NCF Nation: Jimmy Newman

Banged-up Irish survive at Wake

November, 6, 2011

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Jimmy Newman's 42-yard field goal sailed wide right, and Jonas Gray and Cierre Wood immediately wanted the ball.

Five-minutes, 24 seconds remained. And even though Wake Forest had all three timeouts remaining, there was not a doubt in either back's mind that the Demon Deacons' luck had run out in an eventual 24-17 loss to Notre Dame.

"Definitely, definitely," Gray said. "That was the first mindset we had. The guys were doing a great job blocking on the perimeter and inside. We knew what we had to do was run the clock out, and by doing that we had to run the ball."

Wood got the first two carries, totaling 11 yards. Gray, who made his second straight start, took it from there, rushing it five straight times for 16 yards, the final carry a third-and-1 conversion that sealed the game with 1:40 left.

The Irish had let other hosts stick around in primetime games before, and they had been bitten, most notably when they struggled in short-yardage situations late in a last-second loss at Michigan. But Gray, who has improved as much as anyone during the course of the season, said the team takes on a different mentality now.

[+] EnlargeJonas Gray
AP Photo/Chuck BurtonJonas Gray had 92 yards on 19 carries with a long run of 25.
"We welcome it," the senior said.

Gray finished with 92 yards on 19 carries -- again, ironically, hurting his yards per rush average in his chase of George Gipp's single-season school record of 8.1.

For that, he can blame a review that followed his 26-yard third-quarter rush into the end zone, as it got marked down at the 1, where he punched it in from two plays later for his ninth touchdown in the last six games.

That score tied things up at 17 after the Irish went into the half down seven, Wake Forest's offense keeping the banged-up defense on its toes with the elusive Tanner Price running the show.

Brian Kelly won his 14th straight November/December regular-season game, and his 20th in his last 22 tries. And he did it the hard way.

When a third-quarter flea-flicker resulted in a 54-yard interception return and eventually first-and-goal for Wake Forest, down seven in the third, Harrison Smith forced a fumble that was recovered by Gary Gray.

The next time the Demon Deacons got so close, Stephon Tuitt recorded a sack, Smith blew up a backfield pass for another loss and Newman missed from 42 yards.

Notre Dame played the majority of the game with Mike Golic Jr. at center instead of Braxston Cave, who left the game after the first play of the second quarter with an undisclosed injury. All-everything linebacker Manti Te'o "was playing on one leg," Kelly said, after the junior left Wake Forest's last drive of the third quarter before returning on the next series.

Defensive end Aaron Lynch had to leave the game on two separate occasions, further depleting an already depleted defensive line, and T.J. Jones somehow made it back after taking a vicious hit on an impressive six-yard grab early in the third quarter.

"We got a lot of guys banged up. A lot of guys banged up," Kelly said. "We'll give you a full report on that when I get a sense of, we got guys that are gonna be -- hey, listen, it's November, too. So there's gonna be some guys that come to practice on Tuesday not full-speed. But these guys are tough, they're gritty and they'll answer the bell."

Earlier, Kelly was less pleased with a question about Notre Dame's passing game. Tommy Rees finished the night 14-of-23 for 166 yards with two touchdowns and two picks.

"I mean is there a negative to everything? Is there a negative?" Kelly said. "We just won a football game, on the road. I mean, what kind of, really, what kind of question, what do you want me to say? What's the answer? We won 24 to 17 against a good football team, and you want to know what's wrong with the passing game. You know what's wrong with it? Um, the coach doesn't call good plays. How's that? There's nothing wrong with it. We're fine. We just won a good game."

It's the best game Notre Dame can win before Nov. 26, as it will face hapless Maryland and Boston College before traveling to what Kelly said will be "hopefully an undefeated Stanford team."

Kelly was later asked if he was looking forward to Stanford, and he made sure to not look ahead with two games left before the regular-season finale.

"No, no, we're on the right track," Kelly said. "We're not too far ahead. The guys know what they're playing for. We're playing for a consistent performance. We have a sign, I don't know if you know this, but we have a sign that says 'Play Like A Champion.' And to play like a champion you have to play consistently. You can't have spurts.

"Tonight was a great step in that direction, of playing on the road, against good competition, down at halftime, come back a couple of times -- that's resolve. That's toughness. That's gritty. We've been trying to build this and it's starting to come and you can see it. And that's why I'm proud of my guys tonight."

Final: Irish 24, Wake Forest 17

November, 5, 2011

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- That was a close one, no?

Notre Dame overcame a pair of turnovers Saturday night to escape BB&T Field with a 24-17 win over Wake Forest, making the Irish bowl-eligible at 6-3.

