Notre Dame claws out another close call — this time against Vanderbilt.
David Woods, firstname.lastname@example.org
Notre Dame was hard-pressed to restrain a Ball State offense that ran 97 plays, even in the Fighting Irish’s 24-16 victory. Wake Forest ups the tempo, and ups the ante.
Not that the No. 8 Irish (3-0) are oblivious to what they will face Saturday at Wake Forest (2-1). The Demon Deacons trailed 34-10 and 41-16 at Notre Dame last year before pulling within 48-37.
“Certainly, we felt it last year and their ability to move the tempo and play really good football against us,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday.
That Wake Forest quarterback, John Wolford, was recently released by the New York Jets. Presumptive successor Kendall Hinton was suspended for the first three games. Yet the pace has not slowed under freshman quarterback Sam Hartman.
The Demon Deacons ran 105 plays last week in a 41-34 loss to Boston College, which has climbed to 25th in the coaches’ poll. Wake Forest is third in the nation in plays per game (93.3) and 15th in total offense (542 yards).
“I think if we play with a sense of urgency against a tempo team like this,” Kelly said, “that’s your best bet in terms of slowing them down.”
As stout as the Irish have been on defense, it usually comes down to third down. And they are only 84th nationally in stopping opponents on third down (38.8 percent). Notre Dame’s depth, endurance and fitness will be tested. Forecast is for a high of 85 degrees at Winston-Salem, N.C.
Kelly said it will be difficult to substitute on defense and that the Irish will “have to be very coordinated” in sending in players close to the Notre Dame sideline.
“Much more like line changes in hockey,” Kelly said.
Linebackers Te’von Coney and Drue Tranquil simply do not come off the field, although Kelly dismissed a suggestion they are overworked. They lead Notre Dame with 29 and 25 tackles, respectively.
“They’re in great shape physically. Drue is . . . I mean, he takes great care of his body,” Kelly said. “We’d like to find a way to give him some plays off here or there, but let’s go. It’s football season. You gotta play.”
Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said Hinton would be used against Notre Dame but declined to say how much.
The 19-year-old Hartman, of Charlotte, N.C., has been as good as advertised after being rated last year’s No. 12 pro-style quarterback by 247 Sports. He passed for 9,481 yards and 98 touchdowns in three seasons at two different high schools. In three college games, the freshman has completed 55 percent for 834 yards and is 13th in the nation in total offense (342.3).
Wake Forest wide receiver Greg Dortch is second in the nation in catches per game (9.3) and 12th in yards (112.0). He is the team’s top returner on punts (17.0 average and two touchdowns) and kickoffs (27.3)
“He can take over a football game. Electric player,” Kelly said.
Dortch missed last year’s game at Notre Dame because of injury.
TE Alize Mack played his “best game,” said Kelly, who complained Mack was being cut block “maliciously” by Vanderbilt. “It’s legal, but it’s bad football,” the coach said. . . . Notre Dame defensive coordinator Clark Lea was an assistant under Clawson at Bowling Green (2012) and Wake Forest (2016). . . . Wake Forest’s basketball arena has served as an evacuation shelter for about 500 refugees from across North Carolina during Hurricane Florence. . . . TE Cole Kmet (ankle) is out for Wake Forest but told Kelly he plans to return for the Sept. 29 game against No. 7 Stanford.
Contact IndyStar reporter David Woods at email@example.com or call 317-444-6195. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidWoods007.