All week, Notre Dame fans were fearful of a letdown after a dominating performance against their arch rival, USC. Winners of their last 6 games, North Carolina State came to South Bend with confidence abound. Early on, the Irish looked to be in trouble. On Notre Dame’s second offensive possession, the Irish allowed a blocked punt, which the Wolfpack recovered for a touchdown.
But the Irish never faltered.
What followed was complete and total domination by the Irish. The Irish took control of the game at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football. Josh Adams continued his Heisman campaign. Brandon Wimbush continued to develop. The Irish solidified themselves as serious College Football Playoff contenders.
Here are 20 random thoughts on Notre Dame’s big win over North Carolina State:
- Notre Dame faced adversity early in this game. The 7-point deficit Notre Dame faced after the blocked punt was Notre Dame’s largest deficit they’ve faced all year.
- Instead of hanging their heads, however, the Irish responded each time they felt adversity. The Irish didn’t take their first lead until the 5:30 mark of the 2nd quarter, but it didn’t take the Irish long to take control after that.
- Here is what Brian Kelly said about the punt block after the game: “Coaching for as long as I have, when you get a punt blocked, it has a tendency to affect your football team. Our guys never flinched. It was as if nothing ever occurred other than ‘let’s get back on the field and get back to work.'”
- Notre Dame won this game using the same blueprint that they’ve used to win games all season: Limit the opposing offense and chip away at the opposing defense with a physical run game.
- Brandon Wimbush played a very efficient game. His numbers (10-for-19, 104 yards, 1 TD) don’t show just how much more comfortable he looked as a passer.
- The Irish gave up 2 sacks in the first quarter. They did not give up another sack throughout the rest of the game.
- Wimbush just missed two potential touchdown throws: One came in the 2nd quarter where he barely missed Equinameous St. Brown on a deep ball. Another came in the 4th quarter when he barely overthrew Kevin Stepherson in nearly the same situation.
- Kelly says Brandon Wimbush is developing well, noting a play in the 4th quarter, in particular, where Brandon got to his 4th read, hitting Kevin Stepherson on a curl route.
- About that particular throw, Kelly said “it was the first time he’d done it all year. I was pretty excited.”
- Though the Irish struggled with NC State’s talented defensive line early, it was clearly evident that the Irish wore on the Wolfpack’s strongest unit as the game went on.
- Notre Dame rushed for 318 yards today against the nation’s 6th-ranked rushing defense. NC State hadn’t given up 100+ yards to any opposing running back this season.
- When Julian Love intercepted NC State’s Ryan Finley and took the ball 69 yards to paydirt, it was easy to feel the wind leave the Wolfpack’s sails.
- The icing on the cake came near the end of the 4th quarter when Josh Adams went 77 yards for his longest run of the day.
- This team has a clear modus operandi: Win the war of attrition. The Irish just kill the will of their opponents.
- The first half was likely closer than the Irish would have liked, but the score was closer than the eye test indicated. Notre Dame took control in the 2nd half and never looked back.
- Notre Dame had only 4 penalties in the game.
- Two of Notre Dame’s leading contributors were Te’Von Coney and Kevin Stepherson, who both have experienced their fair share of adversity throughout their careers at Notre Dame. Each are probably leading candidates for Notre Dame’s feel-good story of the year.
- Brian Kelly was vocal in his support of Josh Adams’ Heisman candidacy: “I just think that if you wait until the end of the year, a lot of questions will get answered. If you hold your [Heisman] vote until the end of the year, that would be great.”
- Notre Dame feels as if they’re in a seven-game playoff (which moves to 6, after today’s win). They are certainly playing like it.
- Kelly cited an interesting mindset in his press conference: “We don’t talk about winning. Winning is not even part of our vocabulary. It’s about a mindset we’ve created to dominate our opponent. Winning is not even part of the equation with this group.” That mindset seems to be working.
The Irish play Wake Forest next week in South Bend.