The visiting Demon Deacons served as the aggressors for most of the contest but head coach Brian Kelly’s squad was aided by an interception touchdown courtesy sophomore Andrew Trumbetti and a program record 98-yard touchdown run by freshman Josh Adams to take early control of the contest.
“He’s tough, physical between the tackles and has size, strength and speed,” said Kelly of Adams. “It’s nice to see a true freshman competing at that level. “
Trumbetti’s and Adams’ big plays occurred within eight game minutes of each other to extend Notre Dame’s lead to 21-0 at the 9:59 mark of the second quarter. The teams traded inconsequential drives for the bulk of the contest thereafter with Wake Forest’s defense limiting the Irish to season lows in both total yards (282) and plays from scrimmage (49).
The visitors outgained their hosts by 58 yards albeit on 25 more snaps.
Their lead trimmed to 21-7 after Demon Deacons quarterback John Wolford punched it in from the 1-yard line, Notre Dame responded with a 6-play, 68-yard drive culminating in a DeShone Kizer 5-yard touchdown jaunt with 10:58 remaining.
Wake Forest fought back with a 5-play, 58-yard drive to the Irish 1-yard line thereafter but was stopped after a fumbled snap on first down, a quarterback pressure two plays later by Irish linebacker Jaylon Smith, and a pass defended on fourth down by the multi-talented junior defender.
“We mishandled the ball on our one-yard line,” said Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson. “Good teams don’t do that.”
The Demon Deacons defense hammered Adams and Kizer for 14 snaps that gained one yard or less, including 10 for lost yardage. The Irish defense responded in kind with 14 tackles for loss.
“A lot of blitzing, a lot of movement, guys got off of blocks,” said Clawson. “In our opinion, that is a top three if not the best offensive line we’ve faced, and we didn’t feel we could sit still…if we sat still we felt we’d be in trouble.
“We moved a lot, we pressured a lot, a lot. We had to be disruptive.”
Kizer completed 13 of 19 passes for a season-low 111 yards without a touchdown. The redshirt-freshman scored twice via the rush, first from 12 yards to open a 7-0 lead, then from five yards out to provide the final margin.
“I would credit them a lot in terms of what they did defensively,” said Kelly of the Wake Forest pass defense. “But I think it’ll be a great learning experience for DeShone in terms of what he can take from this game.”
With the victory, the Irish senior class won its 21st game inside the House that Rockne Built Saturday, tying the program record.