While the hopes of playing for a national championship evaporated weeks ago, No. 19 Notre Dame still believes it has plenty to play for on Saturday afternoon against visiting Wake Forest at South Bend, Ind.
“We have a shot to send the seniors out the right way,” Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman said in advance of the final home game of the season. “That’s our motivation. We know Wake Forest will be motivated. This team will be ready to go. They will come in knowing they have to win to become bowl eligible. We know we have a challenge in front of us.”
The challenge not only will come from Wake Forest, but also replacing several key players who are sidelined with injuries.
Notre Dame (7-3) most recently lost players on the offensive line during a 31-23 loss at Clemson on Saturday.
Rocco Spindler went down with a knee injury and the right guard is out for the season. Starting center Zeke Correll is in concussion protocol and his backup, Andrew Kristofic, went down with a high ankle sprain.
Billy Schrauth is expected to start at guard against Wake Forest and Ashton Craig will remain at center after finishing Saturday’s game.
“Ashton Craig did a really good job filling in at the center position,” Freeman said. “I was really impressed with what he did.”
The Fighting Irish lost safety Luke Talich to a broken collarbone during practice last week, while wide receivers Deion Colzie, Jayden Thomas and Matt Salerno remain sidelined.
Complicating things even more for Notre Dame is the slow mesh offensive system that the Demon Deacons run, a complicated system of run-pass options that can leave a defense spinning.
“How do you defend it?” Freeman said. “Linebackers attack and then create open areas behind you. They are really good to answer when you react to their system. It’s not the triple option, but it’s a system and they have answers. We have to be aggressive though and that is important.”
Wake Forest (4-6) got off to a promising 3-0 start but has dropped six of its last seven games. The Demon Deacons most recently fell to visiting North Carolina State, 26-6 on Saturday.
“It was not even a competitive football game,” Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said. “It’s on me. It’s Game 10 and to show up like that is very disappointing.”
Wake Forest switched quarterbacks in the second quarter last week and Michael Kern led the Demon Deacons to their only touchdown, but he was then picked off on the two-point try and that was returned for two points the other way.
The rushing attack was even more shackled, as Wake Forest combined for seven net yards on 18 carries.
“On offense, right now, we’re broken,” Clawson said. “This isn’t anything like the offense that was put out there the last six years. I should have had us in a better spot with some of the personnel losses we had. We’re not getting the most out of these guys. I think we have good players, but they’re not playing well and it all boils down to coaching.”
–Field Level Media
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