FOOTBALL

Five keys to the Notre Dame-Wake Forest game

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

KNOCK DOWN WOLFORD

The parade of talented quarterbacks on Notre Dame’s schedule hasn’t ended yet. Senior John Wolford has led Wake Forest to a No. 9 ranking nationally in team passing efficiency. Wolford has thrown for 1,660 yards and 15 touchdowns, but he hasn’t been stressed much to date. The Demon Deacons have only allowed 13 sacks — the same number as Notre Dame’s vaunted offensive line — and Wolford has been intercepted only twice. The Irish need to continue to create pressure and put Wolford in tough situations.

CONTROL THE GROUND

Anyone following college football knows Notre Dame’s offensive game plan by now: run the ball. Expect the Irish to stick to the script against a Wake Forest defense that has allowed 183.8 rushing yards per game. The #33Trucking Heisman campaign can’t afford a slow day for running back Josh Adams, but he might not be needed for 27 carries like last week. Fellow backs Tony Jones Jr., Dexter Williams and Deon McIntosh can help carry the load.

ACCOUNT FOR EJIOFOR

The string of top-notch defensive ends on Notre Dame’s schedule also continues this week. Redshirt senior Duke Ejiofor will threaten to make his presence known on the edge. His 14 tackles for a loss rank fifth nationally and only 13 players have recorded more sacks than Ejiofor’s 6.5. Notre Dame’s offensive line must prevent him from disrupting plays in the backfield. The Irish offensive tackles have had plenty of practice with N.C. State’s Bradley Chubb (7.5 sacks this season) and Boston College’s Harold Landry (5 sacks).

KEEP BUILDING CONFIDENCE

The numbers don’t need to be prolific to see improvement with Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush. One of his best performances of the season came last week against N.C. State, and he only completed 10 passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns. Yet Wimbush made big throws when needed. The opportunities should be there again Saturday for Wimbush to continue his evolution and find ways to beat defenses through the air.

DON’T SLEEP ON WAKE

There’s too much on the line for Notre Dame to not understand the importance of every game with a spot in the College Football Playoff now in sight. But as expectations rise, so does the chance to overlook an opponent. These aren’t the same Demon Deacons the Irish drubbed in 2015 and 2012. Wake Forest will provide some resistance in every aspect of the game. Now isn’t the time for Notre Dame to abandon its mindset to dominate.

Notre Dame’s Brandon Wimbush (7) looks to pass during the Notre Dame-NC State NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN