Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said he loved his quarterback’s grit in Saturday’s win over Wake Forest.
Brandon Wimbush’s arms and legs weren’t bad either.
Wimbush accounted for three touchdowns and overcame a scary hit to the knee to lead No. 3 Notre Dame to its seventh straight victory, 48-37 over the pesky Demon Deacons in South Bend, Ind.
Wimbush rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns, but made Notre Dame fans worry after he stayed down on the turf after taking a hard hit to his right knee on a run right before halftime. The junior returned for the second half, though, and threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Chase Claypool to help put away the Demon Deacons.
“I loved his grit, his toughness,” Kelly said of Wimbush. “(He) gets hit pretty hard, right before the half. I try to keep him out of the game in the third quarter, but he had no thoughts of that. He wanted to get back in the game, so put a pad on his hand and went back in the game and showed great grit and great leadership.”
Claypool had nine catches for 180 yards for the Irish offense, which shredded Wake Forest for 710 total yards.
Quarterback John Wolford completed 28 of 45 passes for 331 yards with two touchdowns. Wolford and Matt Colburn had rushing touchdowns for the Demon Deacons (5-4), who failed to build off last week’s upset win over Louisville.
“The amount of big plays that we gave up on defense today is not acceptable,” Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said. “That was the story of the day.”
Notre Dame (8-1) also saw leading rusher Josh Adams leave the game with an undisclosed injury in the first quarter. Adams did not return, but Kelly said after the game that he was just being cautious with his star runner.
Notre Dame popped up at No. 3 in the first College Football Playoff rankings released earlier in the week. After traveling to take on No. 10 Miami next week, the Irish finish the regular season against Navy and at No. 21 Stanford, which is likely to drop from the rankings after losing at Washington State on Saturday.
Wake Forest grabbed an early lead with an impressive 14-play, 82-yard drive, capped by a Mike Weaver field goal. At the time, it looked like the Demon Deacons were going to test the Irish on a gray, misty day.
But Notre Dame answered, with Wimbush finishing off a drive with a 2-yard touchdown run that put the Fighting Irish up 7-3.
Wimbush’s second rushing touchdown of the first half came on a 50-yard quarterback draw that put the Irish up 24-14 midway through the second quarter.
Notre Dame finished off the first half with a 99-yard scoring drive, with backup quarterback Ian Book hooking up with senior tight end Nic Weishar to put the Irish in front 31-14 at halftime.
With the game in hand, Book also played the fourth quarter.
Notre Dame’s 710 yards was the third-most ever allowed by Wake Forest.
The Irish had 386 yards on the ground, with Deon McIntosh and Tony Jones Jr. scoring rushing touchdowns.
“(We) couldn’t tackle them. How many scrambles did he have? How many third-and-long scrambles did he have that we couldn’t tackle?” Clawson said. “I mean, they’d run the ball. We’d get after the passer, get a little bit of a pass rush, get them flushed. Couldn’t get them on the ground. I mean, the amount of times it appears we had a stop, then couldn’t get off the field, just frustrating.
The Irish had more than 720 yards, which would have been a school record, before kneeling down and losing yardage on their final drive.
“Those don’t count,” Kelly said of the lost yardage. “I don’t know why you guys continuously add that. Can we just change that right now? Silly.”
NOTES: Notre Dame RB Josh Adams left the game in the first quarter with an undisclosed injury and did not return. He finished with 22 yards on five carries. Coach Brian Kelly said after the game that he was just being extra cautious with Adams, who had not felt well all week. … Wake Forest star WR Greg Dortch suffered an abdominal injury in last week’s upset of Louisville and underwent season-ending surgery. Dortch had a school-record four touchdown receptions against Louisville … Wake Forest also was missing RB Cade Carney and S Jessie Bates III. … Notre Dame defensive coordinator Mike Elko left Wake Forest to join the Irish after last season. … Saturday’s game was the fourth all-time meeting between Notre Dame and Wake Forest. Notre Dame has won all four games.