SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Brian Kelly completed his second perfect home season in six years at Notre Dame, as the No. 4 Fighting Irish jumped out to a big lead early and put the finishing touches on their home slate with a 28-7 win over Wake Forest.
The game was, in a word, sloppy. There were strange penalties and strange non-penalties. There was a historic big play, but it was an otherwise dull contest from an offensive standpoint. Wake Forest even out-gained Notre Dame, 340-282. In the end, though, the Irish took care of business without a few more key players and remained firmly in the middle of the College Football Playoff picture.
Here's how everything went down Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium:
What the win means for Notre Dame: It was not the prettiest game in the world, but Notre Dame improved to 9-1, which marks the third time the Irish have won nine or more games in the six-year Kelly era. They did it without C.J. Prosise, who ended up not dressing Saturday after going through the team's concussion protocol throughout the week. It mattered little, however, as freshman Josh Adams continued to take advantage of the extended action, topping the 100-yard mark and finding the end zone for the second straight week. Notre Dame was also without freshman receiver Equanimeous St. Brown (shoulder), whose right arm was in a sling following a midweek practice injury. The Irish also lost starting linebacker James Onwualu to what appeared to be a left leg injury, as the junior left the game in the first quarter and was on crutches on the sideline. Still, they got big plays from the line, particularly senior end Romeo Okwara, who had three sacks. Notre Dame travels to Fenway Park next week for a "home" game against Boston College, part of the program's "Shamrock Series" tradition. The Irish then travel to rival Stanford two days after Thanksgiving for what could turn into an elimination game for playoff contention, provided both teams enter with just one loss apiece.
What the loss means for Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons played their hearts out, as they have so often done through the two-year Dave Clawson era. But it was ultimately not enough, as Wake Forest came up with zero points on three different red zone trips, which will not get it done when going for a big upset (or in any game, for that matter). Notre Dame turned one of those red zone shortcomings -- a fourth-and-1 stop -- into a long touchdown. And the Irish also notched a 28-yard pick-six from end Andrew Trumbetti, which made it 14-0 in the first quarter. There were simply too many miscues for Wake to overcome.
Top play: Adams is the easy winner here. With Notre Dame up 14-0 in the second quarter and at its own 2, Adams took a hand-off, broke into space, delivered a nasty stiff-arm to Wake Forest defensive back Ryan Janvion and scampered for a 98-yard touchdown run. The history behind it, courtesy of Notre Dame's sports information staff: It was the longest play from scrimmage in Notre Dame history. It was the longest play from scrimmage in the FBS this year. It tied for the longest run from scrimmage by a true freshman in FBS history. And it was Notre Dame's second 90-plus yard rush this season, the same number the Irish had tallied in their 126 previous years of football combined.
Uh, what? Notre Dame's student section likes to throw marshmallows on Senior Day. In the first half, however, the crowd received a warning for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for throwing objects on the field. The marshmallow throwing continued, but there was never any flag thrown, as the officials never followed through on their threat.
Uh, what, Part II: Wake Forest redshirt senior Alex Kinal set the NCAA record for career punts, with 323. The record-breaker came on his third punt, which came in the fourth quarter. Of course, in a game as weird as this one, it could not have been easy: The initial record-breaker, in the third quarter, got brought back due to a roughing-the-snapper penalty on Notre Dame linebacker Te'Von Coney, meaning the punt was nullified and Wake Forest got the ball back. The Demon Deacons ended up scoring on that drive.
Uh, what, Part III: OK, this is the last one, we swear. Wake Forest cornerback Brad Watson was flagged for a late hit on Irish receiver Chris Brown in the fourth quarter. Demon Deacons coach Dave Clawson went ballistic at the call -- which then got taken back, for some unexplained reason. This, of course, did not sit well with Kelly, who then went ballistic himself.