Five years ago, I would have been happy with this win. But this team is on a different level now and it was kind of a disappointing performance to beat Wake Forest, 28-7.
We had the big run and defensive touchdown, but other than that, we were held in check on both sides of the ball. Wake didn’t score but the one touchdown, but they moved the ball up and down the field and controlled the line of scrimmage as well as the time of possession. Fortunately, we held them on fourth down a few times, including the stop on the goal line and the turnover.
But if you just looked at the stats, you would have thought we got beat. We didn’t run the ball particularly well, other than the big run by Josh Adams. This is the first game where DeShone Kizer didn’t do much in the passing game. It seemed like there were a lot of three-and-outs.
I’m nitpicking because we’re looking to impress the championship committee right now, and games like that, you get up early, win by 21 points, and just really don’t put the nail in the coffin and step on their throats like we needed to. Granted, it comes down to us and the Big 12 now, assuming we can take care of our business. But you still need those impressive wins.
Like I said, if this was five years ago, I would have taken this and been happy. But now, this team has created an entirely different set of expectations, at least for me, so it’s a little disappointing, and that’s a good thing.
One of the things that struck me was we seemed lackadaisical. We got up real early and the rest of the game was real lackadaisical on both sides of the ball, like they were going through the motions. Here’s what it felt like: ‘All right, we’re up, we’re not going to blow this lead.’ It felt like a pre-season game to me. That’s what the final two-and-a-half quarters felt like to me.
The running game didn’t offer much, and it always starts up front. Early in the season, when Malik Zaire suffered the season-ending injury, everyone was saying that the season was over. I said, ‘No it’s not! We’ve got one of the best offensive lines in the country, and you can put any scholarship athlete back there that can throw the ball effectively if you’ve got time.’ Maybe Kizer didn’t have that kind of time against Wake Forest and maybe it wasn’t jelling.
I’m not insensitive to what it’s like this time of the year. It gets tough in November. The grind is on your body because it’s a marathon. You’re big and strong when the season starts and your body starts to whittle away as the year goes on. You might even put on weight, but it’s bad weight. We used to call it ‘the skinny fat’ because sometimes you’d lose weight but you’d feel more sloppy, just because you didn’t have the same opportunity train and lift. Yeah, you still lift, but you can’t lift like you do in the off-season.
The mental grind of it is tough at Notre Dame. Every team is giving you their best shot now. Notre Dame is back on a pedestal so to speak. Like when Temple played us a couple of weeks ago in Philadelphia. That was Temple’s Super Bowl, even though they were undefeated. That place was rocking. It was absolutely crazy.
Every team that comes in and plays Notre Dame treats it like their Super Bowl. I mean, you saw the intensity of Wake Forest’s head coach. It was important to him. That was a big experience for those kids, so they were out there giving it everything they had and then some, just because it’s that important playing Notre Dame.
I didn’t realize that six of Notre Dame’s 12 opponents had extra time to prepare before playing us, and that makes it tough because it gives teams a physical and mental break. You get a little time off to forget about football for a day or two. That’s a really big thing, especially this time of the year.
They’ve been away from home for a long time and they get to go home during the bye week. It is a significant advantage. You come back refreshed mentally and physically. That’s a big deal. I didn’t realize it was that bad for Notre Dame, so that’s good we’ve been able to overcome a lot of that stuff.
Does Notre Dame look like a playoff team? Yeah, because if you look at the other playoff teams, Clemson didn’t win impressively, Ohio State hasn’t been real impressive…Alabama has been impressive, but quite frankly, if you watched their game against Mississippi State, Mississippi State blew a ton of early opportunities. They had a fourth down where they got stopped on the first or second drive. Mississippi State blew numerous opportunities.
So none of those teams are looking completely dominant. Now the (Alabama) score kind of got out of hand. But if you look at our personnel, we’ve got big-time talent. So to me, we look like a playoff team. Are we always playing like a playoff team? No, but that problem is not exclusive to us.
When you play Boston College, you’re always going up against some tough Boston kids that feel slighted. They were the kids that maybe wanted to go to Notre Dame but Notre Dame didn’t take them. I always felt like they had a chip on their shoulder. They were physical and played us tough. (Editor’s note: During Edwards’ four years at Notre Dame – 1993-96 – the Boston College series was split, 2-2.) So it’s always a street fight with them. Notre Dame always has better athletes, but as you know, that doesn’t always translate into wins.
Boston College is down a little more because of their offense, but their defense remains good. In fact, it’s really good. All things being equal, we should take care of business. But whenever you start getting comfortable about things is when all heck breaks loose with Boston College.
It’s a bit of a trap game, but all of them have been. With Stanford losing, that puts some tarnish on that marquee matchup as well. If Oklahoma State loses, we control our own destiny. I think as long as Oklahoma doesn’t blow out Oklahoma State, like Ohio State did with Wisconsin last year, they’re not going to overcome us. But if they win 55-7 and we win unimpressively against BC and Stanford, then we have something to worry about.