Notre Dame took out its frustrations from the loss to Southern California, and also quell an apparent team uprising that developed after the loss, by routing an undermanned Navy team last week, 56-14. The win, which also included a little revenge for the beating hung on ND last year by the Middies, puts the Irish at 5-3 with three winable games ahead.
The final third of the season begins tonight when the Irish play another ACC team in Wake Forest. It will be the first meeting ever between the two schools.
Navy entered last week's game without its starting quarterback and on a five game losing streak. The Irish were keyed up after the USC loss and also for reported rumblings by senior members of the squad directed at head coach Brian Kelly.
A team meeting was held last Friday and reportedly Harrison Smith, one of the senior leaders of the team, took charge and praised the work of Kelly. Kelly also offered an apology for some of his actions, and words, he has made to the media which hurt some of those players he did not recruit but inherited from the Charlie Weis era.
After all that was settle, ND went out and dominated a Navy team that was averaging well over 300 yards rushing per game, holding them to 196 on the ground and just 33 passing for a total of 229. ND had 182 rushing, 260 passing for a total of 442. Navy entered the game the third-leading rush offense in the country.
ND also rushed for seven touchdowns and had one through the air. That's the most TDs on the ground by an Irish team since 1992 against Purdue.
The two fine ND running backs, Jonas Gray and Cierre Wood, led the way. Gray had 69 yards on 12 carries and three scores while Wood had 66 yards on 11 and two scores. Michael Floyd was the leading receiver with six receptions for 121 yards and a TD. Freshman George Atkinson III, who got into the game in the fourth quarter at running back, had the other ND touchdown.
Today the Irish face the Demon Deacons who enter at 5-3. WF has wins over North Carolina State, 34-37, Gardner-Webb, 48-5, Boston College, 27-19, Duke, 24-23, and the biggie, an upset of previously undefeated Florida State, 35-30. The losses have come to Syracuse, 36-29, Virginia Tech, 38-17, and last week to North Carolina, 49-24.
Leading the Deacons is QB Tanner Price whose totals so far this season are 152 completions on 249 throws for 14 TDs and six interceptions. Top rushers are Josh Harris, 439 yards on 94 carries and two scores and Brandon Pendergrass, 451on 89 and five scores. Top receivers are Chris Givens, 928 yards on 52 catches, and Michael Camppano, 434-35 and two. Obviously, the Deacons like to throw the ball.
The starting time was changed from last week when I wrote it would be 7 p.m. on ESPN 2. The kickoff off is now slated for about 8:10 p.m. and the game will televised nationally by ABC-TV.
IRISH NOTES ... It will be a hostile atmosphere tonight for the Irish. Wake Forest plays in BB&T Field which seats just 31,500 in Winston-Salem, N.C. With standing room, the crowd grows to about 35,000. In fact, this will be the smallest seating stadium the Irish have played in since 1945 when they played at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center just after the end of World War II which had a capacity fo 23,000....QB Tommy Rees had some impressive numbers with 16 of 22 passing for 237 yards and a 56-yard TD throw to Floyd. He did have two more turnovers, a interception and a fumble credited to him on a lateral....ND improved its red zone average going seven for seven last week when inside the 20...The mini-uprising on the team that developed during the week, which I mentioned at the earlier, spread throughout the ND football family. Former QBs Jimmy Clausen and Brady Quinn reached out to the team via Twitter and urged the Irish players to look at their team as one family and not blended stepbrothers from two different coaching staffs. Kelly's comment on the situation was guarded. He said, "The most important thing is our football team played together and played great football." The whole matter was that the seniors of the Weis era felt they were getting the blame for the losses and not enough credit for the wins. Hopefully the matter is now history....The South Bend media said the thing that really happened to the potent Navy run game was one person, linebacker Manti Te'o. He had a game high 13 tackles, including 2.5 for loss. Te'o's father is a cousin to Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo....ND had to go with several untested defensive linemen due to injuries to Kapron Lewis-Moore, out for the season with a knee injury, and Ethan Johnson, who hasn't played since Oct. 1 with a high ankle sprain. Kelly used outside linebackers Prince Shembo and Daris Fleming at end and started senior Sean Cwynar inside with freshman Stephen Tuitt getting his first start. Tuitt responded with seven tackles. Sophomore Louis Nix was also used in a rotation pattern with Cwynar....ND's defense has given up six points in the third quarter all season a Pitt score that was followed by a failed two-point conversion....ND's offensive line has allowed the fifth-fewest tackles for loss this season per game, behind only Stanford, San Diego State, Wisconsin and Iowa....The ND-Wake Forest series is a two for one set. Wake will play in South Bend in 2012 and 2015....I considered tonight's game one of those that is prime for an upset. The Deacons at home in a first-ever meeting with the Irish in their small stadium will be fired up. ND is favored by 14. On the other hand, this is a showcase game for the Irish who want to impress the critics and start off November and the stretch run in good fashion on national TV. I picked ND in my preseason picks and will stick with it today.