd of 36,307 at the 31,500-seat BB&T Field, the smallest venue to host Notre Dame since 1945.
The teams combined to provide plenty of early fireworks, with both scoring on their first two possessions before the defenses finally settled down.
Price capped the Demon Deacons' opening drive with his scoring pass to Pendergrass down the right sideline just over four minutes in. They traded field goals -- Notre Dame's David Ruffer kicking one from 44 yards out, and Newman following with a 46-yarder -- before Eifert slipped through a seam in the defense and Rees found him for a long score that tied it at 10-10 with 3:38 left in the quarter.
Notre Dame (5-3) at Wake Forest (5-3) Nov. 5, 8:00, ESPN2
Here’s The Deal … Notre Dame makes its first-ever trip to Wake Forest, which is sure to create a stir in Winston-Salem. The Irish are college football’s version of the New York Yankees, attracting large crowds and hordes of local media wherever they travel. These days, the Domers are trying to maintain decorum in the locker room after a controversial past couple of weeks was capped by head coach Brian Kelly’s suggestion that the players he inherited from Charlie Weis were lagging behind his recruits. ND moved a step closer to bowl eligibility with last week’s 56-14 dismantling of Navy.
The Demon Deacons will be looking to rebound from their worst game of an otherwise solid campaign, losing to North Carolina, 49-24. The team that had turned the ball over five times in the first seven games coughed it up five times in the collapse to the Tar Heels. Wake Forest stands just a win away from bowl eligibility for the first time since 2008, but has few gimmes ahead in a tough November slate.
Why Notre Dame Might Win: All signs point to QB Tommy Rees enjoying a big game at BB&T Field. His Zack Martin-led offensive line, which has allowed five sacks all year, versus a Wake Forest D that’s 105th nationally in sacks pretty much guarantees all day to locate WR Michael Floyd or TE Tyler Eifert. Plus, Cierre Wood and Jonas Gray have quietly evolved into one of the most productive backfield tandems in America, combining for 16 touchdowns and more than 1,200 yards on the ground. The Irish have scored at least 56 points in two of the last three games, showing signs of producing the kind of balance and drive-sustaining plays that Kelly is seeking on a weekly basis.
Why Wake Forest Might Win: Demon Deacons QB Tanner Price had a terrible game in Chapel Hill, but don’t bank on it becoming a trend. The lefty has shown a lot of grit and perseverance this fall, leading the offense with a steady hand. He’ll employ the services of WR Chris Givens, who leads the ACC in catches, to attack an average Notre Dame secondary that’s given up 14 total touchdowns, yet had just two picks in the month of October. Wake Forest is also hoping to once again have access to decisive RB Josh Harris, Brandon Pendergrass’ sidekick, who’s been hampered the past few weeks with a hamstring problem.
What To Watch Out For: It’s that time of year when various national awards have started to distribute their semifinalist lists, many of which have included the name of Notre Dame LB Manti Te’o. The Irish junior has been predictably stout this fall, especially against the run, collecting at least 10 stops in all but two games. He’ll be zeroing in on Pendergrass and Harris, if the feature back is available, an ideal antidote to a Wake Forest attack that ideally prefers to run the ball no fewer than 40 times a game.
What Will Happen: While Wake Forest has weaved a nice story in 2011, already surpassing last year’s win total, it lacks the overall talent to match a Notre Dame squad that’s lit up marginal defenses all year. The Irish will unleash its myriad weapons on the Demon Deacons, getting ample contributions out of Rees, Wood, Gray, Floyd and the rest of the receivers. The offense will roll without a lot of resistance, pulling away for good at the start of the second half. At least for now, ND appears to have tabled the distractions that plagued it in the weeks leading up to the game with Navy.
CFN Prediction: Notre Dame 35 … Wake Forest 20
Click For Latest Line From ATS: Notre Dame -14
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