Notre Dame not at its best but still prevails against Wake Forest

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Notre Dame freshman Josh Adams heads to the end zone on a school-record 98-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. | Getty Images

BY DAN McGRATH

For the Sun-Times

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Next week’s “Shamrock Series” trip to Fenway Park for a game against Boston College will be Notre Dame’s final prelim before its main event at Stanford on Nov. 8.

That’s probably a good thing. The Irish played like a team that had better things to do than trifle with lowly Wake Forest on Saturday, their 28-7 victory a simple matter of superior talent. Energy, focus and precision were in curiously short supply for a Senior Day home finale at sold-out-but-subdued Notre Dame Stadium.

Yes, freshman Josh Adams set a school record with a 98-yard touchdown burst in the second quarter, and sophomore defensive end Andrew Trumbetti scored a touchdown when he lumbered 28 yards with an interception in the first quarter. But a 15-yard “roughing the snapper” penalty that waved off a Wake Forest punt and prolonged the Demon Deacons’ lone scoring drive was more typical of the day’s events.

“If you go by plays from scrimmage, we outplayed them,” Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said. “Notre Dame is a very good football team, and they don’t need our help. But we gave them some with mistakes.”

Indeed, Wake Forest (3-7) averages only 16.5 points, but it outgained the high-flying Irish by 58 yards, collected eight more first downs and had an 11½-minute advantage in time of possession.

“We were a little off today,” Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer conceded. “The explosive plays in the passing game weren’t there. Wake Forest had a solid defensive plan. They played a lot of drop eight, even dropped nine a few times.”

Kizer had been on a magical run since taking over for injured Malik Zaire in the second week, progressing from clipboard-holder to Heisman hopeful.

He had a rather pedestrian passing day, going 13-for-19 for just 111 yards and taking three sacks. But he ran for two scores and wasn’t apologizing for anything.

“You’re out there series to series, and it kind of bothers you that you don’t have the offensive momentum you’ve had,” he said. “But you come off the field, and it’s a 21-point win over an ACC team. We’ll take the W’s for what they are. We’re 9-1, and it’s November. We’re rolling along.”

Kizer “did OK,” in the words of Irish coach Brian Kelly. He was at his best on a fourth-quarter drive that he capped with a five-yard touchdown run to put the game away.

“One thing about DeShone is when the moment is big, he rises to it,” Kelly said. “He saw a lot of variations, a lot of different coverages today. I think it will be a great learning experience for him.”

The Irish made do without star tailback C.J. Prosise, who warmed up but didn’t dress, giving the head and neck injuries he suffered the previous week at Pitt more time to heal.

“I think he could have gone, but we decided to be prudent,” Kelly said. “We weren’t going to push it.”

Adams filled in and went for 141 yards on 17 carries in his first career start, bringing the sleepy crowd to life with his touchdown sprint on second-and-nine from the Irish 2-yard line.

“One for the highlight reel,” Kelly said. “Just a terrific run when we’re backed up like that. He has size, strength and speed, and he’s only going to get better.”

Boston College (3-7) is the sixth ACC team Notre Dame will play, with one of its losses a 3-0 thumping by this very Wake team. But Irish fans with sharp memories will recall the underdog Eagles knocking Notre Dame from national-championship consideration in 1993 and bringing Ty Willingham crashing to earth in an ill-advised green-jersey game in 2002.

Ancient history.

“To be in this position this time of year, it’s what you dream of,” Kizer said.

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