The weather was frightful, Brandon Wimbush was awfully close to delightful — and Notre Dame’s dismantling of Florida State on Saturday night sent 32 seniors out on a bright note in their final Notre Dame Stadium appearance.
That sends the Irish at 10-0 back on the road this week — this time to Yankee Stadium to meet Syracuse — in Notre Dame’s late-season four-out-of-five-away-from-South Bend stretch.
Here are Irish takeaways from their matchup with the Seminoles:
Dex is fresh. Irish coach Brian Kelly noted after the game that a big reason for running back Dexter Williams’ 2018 success is that he “doesn’t have many miles on him.” Williams currently has only 113 carries for his 770 yards. A year ago after 10 games Josh Adams had carried the football 153 times for his 1,231 yards. That’s a major difference from a wear-and-tear standpoint.
Thank you, Brandon Wimbush. It’s a major advantage to have two quarterbacks capable of helping a major-college team win football games against quality opposition. Irish fans may not have looked at it that way back in the summer when Ian Book’s game experience level was minimal — but the view changed dramatically this past week when Book watched from the sideline while Notre Dame was able to call on a veteran of 12 previous victories (Wimbush) to fill the bill at quarterback. Potential crisis averted.
The health factor. The Irish lost defensive back Shaun Crawford early on to injury, as well as captain and offensive guard Alex Bars. Linebacker Drue Tranquill has been a bit banged up, and Ian Book sat out the Florida State game. But, otherwise, Notre Dame has been fortunate to avoid a crippling list of injuries. Said Kelly, “We’re going to start 11 of our same players who started against Michigan on defense, and so that’s the ability to keep our guys fresh and recovered and injury-free. If you look at both sides of the ball, and you’re really talking about just the loss of Alex Bars, you’ve almost got 21 out of 22 starters playing in November for you. People can say that’s luck. We would say that’s a design in terms of what we’re trying to accomplish of keeping these guys fresh and healthy so they can be playing on Saturdays.”
Streaking. Notre Dame now can say it has won at least 10 games in successive years. That may not sound like much, but it hadn’t happened for the Irish since a three-in-a-row streak in 1991-92-93. And that says a lot about how Kelly has put a lot of pieces in the right places for consistent success. “And it’s extra special when they win all of their home games in their senior year,” added Kelly.
The bottom line. Considering the Irish had some issues in this area a year ago this time, Kelly likes the idea that 10 games into the season his offensive line and backs combined for a rushing total against Florida State that was far and away the largest of the season. Said the Irish head coach, “You need to be able to run the football in November when teams know you’re going to run the football. It’s about exerting your will.”
John Heisler, senior associate athletics director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 1978. A South Bend, Indiana, native, he is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and a member of the College Sports Information Directors of America Hall of Fame. He is the author, co-author or editor of 12 books (one a New York Times bestseller) and editor of the award-winning “Strong of Heart” series.