After a lackluster first half in which the offense got stuffed by Wake Forest's defense and the Irish defense was pushed around by the Demon Deacons' offense, Notre Dame regrouped at halftime and managed to generate enough offense to tie the game and then take the lead in the third quarter for a 24-17 win. It was not pretty by any means, but consider the Irish were in a very hostile environment, and had several freshmen playing on defense, a win is a win.
With the victory the Irish got to 6-3 and are now bowl-eligible.
The six-play, 62 yard touchdown drive to open the third quarter showed that Brian Kelly's offense still had some life in it. ND followed that up with another scoring drive to take the lead and then turned the game over to the defense.
The defense responded, led by Aaron Lynch, whose sack was a big play in the game and in great part perserved the win.
ND didn't play well and looked a lot like the team that loss to Southern Cal two weeks before. The team was not ready phsyically and mentally and that falls on Kelly. Apparently his halftime talk was inspiring enough to get the defense going.
The ND defense gave up 197 yards to Wake in the first half and then only 60 yards in the second.
Another key play was by Harrison Smith, after the Tommy Rees interception that was returned by Wake deep into ND territory. Smith punched the ball out of Brandon Pendergrass' arm with Gary Gray recovering for the Irish as the Wake running headed for the goal line.
The win was impressive considering number of Irish regulars who were out. Center Braxson Cave went down in the second quarter with a left foot injury. Mike Golic Jr. stepped in and did a good job. Linebacker and team leader on defense Manti Te'o was hobbled throughout the game after sustaining a leg injury. Te'o has been brothered with the leg problem since mid-season.
More on the game later.
Today the Irish take on another ACC team in Maryland. The game, as you know, will be played at Fed-Ex Field in Washington, D.C., home of the Redkins. It is a ND home game.
Maryland enters the game with a 2-7 record, but that is deceiving. Randy Edsoll, who was head man at UConn last year, is in his first year with the Terrapins.
The Maryland wins have come over Miami, 32-24, in the opener, and then Towson, 28-3. The losses have been to West Virginia, 37-31; Temple, 38-7; Georgia Tech, 21-16; Clemson, 56-45; Florida State, 41-16; Boston College, 28-17; and last week to Virginia, 31-13.
The Terps are led by QB Danny O'Brien, who has racked up 245 yards on 136 throws and six TDs, with nine interceptions. C.J. Brown also gets some time at QB and is 91-44-4 with five TDs. Rushing is led by Davin Meggett with 699 yards on 136 carries and three TDs and Brown, with 408-48 and two. Brown runs the option when he's in at QB. Topr receivers are Kevin Dorsey with 383 yards on 31 catches and two scores and Quinton McCree, 382 on 30.
This will be only the second meeting between the schools. ND beat the Terps, 22-0, in 2002 in the then Kickoff Classic played at Giants' stadium.
The game will be televised nationally by NBC-TV. ND is 79-31-2 all time against ACC teams and have won the last four.
IRISH NOTES:Inconsistencies plague ND's offense. One week the Irish look like one of the best offensive teams in the country, then a week later, they struggle badly. ND had its way with Navy, then struggled with Wake Forest....Some game stats. Jonas Gray ended with 96 yards on 19 carries and a score with Cierre Wood getting 93 on 14. Rees was 14 for 23 passing with two TDS and 166 yards. Receiving, Michael Floyd five catches for 44 yards and a score and Tyer Eifert, three for 60 and a score. ND had a total offense of 341 yards to 297 for Wake....Freshman Stephon Tuitt came up with a major play in the game. With Wake having a first and goal at the 10 Tuitt sacked QB Tanner Price for an 11 yard loss. Two plays later Wake kicker Jimmy Newman missed a 42-yard field goal. After that the Irish generated enough of a running game to run a lot of time off the clock and perserve the win....Rees threw two more interceptions, one could have been really damaging if it wasn't for Smith's forcing a fumble. Combined with four loss fumbles and Rees has as many turnovers as 52 of the 120 FBS teams....The offensive line continues to impress. The Irish average 5.54 yards per carry and that is on target to set a new ND record. ND is also in the top five nationally with the fewest sacks allowed....When ND holds an opponent to 19 or less points since Kelly arrived, they are 12-0. It was also the 124th time in his coaching career his team held a team to 19 or less points....ND has now outscored opponents, 63-13, in the third quarter....Two Notre Dame players have earned honors for the parts in last Saturday's victory. Smith was named Independent Defensive Player of the Week after recording 11 tackles and forcing a fumble against the Demon Deacons. Kick returner Austin Collinsworth was named Independent Special Teams Player of the Week after returning two kicks for 67 yards, including a long of 41 yards....It was announced on Wednesday that center Braxston Cave's foot injury is a season-ending one. He will undergo surgery to repair the damage. He will be eligible for a fifth year, if he so choses, in 2012. Senior Mike Golic Jr. will step in with Andrew Nuss will be the backup....WR Theo Riddick will not play today due to a hamstring injury. Junior Robby Toma will replace him. Also in th mix will be TJ Jones and John Goodman....This will be Notre Dame's second game played at FedExField. The Irish beat Navy there, 30-0, in 1998....Maryland, with its campus just 6.8 miles away, has never played at the stadium....Maryland's record is deceiving. In the seven losses, most of the time, the Terps were in the game but faded in the second half. ND must be very carefull tonight and not take Maryland lightly. My preseason pick was ND, and the Irish are favored by 20. It all depends which ND team shows up.