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No. 8 Irish look to get offense ‘attacking’ against Wake

September 21, 2018
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Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush, left, runs past Vanderbilt safety LaDarius Wiley during the second half of an NCAA college football game in South Bend, Ind., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. Notre Dame won 22-17. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

No. 8 Notre Dame is looking for more big plays out of its offense. Wake Forest can’t seem to stop giving them up.

The Fighting Irish hope to finally get things clicking Saturday when they visit the Demon Deacons.

Notre Dame (3-0) has yet to score more than 24 points in a game, ranks 100th nationally in total offense and is coming off a pair of closer-than-they-should’ve-been victories over Ball State and Vanderbilt.

And, to help jump-start the offense, coach Brian Kelly says two quarterbacks — dual-threat QB Brandon Wimbush and backup Ian Book — will play.

“We want to run an offense that is balanced, that attacks the defense and scores touchdowns,” Kelly said. “We’ve been fairly balanced. We haven’t attacked at all times, and we haven’t been proficient at scoring touchdowns. So we’ve got some work to do.

“What has to get better is, we’ve got to keep attacking and we’ve got to score touchdowns,” he added. “That’s been lacking. And for us to have the kind of success on offense (that the Irish want), that’s what we’ve got to get better at.”

Maybe facing the Demon Deacons (2-1) is what they need.

Wake Forest has yet to allow a Bowl Subdivision opponent to reach the red zone — in large part because those teams are scoring before they advance that far.

The Demon Deacons have allowed eight touchdowns covering 20 or more yards this season, including six of them last week against Boston College — five of which were long touchdown passes from BC quarterback Anthony Brown, who puzzled them all night with play-action passing.

Not surprisingly, plugging those holes has been a priority in the week-plus since that game, and coach Dave Clawson says he’s taking it upon himself to correct some of those issues.

“I’m not going to go over there in three days and wave a magic wand,” Clawson said. “To me, it’s more emphasis that this is clearly an area that needs to be fixed. It hasn’t gotten better from Week 1 to Week 3, and we have a lot of football left. It has to get better. ... We’re past the point of saying it’s going to get better with time. I need to know what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and who we’re doing it with to make sure that things follow through and improve.”

PASSING IRISH

The issues for the Irish start with the passing game, where Wimbush has been more impressive rushing the ball than throwing it. Clawson called “a freak of an athlete” who “could probably be their best tailback, if they played him there.” But Wimbush has just one touchdown pass and four interceptions, after finishing last season with 16 TDs and was picked off six times. Book, meanwhile, has played sparingly and only in red-zone situations this season, completing all three of his passes for 13 yards and a touchdown but did lead Notre Dame’s rally for a victory over LSU in the Citrus Bowl.

RUNNING WILD

Notre Dame is coming off its best rushing day of the season, a 245-yard outing against the Commodores. Tony Jones Jr., who shares the job with Jafar Armstrong and made his first college start, finished with his first 100-yard performance. The Demon Deacons count their run game as a strength, too, with two players — Matt Colburn and Cade Carney — each reaching the 100-yard mark against Boston College.

WELCOME BACK

Notre Dame defensive coordinator Clark Lea was on Clawson’s staff at Wake Forest in 2016. He followed Mike Elko to South Bend after that season, coached the Irish’s linebackers in 2017 and was promoted to the coordinator’s job after Elko jumped to Texas A&M.

HINTON’S BACK, TOO

Wake Forest will have Kendall Hinton in the mix after the quarterback served a three-game suspension for violating team rules. He’s listed as the backup to freshman Sam Hartman, who won the job during preseason camp and has done nothing to lose it. His average of 298 yards passing ranks second in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Hinton worked some at receiver during camp. “We’re aware of Kendall Hinton and what he can do,” Kelly said. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the game in some fashion.”

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AP freelancer John Fineran in South Bend, Indiana, contributed to this report.

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