The University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish hosted the Wake Forest University Demon Deacons on Saturday in a game that began with the emotional farewell to the senior class and ended with the emotional farewell to perceived irrelevance and a triumphal return to the center of the national stage. In between, the Irish put on a defensive clinic and an offensive highlight reel, dismantling Wake 38-0. On a day on which the other championship contenders were, by and large, playing FCS patsies, Notre Dame made another compelling argument for a place in Miami.
On the offensive side of the ball, Coach Kelly gave Golson the keys to the car and told him to be home before midnight. Throwing for 346 yards, Everett Golson connected with Jones, Eifert and Goodman for touchdowns, of which the one to Goodman was arguably the flashiest. Moving around the pocket, Golson momentarily stumbled and used the ball to prop himself up. Gathering his feet and composure, Golson launched an arcing fifty yard bomb that dropped into the space between Goodman and the defensive player. The touchdown to Eifert was the passing equivalent of running the ball three times from the two yard line, unless of course you are Stanford, in which case you get stoned. Here, Golson and Eifert played pitch and catch until Eifert’s superior height, athleticism and ups ended the game of cat and mouse with another six point score.
The ground game was equally satisfying, as the Irish put up 221 yards against a porous and clearly overmatched Wake front seven. Cierre Woods ripped off the longest run of the day, a sixty-eight yard scamper that displayed his speed and perfectly executed blocking by the Irish offense. Coming on the game’s fourth play, that score set the tone for the way the day would play out.
Wake’s offense never threatened, and whenever they appeared to be building something, someone in blue and gold was there to snuff it out. Nowhere was this more evident than when Wake’s leading rusher, Josh Harris, scampered thirteen yards on a pass play only to be destroyed by Carlo Calabrese, who not only separated Harris from the ball and Wake from possession, but also briefly separate Harris from consciousness. Harris would not return.
The only fair criticism of the Irish on this day would be Golson’s horrific interception in the endzone, a ball that he threw off his back foot, across his body, without looking and likely with his non-throwing arm. And special teams. Special teams continue to be this team’s bugaboo, with our best return coming as the result of a fumble recovery. Brindza managed another FG miss, this one from forty yards.
Still, it was a glorious senior day, and they all got to play as starters were pulled to standing o’s and emotional shots of parents weeping in joy. Kelly even got a Gatorade shower, a poignant gesture from a class and team now solidly fused to their coach and vice versa. Whatever Kelly’s destiny at Notre Dame, a class recruited by Charlie Weis will loom large in at least the early chapters of that legacy. Whatever the destiny and legacy of the Class of 2013, Brian Kelly’s name will be writ large thereon.