Saturday was quite the opportunity for teams to leave a lasting impression on the College Football Playoff Selection Committee prior to their first set of rankings being released next week. Based on how the first half went in South Bend, safe to say both No. 9 Notre Dame and No. 14 N.C. State are both firmly in the mix for a top 10 spot after a fun back-and-forth effort between the two teams that put memories of last year’s meeting far out of anybody’s mind.
The Irish managed to hold onto a 21-14 lead going into the locker room when all was said and done, but there was a lot going on for both sides in a half filled with big plays.
James Smith-Williams blocked a punt for the Wolfpack’s first points of the game, which was fitting given how dominant their defense was early. Bradley Chubb (four tackles, one sack) was nearly unblockable despite that fearsome Irish offensive line, getting into the backfield on nearly every snap.
Notre Dame responded every time they were threatened however, signaling this one would be a dogfight for both sidelines. QB Brandon Wimbush quickly threw a touchdown pass on the next drive and finished with 80 yards through the air and three total scores in the half. Tailback Josh Adams was held out of the end zone but was the typical workhorse between the 20’s, doing his best to keep pace with Saquon Barkley and Bryce Love in the Heisman race by racking up 102 yards on the ground against one of the best rush defenses in the country.
Despite losing running back Nyheim Hines to a leg injury — he was “questionable to return” after going to the locker room in the first quarter — the Wolfpack continued to move the ball offensively. They marched 71 yards in just seven plays to open the second quarter before signal-caller Ryan Finley (122 yards passing in the half) found Kelvin Harmon in the corner of the end zone, where the latter made a terrific one-handed touchdown catch. The normally productive all-purpose threat Jaylen Samuels wasn’t quite as involved in the game as he usually is but with others stepping up for State, it wasn’t quite as big of a deal as it could be for the team in the second half.
There’s a lot going on at the moment in college football but the best game of the bunch in this TV window seems like it has been at Notre Dame Stadium. Neither team is running away with things after two quarters — which bodes well for a second half that could be just as fun to watch as the first.