Game Trendz: Third Down Defense

NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Wake Forest won time of possession but Notre Dame won the game. Inside The Numbers goes inside short-yardage situations, red zone efficiency and top plays from the 28-7 victory.

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Notre Dame put together a 28-7 win over Wake Forest despite not having much of the ball on Saturday.

The Irish controlled the ball for just 24:12, a season-low in time of possession and a compliment to Wake Forest’s ability to convert in short yardage or at least show a willingness to gamble on fourth down. The Demon Deacons held the ball for 35:48.

Wake Forest faced a short yardage situation either on third down or at the goal line nine times and converted five of those chances, all of them coming on the ground with either a quarterback keeper or running back Tyler Bell grinding out the required yardage.

“I think Wake Forest did a very good job of controlling the football,” said head coach Brian Kelly. “There were a couple third down situations … but we were pretty stingy on fourth down. We made up for it on fourth-down situations.” 

Notre Dame got stops twice when John Wolford dropped back to pass and again when Wolford couldn’t handle a snap. The Demon Deacons finished 0-of-3 on fourth down. Entering Saturday, Notre Dame ranked No. 121 nationally in fourth down defense, allowing 13-of-17 conversions.

The biggest play? Wake Forest going for it on fourth down at the Notre Dame one-yard line. Linebacker Jaylon Smith came up with the touchdown-saving tackle.

Red Zone Efficiency Report

Notre Dame ran just three plays in the red zone and two of them went for touchdowns on DeShone Kizer rushes of 12 and five yards. The other red zone play was a one-yard loss on a Josh Adams carry on 1st-and-10. The following play was Kizer’s 12-yard touchdown run to make it 7-0.

Best Play: Offense

Adams’ 98-yard touchdown run on 2nd-and-9 was the longest play from scrimmage in Notre Dame history. The previous long was a 96-yard touchdown pass from Blair Kiel to Joe Howard against Georgia Tech in 1981.

“I didn’t know that,” Adams said. “I knew C.J. (Prosise) broke that crazy long run in the beginning of the year, so I thought mine was a little bit shorter than that. That just means this group of offensive linemen got the longest run in Notre Dame history, and they definitely are proud of that.

“That was just great blocking all around from the team, blocking down the field and initially by the offensive line. I read the holes correctly. They were telling me all week that I needed to read the holes correctly, so I’m just glad that I could do that and everything fell into place from there.”

The run was also the longest play from scrimmage in the nation this year and ties the longest ever by a freshman in FBS history.

“It was obviously a run for the highlight reel - physical, explosive, sheds off a tackler,” Kelly said. “Obviously, a big part of the game where we're backed up and just a terrific run.”

Best Play: Defense

Looking for an unlikely defensive score? Defensive end Andrew Trumbetti would have to qualify considering he had just six tackles heading into the Wake Forest game. 

But then Sheldon Day applied pressure that forced Wake Forest quarterback John Wolford into a hurried pass. Trumbetti nabbed floating football then sprinted 28 yards into the end zone to give the Irish a 14-0 lead with 2:46 remaining in the first quarter.

“I really don’t remember the play,” Trumbetti said. “I kinda just blacked out. It was like the coolest moment of my life. So, yeah.”

Trumbetti finished with two tackles.

Best Unit: Offense

Stepping in for an injured C.J. Prosise, freshman running back Josh Adams carried the ball 17 times for 150 yards and one touchdown to lead the running backs. His three 100-yard games (UMass, Pitt and Wake Forest) ties the most by a Notre Dame freshman since Autry Denson also had three in 1995 (Boston College, Navy and Air Force).

“It felt good, it definitely felt good,” said Adams on receiving his first career start. “Trying to contribute. Not getting too hype, tried to keep myself calm just like any other game if I was going in for C.J. It wasn’t about me, it was about the seniors. I just tried to help them make this night memorable.”

“He is a young man that runs tough, physical, between the tackles, and has size, strength and speed,” Kelly said. "He's got all those things, and he's only going to get better. It's nice to see a true freshman out there competing at that level.”

Prosise participated in warmups, but Adams knew the start was his.

“Halfway through the week I knew,” Adams said. “C.J. has been working hard trying to come back, and he’s definitely been in the weight room and on the practice field trying to come back, but when they said he wasn’t going to play I knew that me and Dexter (Williams) would have big roles in this game.”

Adams’ 553 rushing yards on the season moves him into fourth place in school history for rushing yards by a freshman.

Best Unit: Defense

Jaylon Smith and Joe Schmidt led Notre Dame in tackles with 14 and 10, respectively. But it’s the defensive line that takes best unit.

Trumbetti and Day teamed up for a game-changing play with the interception return for a touchdown. Day made four tackles, including two tackles-for-loss. Romeo Okwara got the game ball after piling up three sacks and a forced fumble.

Day also added three hurries and Okwara, who finished with five tackles, had one as well.

Best Series: Offense

Notre Dame forced its first three-and-out of the game early in the fourth quarter, which seemed to awaken the Irish offense.

That’s when DeShone Kizer led Notre Dame down the field for a six-play, 68-yard scoring drive during which he accounted for all the yardage either through the air or on the ground, save a 15-yard Wake Forest pass interference penalty.

Kizer powered into the end zone with a five-yard run to cap the drive and put Notre Dame up 28-7.

“The one thing that DeShone does is when the moment is big he rises to it,” Kelly said. “We needed that drive in the fourth quarter. I thought he did a very, very good job of making the plays necessary in getting that 28th point on the board. I thought he did a very good job.”

Best Series: Defense

Wake Forest got on the board near the end of the third quarter to make it 21-7. Notre Dame was forced to punt on its next possession and Wake Forest was on track to manage some offensive rhythm down 14 points with an entire quarter to play.

But Notre Dame forced a three-and-out that included an incomplete pass defended by KeiVarae Russell, a Sheldon Day tackle for no gain, and a pass completed six yards short of the first down marker on third down.

Notre Dame scored a touchdown on its next possession. It was Wake Forest’s only three-and-out of the night.


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