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Irish Insights

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Notebook: Notre Dame dominates in home finale

Notre Dame's 38-0 victory over Wake Forest on Saturday was as dominant as the Irish have been all season.

Notre Dame outgained Wake Forest (5-6) 584-209, limited the Demon Deacons to nine first downs and recorded its first shutout since opening the 2009 season by beating Nevada 35-0.

And Irish coach Brian Kelly said he thinks his team is doing more than enough to earn a shot to play for the national title.

"I told them tonight I'm proud of them," Kelly said. "I voted them No. 1 (in the coaches poll) for a reason, because I think they're the best team in the country. I think they played like that tonight."

Another game like Saturday's when the No. 3 Irish travel to USC to close the season next week may not get them into the title game without a loss by either Oregon or Kansas State, but Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said the Irish deserve a chance to win the championship trophy.

"No question about it. But maybe a couple of others should be, too. That's kind of the deal right now," Grobe said. "I can't imagine anybody from what I saw today playing any better than Notre Dame. But I think there are some other really, really good teams. They impressed me today. I think there as good as any team in the country."

The impressive defensive numbers are nothing new to the No. 3 Irish, who will hold the top spot in scoring defense all by itself Sunday.

What made Saturday's victory, which moved Notre Dame to 11-0 for the first time since 1989, was the offense.

Notre Dame's 21 first-quarter points were more points than it had scored in four previous home wins, and the 38-point total was more points the Irish had scored at home all year and that includes a game that went into overtime (Stanford, a 10-13 win Oct. 13) and another that went to triple-overtime (Pittsburgh, a 29-26 win Nov. 3).

"It took us a long time, but we have finally established ourselves and what we can do," receiver John Goodman, a former Bishop Dwenger standout, said. "Now everybody just has complete and total confidence. It is nice that it has finally showed at this time in the season because we're 11-0 and we still have a big game left the one after that."

The Irish got rolling on offense right from the start as running back Cierre Wood sprinted 68 yards for a touchdown on the game's fourth play.

Wood's season-long offensive play was followed by touchdowns by two Dwenger alums.

Tight end Tyler Eifert hauled in a 2-yard fade pass for a touchdown with 9:10 left in the first, and Goodman added his third touchdown of the season with a 50-yard catch for a 21-0 lead with 4:28 to play in the opening quarter.

The Irish added a 34-yard touchdown catch from a wide open TJ Jones and a 25-yard field goal from Kyle Brindza in the second quarter as they built a 31-0 lead.

George Atkinson III added a 9-yard touchdown run in the fourth to cap the scoring.

"We started fast and executed on offense," Jones said. "It showed us this is where we can take our game."

Conference hopping

During Notre Dame's victory over Wake Forest, reported that Maryland and Rutgers are in serious discussions to join the Big Ten.

Maryland, which plays in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and Rutgers, a Big East school, would boost the Big Ten's membership to 14.

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said if Maryland and Rutgers join the Big Ten it would have no impact on the Irish's plans to move all of their sports except football and hockey to the ACC from the Big East.

"It has absolutely zero impact," Swarbrick said after Saturday's game. "It wouldn't change anything about our decision-making process. If we were going to engage in (an ACC move) again today, it wouldn't change it at all."

Swarbrick said he wasn't surprised that the two programs were looking to join the Big Ten, but he was surprised about the timing of the news coming out. He did speculate that television deals could be moving the process along.

"I really don't have any facts," Swarbrick said. "I must say, part of what makes me think it may be true is the acquisition of YES earlier in the week by Fox. It feels like all of that may tie together, if you're gonna go east. Don't know that. I have no information. But when I heard the rumor, that was one reaction I had to it: Hmm, wonder if those things are related.

"If this occurs, this particular outcome does not come as a surprise."

Tribute to Te'o

Notre Dame's student section made sure senior linebacker Manti Te'o knew how much he means to them during the home finale.

The students wore neon yellow leis to honor Te'o and twirled them over their heads feverishly when he was introduced last when the seniors were honored before the game.

The fans got a second chance to let Te'o and his fellow senior defensive players – Kapron Lewis-Moore, a defensive end, and Zeke Motta, a safety – know how much they appreciate them when Kelly called a timeout early in the fourth quarter to let those players take a bow as they left the game.

"Just Magic," Te'o said of that moment. "Like everything's come full circle, just very grateful. For coach to do that, he could have easily taken us out and not even put us on the field. But it was a TV timeout, and he said I'm going to send you guys out there, and then I'm going to call a timeout, and one by one I'm going to sub you guys out. So that's the type of coach that Coach Kelly is. I'm just very lucky to play for him."

Elite Eifert

Eifert took over the top spot for receptions by a Notre Dame tight end Saturday.

The Dwenger grad caught six passes for 85 yards against Wake Forest.

The six receptions gave Eifert 130 for his career and moved him past Ken MacAfee on the Irish's all-time list. Eifert also only trails MacAfee by 49 yards (1,759-1,710) for the most receiving yards by a tight end in school history.

Eifert's performance also caught the eye of Grobe.

"What we find so often in tight ends is they're one or the other. They're big guys, really good blockers, or they're undersized guys that can run and catch a football. He's the perfect combination," Grobe said. "He's a good blocker. He did some good stuff in the run game, very athletic, and has some great hands.

"A couple of times tonight they had really, really good coverage. They just went up and took the ball away from us. A great player, and one of the few tight ends that I've seen that has the ability he's got to not only block but kept the football. Really, really fine receiver."