October 30, 2017
By John Heisler
There may be no better way to capture the attention of the college football world than to defeat two top-15 football teams on consecutive Saturdays—and to defeat them both handily. Notre Dame did that impressively in beating both USC and North Carolina State in dominant fashion.
Here are some takeaways from Notre Dame’s sixth straight victory, this one over a 14th-rated North Carolina State team that brought its own six-game win streak to Notre Dame Stadium:
1. Nobody is playing better than Josh Adams. Two-thirds of the way through the 2017 regular season the junior Irish running back already has been productive enough that he seems to break a record or move up a national list with every on-field burst. His two-week accumulation of 393 yards—202 of those against an NC State rushing defense rated sixth in the country—has been eye-popping. No Football Bowl Subdivision player averages more yards after contact. No player has more 60-plus-yard runs. No player has gained more yards against ranked opponents.
2. The Irish quarterback numbers don’t tell the story. Brandon Wimbush’s raw numbers are only a part of the story of Notre Dame’s offensive success this fall. Against North Carolina State, for example, Wimbush completed 10 of his 19 throws for 104 yards. He carried seven times for a net of 21 yards. By themselves, those figures didn’t appear special. But he threw a pair of TD passes and he ran for a third—and there was little question which team had the signal-caller who made more game-winning plays.
3. Notre Dame’s defense is trending up. The Irish may not have anyone who will earn all-star honors on the defensive side of the football. But week after week the Notre Dame defense seems to become more effective, productive and confident. No opponent has scored more than 20 points against the unit coordinated by Mike Elko. Georgia is the lone team to account for a rushing score against the Irish in 2017—and no one else in the country can say that. On Saturday Notre Dame limited a NC State team averaging 35.4 points and 467.4 yards per game to a single offensive touchdown. The last four drives by the Wolfpack combined to produce 16 yards—and the visitors managed only four second-half first downs.
4. Irish are quick-change artists. Football coaches love to talk about sudden-change situations and flipping the field. Notre Dame has done that in a major way in 2017 based on its big-yardage plays. The Irish did that again Saturday on two monstrous individual plays in a seven-minute span of the third period—first the 69-yard Julian Love interception return followed by Adams’ 77-yard run. Notre Dame hasn’t just produced turnovers this season (18 so far), it has turned those opponent miscues into a 101-10 advantage in points scored after those turnovers.
5. The challenges ahead are not easy. Two of Notre Dame’s final four opponents are ranked in this week’s AP poll—Miami (ninth at 7-0) and Stanford (18th at 6-2). Notre Dame’s overall 2017 schedule ranks second in degree of difficulty according to the NCAA—and the remaining slate for the Irish ranks second toughest at .750 (remaining opponents are a combined 21-7), behind only South Carolina.