Oct. 07, 2017
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Notre Dame didn’t have its starting quarterback, and its best runner was limited by dehydration. The Fighting Irish also had to operate in rainy conditions on the road.
And they did just fine.
Josh Adams ran for 118 yards, including a 73-yard touchdown, and No. 21 Notre Dame stuck with its strong ground game to beat North Carolina 33-10 on Saturday.
Adams, ranked among the national rushing leaders, carried the ball just 13 times before leaving the game. But Deon McIntosh added 124 yards rushing and two scores for the Fighting Irish (5-1), who won a third straight road game against a power-conference opponent despite not having starting quarterback Brandon Wimbush due to a right foot injury.
Wimbush was on the sideline as the No. 2 QB behind first-time starter Ian Book. The sophomore, who had thrown just eight passes this season, was 17 of 31 for 146 yards and a touchdown while running for 45 yards. He also threw two interceptions.
“I had some nerves when I first got out there,” Book said. “But the 10 guys on that offense with me make my job a lot easier, so I had all the confidence in the world.”
Still, the Fighting Irish had no trouble earning their fourth straight win by at least 20 points since a 20-19 loss to Georgia on Sept. 9, the first time they have accomplished that feat since 2005.
Chazz Surratt threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Ratliff-Williams before halftime in the only noteworthy offensive play for the Tar Heels (1-5). North Carolina finished with 265 yards and eight three-and-outs in its second straight lackluster showing.
“It comes down to me as the head coach putting them in a position to be successful,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said. “And I haven’t found a way to make that happen yet.”
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish certainly can lean on their sturdy ground game. They entered ranked second nationally with 20 rushing touchdowns, third in yards per carry (7.14) and seventh in rushing yards per game (301.4). It offered unflashy reliability Saturday as Notre Dame got 341 of its 487 total yards on the ground.
“We probably weren’t as opportunistic as we have been this year offensively,” Kelly said. “But when we needed it, we obviously put together a great second half in terms of controlling the clock and running the football.”
UNC: The Tar Heels have been in this position before under Fedora, starting 1-5 in 2013 before running off five straight wins and winning a bowl game. But that seems beyond this year’s group, which entered the season with inexperience throughout a traditionally strong offensive unit and has been hammered since by injuries.
“I wouldn’t call it frustration — it’s just us as a team trying to find what the problem is,” UNC defensive back M.J. Stewart said. “Obviously there’s a problem. … That’s going to be found soon and the ball’s going to turn around, I have a lot of faith.”
McIntosh, a sophomore, capitalized on his extra work by scoring from 24 and 35 yards out — his third straight game with at least one rushing score.
“I was just running behind my pads, trusting my O-line, reading the blocks and just making the plays,” McIntosh said. “I stepped up when my number was called.”
Notre Dame finally came up empty in the red zone.
The Irish entered the game 22 for 22 on red-zone scoring chances, with 20 of those being touchdowns, and scored on their first two red-zone drives Saturday. But that streak ended with Book’s interception in the third after Notre Dame had reached the UNC 18.
The Tar Heels’ injury list grew again. Starting punter Tom Sheldon left after the first with an unspecified injury, while starting safety Donnie Miles exited in the third with an apparent right arm injury.
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish have a bye week before hosting Southern California on Oct. 21.
UNC: The Tar Heels host Virginia on Oct. 14.
— ND —