Wimbush scores three TD’s as No. 8 Notre Dame holds off Navy

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A week after getting embarrassed on the big stage by Miami, No. 8 Notre Dame (9-2) responded by holding off an upset bid from rival Navy (6-4). Notre Dame had to gut this one out, as we have come to expect from these two teams over the years. An incomplete pass on fourth down by Navy turned the ball over to the Irish in the final minutes and Notre Dame escaped with the win.

The play was a running back pass, and Navy appeared to have the play they were hoping for. But the pass intended for Tyler Carmona from Darryl Bonner was probably a split second late and just off the mark as it fell to the ground with the game on the line.

Navy took a 17-10 lead on the Irish in the third quarter after working a nearly eight-minute drive while running 15 plays to travel 72 yards. The drive ended with a touchdown pass from Zach Abey to Craig Scott from 12 yards out on third-and-goal. The lead did not last for very long, however, as Notre Dame answered with a much quicker offensive series. Brandon Wimbush completed a 30-yard touchdown to Kevin Stepherson to tie the game just five plays later.

The Wimbush-to-Stepherson struck again for the go-ahead touchdown on their next offensive series, after Navy missed a field goal.

Wimbush ended his day with 164 passing yards and two touchdowns with 41 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. Running back Josh Adams moved into fifth place in the school record book for the most all-time rushing yards as he rushed for 106 yards on 18 carries. Adams still appears to be on the Heisman Trophy’s radar. Notre Dame’s ability to make big plays helped to overcome a draining day for the Navy offense. Navy held the football for 42:42 in the game, leaving Notre Dame the football for fewer than 18 minutes. Navy quarterback Zach Abey led Navy with 87 yards on 29 carries and a touchdown (Anthony Gargiulo also had 87 rushing yards, but no touchdowns) as the Irish gave up 277 rushing yards.

Notre Dame will wrap up the regular season on the road next week against Stanford. After that, the Irish will wait to hear their bowl fate. Notre Dame is still in firm position to be selected for a New Years Six bowl game, although a shot at playing in the playoff appears to still be an incredibly long shot with little time to spare.

Navy will also be on the road next week for one more conference game. The Midshipmen take on Houston on Friday afternoon after Thanksgiving. Navy will not play for the conference championship game, but they will play one more game before the bowl season with the annual Army-Navy Game in Philadelphia on Dec. 9.

Pac-12 defensive stars headline Lott IMPACT Trophy semi-finalists

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The semifinalists for this year’s Lott IMPACT Trophy have been announced, and it is quite an impressive short list of some of college football’s finest defensive talents. Among the semifinalists for the award are Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick and Iowa linebacker Josey Jewel. The Pac-12 leads all conferences with three semi-finalists.

The Lott IMPACT Trophy honors the nation’s best player that exhibits the qualities of former NFL All-Pro Ronnie Lott; integrity, maturity, performance, academics, community, and tenacity.

In addition to three players from the Pac-12, this year’s semifinalists include two players from the Big 12, and one player each from the ACC, Big Ten, and SEC. Notre Dame is also represented by safety Drue Tranquill. A Big Ten player has won the award each of the past two seasons with Penn State defensive end Carl Nassib winning the award in 2015 and Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers receiving the award last season.

The 2017 Lott IMPACT Trophy Semi-Finalists

Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
Malik Jefferson, DE, Texas
Josey Jewell, LB, Iowa
Micah Kiser, LB, Virginia
Hercules Mata’afa, DL, Washington State
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, LB, Oklahoma
Harrison Phillips, DL, Stanford
Cameron Smith, LB, USC
Drue Tranquill, S, Notre Dame

No. 13 Notre Dame rolling early to take big halftime lead over turnover-prone USC

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There are bad starts, and there are starts like what No. 11 USC had in the first half of their rivalry game against No. 13 Notre Dame.

Fumble on the first drive? Check. Shank a short field goal? Yep. Muff a punt? Indeed. Throw an interception. Thumbs up.

As a result, the Irish fed off an electric atmosphere in South Bend to jump out to a hot start against their intersectional rival and went to the locker room up 28-0 at halftime in a game that seems over given the way the two sides are playing at the moment.

Proving that a few weeks off were indeed plenty to get back to 100 percent, quarterback Brandon Wimbush looked sharp in taking advantage of all those USC miscues. He finished the half with two touchdown passes (one to Kevin Stepherson, the other to Equanimeous St. Brown) and ran for 76 yards and another score despite that balky foot injury that kept him out for several weeks.

Running back Josh Adams didn’t get a ton of work given all the quick end zone trips (just 14 carries), but also gave a boost to his low-key Heisman campaign by running for 68 yards and a touchdown.

As many positives as you could come up with for Notre Dame in the half, you could just about double it and come up with the number of negatives for USC. Sam Darnold had one of his worst halves in cardinal and gold, fumbling on the opening drive and throwing an interception late in the second quarter. He wound up with 107 yards as the only source of offense for the Trojans after Ronald Jones was bottled up to the tune of just five yards on seven carries.

