Adams enters record books as No. 4 Irish down Wake Forest, 28-7
Daisy Costello | Monday, November 16, 2015
In a game that was decided in the trenches, a veteran Irish defense set the tone while the young offense capitalized on its few scoring chances as No. 4 Notre Dame downed Wake Forest, 28-7, on Senior Day.
Irish head coach Brian Kelly praised the senior class, which has won 21 home games over the last four years, tying for the most by one class in Notre Dame’s history.
“[I’m] very proud of what they have accomplished in their four years here, and certainly as a team very pleased with the win,” Kelly said. “I thought Wake Forest played very well today, and we’re pleased with the outcome.”
Notre Dame’s defense proved to have the upper hand throughout the entire 60 minutes of play, giving up just one touchdown on four red-zone trips for the Demon Deacons (3-7, 1-5 ACC). Senior defensive lineman Romeo Okwara, who ranks second on the team in tackles for loss and tied for eighth in the nation in sacks, tallied three sacks against Wake Forest en route to the Irish victory and earned himself the game ball from Kelly. Okwara’s second sack came after he hurdled the blocking running back to take down Wake Forest sophomore quarterback John Wolford.
“I wouldn’t say anything has changed, I still prepared the same way I have each and every week,” Okwara said, before joking he couldn’t wait to see a replay of the play.
“[Okwara]’s always been in the right position, but he’s taken the next step this season in being there and making those plays,” junior linebacker and captain Jaylon Smith said. “I think working with Sheldon [Day], he’s had an opportunity to be himself, and he’s let it loose and the results have been great.”
Sophomore defensive lineman Andrew Trumbetti also earned his first career start for the Irish (9-1) against Wake Forest, and he made his presence known early in the game when he picked off Wolford and returned the ball 28 yards for an Irish touchdown in the first quarter, making the score 14-0.
“I really don’t remember the play,” Trumbetti said. “I kind of blacked out. It was one of the coolest moments of my life.”
Trumbetti’s pick-six was the first Irish interception return for a touchdown since 2013, when linebacker Dan Fox ran an interception back 14 yards against Arizona State during Notre Dame’s 37-34 victory in Arlington, Texas.
Sophomore quarterback DeShone Kizer, who was responsible for all six Irish touchdowns one week ago against Pittsburgh, notched two more rushing touchdowns Saturday, bookending the Irish scoring. The first score came on a 12-yard scamper with fewer than four minutes to go in the first quarter, and his second score coming just over four minutes into the fourth quarter.
“[I] ran the ball pretty well,” Kizer said. “Wake Forest is a really good defense. Their front eight is some of the best that we’ve played this year, and we came out with a victory, so we’re going to take that for what it is an continue to move forward.”
Junior wide receiver Will Fuller, who hauled in three touchdowns and 152 yards against the Panthers last week, caught just three passes against the Demon Deacons for only 37 yards. Fuller also did not catch a touchdown pass for just the second time this season.
Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson said he had planned for his defense to shut down Fuller, which he said he believed the Demon Deacons did well, despite their other defensive mishaps.
“[Notre Dame] has a lot of really good playmakers and we wanted to limit their possessions, and in a lot of ways we did that,” Clawson said. “Obviously we wanted a big part of our game plan to be not wanting Will Fuller to beat us, that we were going to roll coverage to him and not let him get over our heads, and I think we did that well.”
Even though Wake Forest out-gained the Irish offense 340 yards to 282, the Irish ran for 171 yards on the ground, compared to the Demon Deacons’ 121.
Freshman running back Josh Adams, in his first career start for the Irish, ran for 141 yards and stole the show in the second quarter with a 98-yard touchdown run to put the Irish ahead 21-0 with 9:59 to go in the half. His run broke the Notre Dame record for the longest play from scrimmage, the FBS record for longest run by a freshman and the longest play from scrimmage this season in the FBS. Adams was quick to credit Notre Dame’s veteran offensive line for his historic run.
“It was great blocking down the field, initially by the offensive line trying to dominate the front and trying to do my job reading the holes correctly,” Adams said. “This offensive line just got the longest run in Notre Dame history, and I know they are proud of that.”
Despite entering as 27-point favorites, Notre Dame tied Wake Forest in the second half, with both sides scoring a touchdown. Afterwards, graduate student linebacker and captain Joe Schmidt said he was pleased with the win despite the closer-than-expected score.
“It doesn’t matter when the game is, who you’re playing, winning in college football is really hard, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing,” Schmidt said. “Wake Forest was giving us everything we could handle defensively, they had a lot of really good offensive plans to challenge us. They’re a good football team, and they’ve taken a lot of very good football teams down to the very end, and I thought they fought very hard against us today.”
Schmidt, who was playing in his final home game for the Irish, reflected on how important the whole day was for him.
“I try to take in just how special some things about this place are,” Schmidt said. “After the game, spending it with my family, spending time out on the field. Even the bus ride over here, it’s just all coming full-circle. It’s really something.”
Notre Dame will return to action next Saturday when it plays Boston College in the annual Shamrock Series. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. from Fenway Park in Boston.
— Notre Dame’s win marked the 21st victory for the senior class at Notre Dame Stadium, tying the record held by both the 1990 and 1991 Irish senior classes.
— The 98-yard rushing touchdown by freshman running back Josh Adams in the second quarter was the longest play from scrimmage in Notre Dame history, breaking the old mark set by a 96-yard passing touchdown from Blair Kiel to Joe Howard against Georgia Tech in 1981.
— Adams’ touchdown was also the second rushing touchdown of 90 yards or more for the Irish this season, as senior running back C.J. Prosise had a 91-yard touchdown against Georgia Tech. Prior to this season, the Irish had only two such touchdowns in program history.
— Wake Forest senior punter Alex Kinal had three punts in the game for the Demon Deacons. His third punt was the 323rd of his career, which put him first all-time in NCAA history and ahead of former California punter Nick Harris.