No. 8 Notre Dame (3-0) won once again, but concerns about the offense are not about to go hiding just yet. Fortunately for Notre Dame, the defense and running game remain strengths as they managed to hold off Vanderbilt (2-1) in Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, winning 22-17.
Looking to push their lead to eight points in the fourth quarter, Notre Dame called on kicker Justin Yoon for a 32-yard field goal. After knocking down his three previous attempts for nine points, Yoon saw his fourth field goal try bounce off the bar, no good. Vanderbilt took over at their 24-yard yard line, needing a touchdown to win in the final moments.
Two plays later, Vanderbilt reached midfield with a 26-yard pass from Kyle Shurmur to Jared Pinkney. But the drive stalled soon after that with a run for no gain and two straight incomplete passes to set up a fourth down with 10 yards to go. A defensive penalty on Notre Dame allowed the drive to continue after an incomplete pass on fourth down. Three plays later, it was once again fourth down for Vandy. Shurmur connected for a big play to Kalija Lipscomb, but Lipscomb was unable to maintain possession of the football as he fell to the ground on the leaping catch.
Lipscomb had 11 catches for 89 yards in the game, but it will be what could have been the 12th that will haunt him after this one. Notre Dame managed to run off a good chunk of the clock after taking over on downs.
Brandon Wimbush was 13-of-23 for 122 yards with no touchdowns thrown, although this week he avoided throwing an interception. Ian Book got some opportunities in certain situations and cashed in on one with a touchdown pass to Nic Weishar to put the Irish up 12 in the fourth quarter. The pass came at the end of a drive with Wimbush leading the offense, but it was Book who ended it with a score and took a shot at a two-point conversion (which was no good). Book was effective in extreme moderation, and it remains to be seen if Kelly will begin giving him more opportunities. Wimbush had success running the ball, however. Wimbush rushed for 84 yards and a touchdown.
Shurmur passed for 315 yards and a touchdown with one interception for Vanderbilt. Notre Dame running back Tony Jones Jr. led all players with 116 rushing yards.
Notre Dame will go on the road next week to play at Wake Forest. Games against Stanford at home and at Virginia Tech follow.
Vanderbilt opens their SEC schedule at home against South Carolina in SEC East action.