A couple of big defensive plays in the second half played a role in deciding this one, as Harrison Smith forced Brandon Pendergrass to fumble with Wake Forest facing second-and-goal late in the third quarter. Gary Gray recovered for the Irish.

Wake Forest received another chance to even things up in the fourth quarter, getting as close as first-and-goal from the 10. But Stephon Tuitt came up with a sack for a loss of 11, a pass in the backfield was blown up by Smith for a four-yard loss and Tanner Price overthrew on 3rd-and-goal from the 25.

Jimmy Newman then missed a 42-yard field goal attempt with 5:24 remaining, and the Irish were able to run out the clock from there.

Be sure to keep it here for postgame reaction from a close one at BB&T Field.

ACC awards tracker: Week 10

November, 1, 2011
It's tough to keep up with all of college football's major awards, so I wait until a bunch of them have been released and then compile a one-stop shopping post for you. There are still lots to come this month, so I'll update it again. Based on how many times you'll see Luke Kuechly's name mentioned, you'd think he brings home some kind of award this season. He definitely deserves it. Here's a look at your ACC semifinalists so far:

BEDNARIK AWARD. Presented to the nation's most outstanding defensive player by the Maxwell Football Club.
  • Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
  • Sean Spence, LB, Miami
BUTKUS AWARD. Presented to the nation's most outstanding linebacker by the Butkus Foundation.
  • Zach Brown, North Carolina
  • Audie Cole, NC State
  • Luke Kuechly, Boston College
  • Sean Spence, Miami
LOU GROZA AWARD. Presented to the nation's most outstanding kicker by the Palm Beach Sports Commission.
  • Chandler Catanzaro, Clemson
  • Dustin Hopkins, Florida State
  • Jimmy Newman, Wake Forest
  • Jake Wieclaw, Miami
ROTARY LOMBARDI AWARD. Presented to the nation's most outstanding down lineman by the Rotary Club of Houston.
  • Luke Kuechly, Boston College
MAXWELL AWARD. Presented to the nation's most outstanding player by the Maxwell Football Club. DAVEY O’BRIEN AWARD. Presented to the nation's best quarterback by the Davey O'Brien Foundation.
  • Tajh Boyd, Clemson
JIM THORPE AWARD. Presented to the nation's most outstanding defensive back by the Jim Thorpe Association.
  • David Amerson, CB, NC State
  • Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech
  • Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia

Checking in with Jim Grobe

April, 14, 2011
Wake Forest has its spring game at 1 p.m. on Saturday, so I caught up with coach Jim Grobe on Wednesday for an update on the Deacs' spring. Here are the highlights:

CONSISTENCY KEY: It's been a good spring for the defense, which he hasn't held back, and inconsistent for the offense. Grobe said he would like to see the offense close on Saturday with more consistency, particularly from the wide receivers. Grobe said the offense will make a good play and then follow with a busted blocking assignment, dropped pass or bad throw.

NAME YOUR PRICE: Tanner Price is the unquestioned starter, but Grobe said he liked what he saw from Ted Stachitas this spring. Stachitas eased Grobe's concerns about his durability, as he made every practice. Stachitas threw the ball better than Grobe expected he would after two shoulder surgeries on his throwing arm, and also showed he can run with it. Occasionally, Stachitas has to pull the ball down and get out of the pocket because of his size. Grobe said he's not looking for the quarterback situation to change, but option is part of the offense and would suit Stachitas better. Grobe said it wouldn’t be a problem to use Stachitas if he needed a spark for two or three series, but Price is the starter, and there's no doubt about it.

SOLID LINE: Grobe said the offensive line was "solid" this spring, and he liked what he saw from Brandon Pendergrass and Josh Harris, even though Harris missed a few practices with a hamstring injury.

SPEED ON D: One of the things Grobe was most pleased about was the energy on the defense. “That’s what’s been giving our offense problems, just the way the defense has been pursuing the football," Grobe said. "And they’re having fun. Sometimes they’re not going in the right direction, but they’re getting there in a hurry.”

KICKING CONCERNS: Punter/place-kicker Jimmy Newman sat out all spring with an injured hip, leaving the kicking game with an inconsistent walk-on. This is an issue that could extend into late summer for the Deacs. True freshman punter Alexander Kinal from Australia, and true freshman kicker Chad Hedlund from Texas could contribute as soon as they arrive on campus this summer. Grobe was told that rest this spring could be the answer, but there's no timetable for Newman's return.

LOOKING AHEAD: Grobe said he's not going to know what this team is truly capable of until Wake starts playing games. It's still a young group, but the players are all more comfortable with the system. Still, Grobe said he can tell from this spring that the Deacs are going to be a "much, much better football team."