NOTRE DAME, Ind. – On a day made for seniors a rookie quarterback had his career-best day, the Irish defense bludgeoned its opponent and the Fighting Irish walked off the field with a dominating 38-0 victory over Wake Forest on Senior Day at Notre Dame Stadium.
A total of 29 seniors were introduced for the final time at home as Notre Dame football players prior to the game, which turned into an Everett Golson coming out party. Golson, a sophomore who did not play last season, passed for a career-high 346 yards with three touchdowns and an interception in his team’s most lopsided win of the season.
Golson’s 316 passing yards in the first half alone were a career-best. His three TD passes went to three different Irish receivers and a total of five different players scored touchdowns for the Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame’s first drive didn’t take long to hit pay dirt, but it looked for a moment like it would end quickly. The Irish started with the ball at their own nine, and went back to the eight after Cierre Wood was stopped for a four-yard loss on second and two. Golson connected with Theo Riddick on a 24-yard gain on third and eight and Wood went the distance two plays later.
Wood sprinted 68 yards after taking a pitch from Golson on a speed option to the right for the touchdown just 1:45 into the game. He used blocks by receivers Daniel Smith and Chris Brown downfield to move past would be tacklers to make it 7-0 Irish.
The Fighting Irish got the first break of the game just three plays later. Wake Forest picked-up a first down after two plays and had another first down secured after Tanner Price dumped a pass to Josh Harris. The running back picked-up 11 yards on the play, but fumbled at the Irish 48 after a bone-jarring hit by Carlo Calabrese. Zeke Motta recovered and ND was on the move again.
Golson connected with Tyler Eifert in the back left corner of the end zone eight plays later to put the Irish up 14-0 with 9:10 still on the first quarter clock. The key play of the drive was a 20-yard run by Wood to give the Irish first and goal at the one. Notre Dame’s first two touchdowns came on a total time of possession of just 3:36.
Wake Forest punted after its next possession and senior day then turned out to be a good day for John Goodman on ND’s ensuing drive. Golson hit Goodman in the end zone on a 50-yard bomb on the sixth play of what was an efficient 2:24 78-yard drive. Goodman’s third touchdown of the season and second in as many weeks put the Irish up 21-0 with 4:28 still on the clock in the first quarter.
Notre Dame outgained the Demon Deacons 221-93 in the game’s first 15 minutes. Of that, 129 came on the ground. Wake was fortunate to even have 93 yards, with 78 coming through the air thanks to screens and wheel routes to take advantage of ND’s deep safeties and aggressive front seven.
Their first drive of the second quarter looked like it would again result in points, but Everett Golson was intercepted by Allen Ramsey after moving the offense to the Wake Forest 24. Golson hit Eifert on gains of 14 and 15 yards and connected with T.J. Jones on a 15-yard pass and Robby Toma for a 27-yard gain before the pick.
Golson’s third touchdown pass of the game almost wasn’t fair. He faked a quick out to Jones, who used a double move to race toward the end zone unguarded. Golson hit him in stride for a 34-yard score. The play was due in part to ND’s penchant to throw the quick out throughout the season.
The touchdown, which came at the end of a six-play 75-yard drive made it 28-0 Irish with 6:17 to play before halftime. Golson was 14-of-18 for 256 yards with three touchdowns and the interception at that point.
A 25-yard field goal by Kyle Brindza gave the Irish a 31-0 lead going into the locker room. The boot came three incompletions after a 38-yard pass to Eifert set-up first and goal at the eight. The scoring drive covered 51 yards in six plays.
The scoreboard was not the only thing dominated by the Fighting Irish in the first half. They completely controlled the stat sheet as well. They outrushed the Demon Deacons 113-15 and outpassed them 317-98 for a total yardage margin of 430-113.
First downs went 17-5 in Notre Dame’s favor. That stat was helped by the Irish converting 4-of-6 third downs to Wake’s 2-of-7. ND was a perfect 2-for-2 in red zone scoring opportunities.
Golson was 17-for-25 for all 317 passing yards in the half. Wood led the Irish with 104 first half rushing yards. Jones led the way with five receptions for 84 yards.
Price was 12-for-19 for 98 yards to lead the Deac’s passing efforts. Michael Campanaro had five first half receptions for 42 yards and Deandre Martin carried the ball nine times for 23 yards.
Golson’s first pass of the second half became a milestone reception for Eifert. The 15-yard gain was Eifert’s fifth catch of the day. It moved Eifert past Ken MacAfee into first place among Notre Dame tight ends with 129 career receptions. The Irish would move to the Wake 23-yard line before Brindza missed a 40-yard field goal attempt.
Tommy Rees replaced Golson at quarterback with 7:14 to play in the third quarter and the Irish leading 31-0. Golson finished with a career-best 346 yards by completing 20 of his 30 pass attempts.
Rees would lead the offense on a seven-play 80-yard touchdown march, capped by George Atkinson’s nine-yard TD run. Atkinson ran for 18 of the team’s final 19 yards of the possession. Wood bolted 43 yards to the Deacon 38 on the drive’s third play and Atkinson scored four plays later.
Wood ran for a game-high 150 yards on 11 carries (13.6). Almost half of it came on his 68-yard TD run to start the scoring. Atkinson added 34 yards on seven carries.
Irish head coach Brian Kelly called timeout with 13:27 remaining to allow Kapron Lewis-Moore, Zeke Motta and Manti Te’o to leave to a standing ovation in their last home game. Te’o and Lewis-Moore leaped and bumped chests as Te’o left the field.
Andrew Hendrix replaced Rees at quarterback for two plays with 9:35 remaining and the score 38-0. Hendrix ran the ball on the first play, handed off to Cam McDaniel on the next play and then Rees came back and fired an incompletion on third and six.
Rees was 2-for-5 passing for seven yards.
Notre Dame ran for 221 yards and passed for 363 more for a total of 584 yards in the game. The defense held Wake Forest to 55, 154 and 209, respectively.
The Fighting irish are 11-0 for the first time since 1993. Their 11-game winning streak is the longest since the 1992 and ’93 squads rattled-off 17 consecutive victories.