Notre Dame Fighting Irish take on Wake Forest - game preview


DATE: Saturday, November 5, 2011
TIME: 8:00 p.m. ET
SITE: (CAPACITY) BB&T Field (31,500); Winston-Salem, N.C.
TV: ABC national telecast with Mark Jones (play-by-play), Ed Cunningham (analysis), Kim Belton (producer) and Jimmy Platt (director). In those areas of the country in which the game is not available on ABC, it will be available on ESPN2.


Notre Dame and Wake Forest will meet on the gridiron for the first time in the history of Irish football. The Demon Deacons are the 141st different opponent in Notre Dame football history. The Irish own an all-time record of 117-20-3 (.846) when facing an opponent for the first time.

In 123 years of playing football, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame have never faced Wake Forest.

Also, in the last 66 years, it hasn’t played a game in a stadium as small as Wake’s BB&T Field.

The Fighting Irish be on show to Winston-Salem, NC, on Saturday where the Demon Deacons will be waiting. You would have to go back to 1945, when the Irish made a trip to Great Lakes Naval Training Station to find a welcoming team been housed in a facility as small as Wake’s, which seats just 31,500.

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Wake Run Offense vs Irish Run Defense

Sophomore Josh Harris started the season as Wake Forest’s top running back, but an injury in early October has slowed him in the past three games. Harris ran for 430 yards on 91 carries before the injury, and had only three carries for nine yards last week in his first appearance since then. Senior Brandon Pendergrass has taken over the role of feature back in Harris’ absence.

Pendergrass had 13 carries for 99 yards against North Carolina last week.

After lackluster rushing stops by Notre Dame over the past few games, the Irish seemed to have found a solution against Navy, holding the Middies to 127 yards against the starters despite playing a very young DL. Ethan Johnson sat out the majority of the last four games, but is expected to make an appearance on Saturday.

Edge: Notre Dame

Wake Pass Offense vs Irish Pass Defense

Quarterback Tanner Price is only a sophomore, but loves to air it out in this pass happy offense, For a Sopho, he has a solid command over Wake’s offense. He also has a pair of dangerous wide receivers in Chris Givens (17.8 ypc & 8 TD’s) and Michael Campanaro (5-10, 190 pounds).

Campanaro has already thrown two touchdown passes this season from his flanker position.

The biggest challenge for the Irish on Saturday will be curtailing the standout WR duo of the Deamon Deacons. If Irish defensive co-ordinator, Bob Daco, can limit the big plays and get a turnover or two early from Blanton & Gray then it would really set the tone for the rest of the secondary early. If not, then Diaco had better hope that his athletic DL can bully thier way to Tanner.

Edge: Even

Irish Run Offense vs Wake Run Defense

Notre Dame’s running back duo of senior Jonas Gray and junior Cierre Wood are every bit as important to the Irish attack than what Floyd & Rees are. Without them, as was shown when the Irish lost 31-17 to USC, the Notre Dame offense struggles to find a rhythm. This should be another very solid perfomance on the ground against a Deacon defense that gives up 134 yards on the ground and is ranked 101st in rezone defense.

Fifth year senior Cyhl Quarles leds the Wake run defense from his strong safety position, that in itself is a positive for the Irish. Quarles has had 69 tackles through eight games.

Edge: Notre Dame

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Irish Pass Offense vs Wake Pass Defense

Sophomore quarterback Tommy Rees has made dramatic improvements so far this season, but he is still susceptible to youthful mistakes, especially when defenses find a way to eliminate senior wide receiver Michael Floyd. Two teams have held Floyd to four catches this season (Pitt and USC), and those were Notre Dame’s two ugliest games on offense.

Wake Forest has a veteran secondary with Quarles and fellow fifth-year player Josh Bush at the safety positions. Bush leads the team with three interceptions this season. However, the Tar Heels torched them for 338 passing yards and three touchdowns, which dropped them to 89th in the country in passing defense.

Notre Dame’s offensive line has been one of the best in the country at preventing sacks. They’ll face a worthy adversary in nose guard Nikita Whitlock. The 5-11, 260-pounder has burrowed his way into backfields for three sacks and 12 tackles for loss already this season.

Edge: Notre Dame

Irish Special Teams vs Wake Special Teams

Irish freshman George Atkinson III is now the 8th ranked kick returner in the nation with his 30.24 yards per return setting the Notre Dame offense up in very good field position. GA3 has a breath taking turn of pace that the Irish fans have not seen since Raghib ‘Rocket’ Ismail’s freshman year in 1988. For the rest of the Irish special teams though....it’s as mediocre as it gets. Kicker David Ruffer is steadily improving, as is Punter Ben Turk. The Punt Return game is the nations worst.

Wake Forest kicker Jimmy Newman tied his own school record against East Carolina by hitting his 12th straight field goal, however, all of those are from the 40 yard line in. Wake Forest is posting 20.9 yards per kickoff runback and 4.8 yards on punt returns.

Edge: Notre Dame


At the beginning of the season this game looked like an easy win. But after Wake got off to their hot start including the win over Florida State, this game appeared to be much tougher. However, with blowout losses to Virginia Tech and North Carolina and a narrow one-point win over Duke since then, the Demon Deacons once again appear to be ripe for the picking.

This will be the toughest game for the Irish over the next three weeks, but it's not one that should give them much trouble. As long as Notre Dame commits to the run and doesn't turn the ball over, this should be an easy win.

FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame - 41, Wake Forest - 14

Miscellaneous Notes:

• For the first time in history, Notre Dame will play three straight ACC teams when it clashes with Wake Forest (Nov. 5), Maryland (Nov. 12) and Boston College (Nov. 19). In fact, this will mark the first time the Irish will face ACC foes two consecutive weeks.

• In the first seven games this season, junior running back Cierre Wood averaged 17 carries per game, while senior Jonas Gray averaged only seven. But Gray’s 8.49 yards per carry and continued hard work were too much to overlook. He received the start against Navy (his first in two years) and had 12 carries for 69 yards — dropping him to “only” 8.0 yards per carry — to Wood’s 11 for 66 yards. Kelly said the excellent competition there makes who starts irrelevant. It’s about getting equal distribution for both.


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