The second half of the season for Notre Dame is quite simply a gauntlet of tough games. Everywhere you look there’s a highly ranked opponent or a difficult game — making the path to the College Football Playoff an obtainable one but one littered with landmines.
The Irish are looking more and more like they’re plenty capable of navigating such a road however, turning in their second straight statement win over a top 15 team in South Bend on Saturday, topping No. 14 N.C. State 35-14.
Leading the way once again was big No. 33. On a day where Saquon Barkley was running wild over in Columbus, Notre Dame’s star running back reminded Heisman voters that he’s right there with the Penn State tailback too. All told, Josh Adams racked up 202 yards rushing and found the end zone on a 77-yarder that broke things open in the third quarter. The touchdown was Adams’ sixth run of over 60 yards this season and capped off a heck of a day.
Elsewhere in the Irish backfield, quarterback Brandon Wimbush continued to play off his teammate and make life difficult for opposing defensive coordinators. While his passing numbers weren’t eye-popping (10/19, 104 yards, two touchdowns), they were quite effective and he made several highlight reel throws along the sidelines for big plays. His legs also were a factor as he had a rushing touchdown and a 20 yard scramble before staying in the pocket more down the stretch after rolling his ankle slightly.
As effective as the offense was for Notre Dame, the real story of the win was the team’s defense. They only recorded one sack but they kept the Wolfpack’s offense in check all day long and really only allowed seven points — their other touchdown came on a first quarter blocked punt. All-purpose threat Jaylen Samuels was bottled up at an impressive rate and had only 39 yards of offense, while quarterback Ryan Finley threw a rare interception and passed for 213 yards and a touchdown.
At least N.C. State’s offense made their only trip to the end zone a memorable one.
The victory was Notre Dame’s sixth straight since their lone loss of the year and all have come by 20+ points as well. The past two Saturday’s have featured their most impressive wins yet however and are quite the statement made ahead of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee’s initial set of rankings being released on Tuesday. It’s been a dream of a turnaround for a team that went 4-8 a year ago and it’s one that will keep going for another week ahead of a matchup against Wake Forest.