USC has authored several second half comebacks already this year but, based on the way they played so far in Notre Dame Stadium, they’re going to need a comeback just to avoid getting blown out. The flip side is another strong showing like that and all the College Football Playoff talk surrounding the Irish will start to become very, very real come Sunday.

Wimbush and Adams power 500-yard rushing attack for Notre Dame over Boston College

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Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush did plenty of damage with his legs in a 49-20 victory over Boston College. Wimbush made up for a sub-par passing day by rushing for 207 rushing yards and four touchdowns, including a 65-yard run. Not to be outdone, Irish running back Josh Adams rushed for a game-high 229 yards in the road win.

If there was a key point in the second half, it may have come in the third quarter when Boston College failed to pick up a first down on a fourth-and-short at the Irish 30-yard line. The Eagles trailed 14-13 at the time and handed the ball to Jon Hilliman. In most situations, this would be a good decision for the Eagles, but it failed them this time. Notre Dame snuffed out the play and prevented Hilliman from picking up the first down. Notre Dame then orchestrated a nine-play drive to tack on a touchdown to push the lead to 21-13. Brandon Wimbush came through with the key play of the drive with his feet with a 46-yard run down the right side of the field on a 3rd and 10 from the Irish 45-yard line. Tony Jones Jr. later finished the drive with a one-yard score.

Boston College followed that sequence up by ending a drive with an interception, with Shaun Crawford picking off a pass. at the Notre Dame 27-yard line. Adams started the Irish drive with a 36-yard run, and Wimbush followed with a 33-yard pass to Durham Smythe to put the Irish inside the 10-yard line. Wimbush finished the drive by beating the BC defense to the right corner of the field to score a touchdown.

From there, Notre Dame continued to use the ground game to their advantage, scoring seven rushing touchdowns in the game.

Wimbush’s four rushing touchdowns and rushing yardage are school records for a Notre Dame quarterback.

Notre Dame will be on the road once again next week to take on Michigan State. The Spartans had a bye week this week but have gotten off to a bit of a confidence-boosting start to the season with back-to-back double-digit victories against Western Michigan and Bowling Green. Michigan State won last year’s meeting, 36-28, to snap a three-game losing streak against the Irish from 2011 through 2013.

It won’t get any easier for Boston College next week. The Eagles head to Death Valley to face defending national champion Clemson, who will either be coming off a big road win at Louisville or looking to get back on track after a loss. Either way, neither scenario is a good one for the Eagles.

No. 15 Georgia leaves inaugural South Bend trip with win over No. 24 Notre Dame

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It was a night to remember for Bulldogs young and old — no matter what the final score showed. Still, both groups are going home happy. In its first ever trip to Notre Dame — these programs have each played more than 1,200 games previously, but only once against each other — and the first ever start for true freshman quarterback Jake Fromm, No. 15 Georgia earned a tight 20-19 win over No. 24 Notre Dame.

After the teams traded field goals in the first quarter, Notre Dame (1-1) found pay dirt first on a 1-yard Brandon Wimbush scrambled at the 12:24 mark of the second quarter, which was set up after Jake Fromm fumbled at his own 34-yard line.

Georgia (2-0) immediately responded, moving 62 yards in 12 plays, a drive that culminated in a 5-yard toss from From to Terry Godwin that was originally ruled incomplete before it was overturned on review.

C.J. Sanders momentarily gave Notre Dame the lead back on what was ruled on the field as a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, but review ruled his forearms down at the Notre Dame 36. The Irish moved to the Georgia 24, setting Justin Yoon up for a 42-yard field goal with 4:14 to go before the break.

Yoon pushed the lead to six with a 36-yarder with 6:22 to play in the third quarter, but Georgia grabbed its first lead of the night on a 75-yard drive punctuated by a 6-yard Sony Michel run on the ensuing possession.

Notre Dame put together its longest drive of the night to open the fourth quarter, slicing through the Georgia defense for 73 yards over 12 plays, but an 8-yard Wimbush run came one yard short of the sticks on 3rd-and-9, setting up another Yoon field goal to see-saw Notre Dame back in front at 19-17 with 10:21 remaining.

The Irish had a chance to take control after forcing Georgia into a three-and-out, taking the ball with the lead at their own 25, but Georgia forced a three-and-out of its own and then reclaimed the lead on a 30-yard Rodrigo Blankenship field goal with 3:34 to play.

After forcing three consecutive incompletions, Georgia had the chance to put the game away with a single first down, but a 3rd-and-2 handoff to fullback Christian Payne ended one yard short, giving Notre Dame the ball back for a last-gasp drive with 1:57 remaining. Wimbush moved the Irish 17 yards, but Davin Bellamy sacked Wimbush and forced a fumble, which Lorenzo Carter recovered for the Bulldogs. Georgia expired the final 1:14 to hold on for the win.

The end was emblematic for Wimbush, who hit 19-of-39 passes for 211 yards and spent much of his night running with nowhere to go. He was credited with 16 carries for one yard, and Notre Dame as a team managed only 55 yards on 37 rushes. Georgia rushed for 185 yards as a team, led by Michel’s 73 yards and Nick Chubb‘s 63, while Fromm hit 16-of-29 passes for a modest 141 yard with a touchdown and an interception.