Notebook: Time for Notre Dame to play follow the leader?

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Drue Tranquill suddenly has a pro future and perhaps some national individual honors in front of him as well.

None of that seemed relevant to Notre Dame’s most consistent defensive player on an uncharacteristically inconsistent day for him and the rest of the Irish defense.

“I want to go back on the field now and fix it,” said the senior rover, shortly after an ND offensive explosion rescued the AP No. 5 and CFP No. 3 Irish from their trap game, a 48-37 survival of Wake Forest, Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.

And most of all he wanted to lead.

Notre Dame’s captains, Tranquill included, haven’t had to deal with much adversity this season after the Irish were saturated in it constantly in 2016’s 4-8 season. He welcomes the challenge, starting with getting himself right.

The Irish (8-1) face AP No. 9 and CFP 10th-ranked Miami (8-0) next Saturday night at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. (8 EST; ABC-TV).

“Wake Forest executed their offense terrifically.” ND coach Brian Kelly said. “They were really, really good tonight. And then, secondly, you saw missed tackles that you haven't seen all year.

“You saw some play that hadn't shown itself at times, and that's not who we are 75 percent through this season. So let's go back and look at how we can improve on that.”

Tranquill did collect six tackles amid some statistical carnage, specifically 587 total yards given up, which is 30 short of the school record for most in a game. Lack of focus more than X’s and O’s told the story.

“The second half we were atrocious, in my opinion, for what our coaches put in front of us.” Tranquill said. “So that’s on us as players. It’s on me. I didn’t execute my position and my details.

“We can celebrate our offense, but what we expect every time we step on the field is to dominate and punish our opponent. That’s the mindset we’re going to bring and that’s the expectation we have.”

A passing scare

Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush stared at his heavily wrapped hand as he pondered the question about how it actually felt.

“It’s feeling good,” he said as if he were talking himself into it. “Yeah, it’s feeling good.”

Laughter then filled the postgame interview room, including a chuckle for Wimbush himself.

He suffered a deep contusion to his non-throwing hand shortly before halftime on a 28-yard run that set up the Irish first-and-goal from the Wake Forest 1-yard line. Backup Ian Book came in a threw a one-yard TD pass to tight end Nic Weishar for a 31-10 ND halftime lead as Wimbush headed to the locker room for X-rays.

They came back negative.

“It was pretty scary just to get banged up right before half and know that I couldn't finish the job,” Wimbush said. “Obviously, Ian Book came in and took care of business and did his job, so I knew we were in good hands when he came in.”

But Wimbush convinced Kelly to play him in the third quarter before he gave way to Book after throwing a 34-yard TD pass to Chase Claypool to give the Irish a 41-16 lead with 2:04 left in the third quarter.

Wimbush finished with a career-high 280 yards passing, more than double his total from each of his three previous games, and was ND’s leading rusher with 110 yards on 12 carries and two TDs. It was his fourth game of 100 yards or more on the ground.

“We were able to do the things we (normally) do under center out of the gun or out of the pistol, so it didn't affect much in terms of the throwing game,” he said, “Maybe (it did) handing it of, but everything is good and I'll be good to go next week.”

Personnel matters

With junior tight end Alizé Mack out, recovering from a concussion, senior Nic Weishar drew his first start of the season and fourth of his career as ND started the game in a two-tight end set.

He finished with three catches for 17 yards and a TD. Freshman tight end Cole Kmet saw his most extensive action this season and collected his first two career catches, for 14 yards.

• Freshman kickoff man Jonathan Doerer saw his first game action since the Miami (Ohio) game on Sept. 30. Doerer kicked off nine times against Wake Forest and recorded three touchbacks.

• Freshman Robert Hainsey, in a time share with sophomore Tommy Kraemer at right tackle this season, made his first collegiate start on Saturday.

• Senior cornerback Nick Watkins’ playing time was limited to the first quarter, with sophomore Troy Pride taking his place.

“Nothing major, but he wasn't moving and planting as well,” Kelly said, “so you saw a little bit more of Troy.”

Wake Forest’s Isaiah Robinson (21) runs in a touchdown in front of Notre Dame’s Julian Okwara (42) during the Notre Dame-Wake Forest NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN