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.
Notre Dame scored on their first two possessions of the game for a 10-0 lead and the Irish have tacked on a could of field goals since to take a 16-3 lead on Vanderbilt into the locker rooms at halftime in South Bend, Indiana.
Brandon Wimbush has rushed for 50 yards and a touchdown while having a less-than-stellar day throwing the football against the Commodores. Kicker Justin Yoon has converted all three of his field goal attempts in the game so far.
The defense has been the story of the half for both teams, but the Irish have been having a bit more success as the score would indicate. Vanderbilt has also been hurt by costly penalties and an inability to get a running game going. Vanderbilt was forced to punt on each of their first four punts.
If you need visual evidence of just how difficult it has been for Vanderbilt, take a look at this play that went down in the second quarter. The best scoring opportunity fo the half for the Commodores exploded when Kyle Shurmur completed a pass to Randall Haynie down to the one or two-yard line, but the ball was stripped loose by Alohi Gilman and flew straight up into the air, and a mad scramble for the football resulted in a touchback for the Irish. Julian Love recovered the football at the back of the end zone for Notre Dame.
Down 16-0 without any offense is making for a tricky second half ahead for Vanderbilt on the road. But Notre Dame isn’t exactly putting this one out of reach with their offense. A couple of scoring drives after halftime, if they can find them, would put Vanderbilt right back in this one.
A week after being steamrolled at home by Alabama, Vanderbilt appears to be much more competitive this week on the road against Florida with the teams tied 17-17 at halftime. If Florida is going to avoid taking a loss at home, the hopes may have to be placed in the hands of quarterback Feleipe Franks after Luke Del Rio headed off to the locker room a few minutes before halftime with a trainer.
After three back-and-forth three-and-outs to start the game by both offenses, Florida finally got the ball rolling with a 10-play touchdown drive capped by Lamical Perine scoring the first rushing touchdown by a Gators running back in a year. But Vanderbilt answered with a touchdown drive of their own. The Commodores marched 75 yards in seven plays with Kyle Shurmur completing a 13-yard pass to Kalija Lipscomb for the game-tying score.
The teams again exchanged touchdown drives a few possessions later to keep the game tight at 14-14. Vanderbilt took the 17-14 lead with a 42-yard field goal by Tommy Openshaw in the final minute of the half.
After taking over the offense, Franks tossed a deep ball down the field to Tyrie Cleveland for a 49-yard gain, but the Gators could not get in the end zone from a 1st and Goal from the nine-yard line in the time remaining in the half. The Gators settled for a field goal to tie the game heading to halftime.