SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame linebacker Dan Fox’s mother raced toward her son as he burst out of the tunnel on Saturday afternoon, the two meeting at the 40-yard line for an endearing, if a little awkward, flying hip bump during pre-game Senior Day festivities. Kapron Lewis-Moore made his mother disappear in a burly bear hug. Manti Te’o — the last one out of the tunnel to a raucous cheer from thousands of students waving plastic yellow leis over their heads — ripped off his helmet and spiked it into the ground as he ran into his father’s arms at midfield.
No, there would be no emotional letdown, no sluggish effort at home, this time around.
Notre Dame scored three touchdowns — all by seniors — in the first 11 minutes, and redshirt freshman quarterback Everett Golson had a career day as the Irish cruised to a 38-0 dismantling of hapless Wake Forest. Notre Dame enters the season finale at USC next Saturday at 11-0.
Golson played only 21/2 quarters, yet completed 20-of-30 passes for 346 yards and three touchdowns. Cierre Wood ripped off a 68-yard touchdown run less than two minutes into the game and finished with 150 yards on just 11 carries. T.J. Jones had six catches for 97 yards and a score, and Tyler Eifert became Notre Dame’s all-time leading receiver among tight ends with six catches for 85 yards and a score.
Notre Dame outgained the Demon Deacons 430-113 in the first half alone, with Golson cracking the 300-yard mark for the first time in his career before the break.
These are the kinds of gaudy numbers that the Irish haven’t been putting up all year — the 21 points Notre Dame scored in the first quarter were more than it had scored in regulation in any home game this season — and that could perhaps sway an on-the-fence pollster. For once, Notre Dame had true style points, not talking points about a stout defense, a tough schedule, or a gritty team spirit.
Heck, by the middle of the third quarter, Notre Dame was trotting out an offense featuring the backup quarterback, Tommy Rees, and two sets of brothers on the offensive line (Zack and Nick Martin, Mike and Jake Golic).
But as the Irish continue to chase Kansas State and Oregon for a spot in the BCS championship game, USC didn’t do them any favors by suffering its fourth loss of the season on Saturday afternoon, a 38-28 defeat to UCLA, preemptively diminishing what would potentially be the exclamation point on a perfect regular season.
Oregon hosted Stanford in the prime time game, in what could be Notre Dame’s best shot at getting some help.