Chicago Colleges: Josh Bush

Weekend rewind: Notre Dame

November, 7, 2011
Here's a look at the weekend that was for the Irish in their first-ever trip to Winston-Salem, N.C.:

The Good: Notre Dame overcame a seven-point halftime deficit to beat Wake Forest 24-17. The Irish became bowl eligible and won their first-ever game under Brian Kelly after trailing at halftime. Jonas Gray and Cierre Wood combined for 179 yards on the ground and the Irish defense stifled Wake Forest's offense during the final 30 minutes.

[+] EnlargeJonas Gray
Matt Cashore/US PresswireJonas Gray added a touchdown to go with his 92 rushing yards against Wake Forest.
The Bad: Notre Dame turned the ball over twice, most notably when Josh Bush intercepted a Tommy Rees pass off a flea flicker and returned it 54 yards, putting the Demon Deacons in position to tie the game. Ultimately, it went for naught.

The Ugly: Braxston Cave left after the first play of the second quarter with a mid-foot sprain. Manti Te'o missed Wake Forest's final drive of the third quarter because of an ankle injury before re-entering the next series. Aaron Lynch left the game twice and has a lateral sprain. And, in the truly ugly department, T.J. Jones took a big hit and had a rough landing on a 6-yard catch in the third quarter, though, amazingly, he re-entered the game and is apparently doing better than his other three injured teammates.

Turning point: Wake Forest was knocking on the door, down seven in the third with a second-and-goal following a huge interception return. Then Harrison Smith jarred the ball loose from Brandon Pendergrass and Gary Gray pounced on it, and the Irish came up with a huge turnover, stopping the Demon Deacons on what would be their best chance at tying the game in the second half.

Call of the day: Going into nickel packages for a majority of the second half paid huge dividends for the Notre Dame defense, which did not allow a second-half point after giving up 17 in the first half. Jamoris Slaughter played the hybrid role for the Irish, replacing drop linebacker Prince Shembo.

Next up: Notre Dame plays Maryland in what is technically an Irish home game at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. The Terrapins, in their first year under coach Randy Edsall, are an abysmal 2-7 this season, and just 1-5 in ACC play. They also have a way with uniforms.

What we learned about Notre Dame: Week 10

November, 6, 2011
1. Third quarters belong to the Irish: Notre Dame has outscored its opponents in the third quarter this season by a 63-13 count. The Irish scored touchdowns on their first two drives to open the second half Saturday night, propelling them to a 24-17 victory. Seven of those 13 points they surrendered, by the way, came on USC's fumble return for a touchdown two weeks ago.

2. Sudden-change defense is still great: This has gotten lost as Notre Dame has slowly cut down on its turnover plague from early in the season, but the Irish defense sure knows how to respond when its back is against the wall. Following Josh Bush's interception return and the first-and-goal Wake Forest faced shortly afterward, Harrison Smith came up with a huge forced fumble that Gary Gray recovered, turning the momentum as it looked like the Demon Deacons were set to tie the game.

3. Second-half adjustments on D proves vital: The nickel packages used in the third and fourth quarter, which featured safety Jamoris Slaughter in a hybrid-like role, played a big part in slowing down Wake Forest's offense, particularly its short passing game. The Irish defense pitched a shutout over the final 30 minutes after giving up 17 first-half points.

4. D-line doing all it can: Hats off to Stephon Tuitt, who became the linchpin of the line for much of Saturday night. Aaron Lynch was hobbled, and the team was already without ends Ethan Johnson and Kapron Lewis-Moore again. Tuitt, the freshman, had a huge first-and-goal sack for a loss of 11 on Wake Forest's final drive, and he was big against the run as well.

End of third: Irish 24, Wake Forest 17

November, 5, 2011
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — If we could sum up Notre Dame's season in 15 minutes, the third quarter of tonight's game would do the trick.

The Irish offense looked flawless on its first two drives, resulting in Jonas Gray and Michael Floyd touchdowns to give them their current 24-17 lead. But it could have been more.

And it could have been worse.

Tommy Rees and Gray ran a flea flicker that resulted in a Josh Bush interception, returned 54 yards and punctuated by a flat-out awful roughness call on Zack Martin, who simply tackled Bush out of bounds. That had Notre Dame's staff irate, but three plays later Harrison Smith changed everyone's mood by forcing a fumble that was recovered by Gary Gray.

Wake Forest got the ball back and will face a third-and-19 in Notre Dame territory to start the fourth quarter, and this may be its best shot at evening the score.

Unless, of course, the Irish commit another turnover ...