Notre Dame Football: Grading All 22 Starters from the Wake Forest Game

Connor KillorenSenior Analyst INovember 18, 2012

Notre Dame Football: Grading All 22 Starters from the Wake Forest Game

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    Unlike high school students who procrastinate on doing their homework, Notre Dame Fighting Irish fans should be happily awaiting this week's round of grades for the Fighting Irish. 

    Brian Kelly's squad thoroughly trounced the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, 38-0, on Saturday afternoon to improve its record to 11-0. The victory also vaulted the Irish to No. 1 in both the coaches' poll and AP poll. 

    The result was a product of sound team play, but I'll be dissecting each starter, position by position. 


Everett Golson, QB

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    Redshirt freshman quarterback Everett Golson pieced together his best performance to date against the Demon Deacons, competing 20 of his 30 pass attempts for 346 yards and three touchdowns. 

    He was also efficient in running the option, with one Irish score stemming from a pitch to Cierre Wood that Wood took 62 yards for the Irish's first touchdown of the contest.

    The lone knock on Golson was an interception on a pass that was thrown into triple coverage in the corner of the south end zone early in the second quarter.



Theo Riddick, RB

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    While Cierre Wood stole the show at running back on Saturday, Theo Riddick started the game for the Irish and had a relatively quiet afternoon. 

    Riddick carried the ball six times for 20 yards, but he showed his effectiveness in the passing game by hauling in three receptions for 58 yards, one of which was a critical 22-yard pickup on a 3rd-and-11 play in the second quarter. 


    Grade: B

T.J. Jones, WR

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    With wide receiver DaVaris Daniels unavailable on Saturday—Daniels will also miss the regular-season finale at USC—T.J. Jones made up for his absence by leading receivers with 97 receiving yards on six receptions. 

    Jones also recorded his fourth touchdown reception of the season on a 34-yard strike from Everett Golson that put the Irish ahead, 28-0. 


    Grade: A

Robby Toma, WR

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    Robby Toma, the best friend of Irish linebacker Manti Te'o, didn't make a ton of noise, but he did snag two receptions for 37 yards. 

    That's a fitting description of his career in South Bend, as Toma's numbers weren't always flashy, but he consistently did what asked of him on a weekly basis. 


    Grade: B+

John Goodman, WR

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    John Goodman, a fifth-year senior, hasn't often heard his name called over PA systems during the course of his career, but he enjoyed that moment on Saturday after finishing on the receiving end of a 50-yard touchdown strike from Everett Golson. 

    The catch was Goodman's second touchdown grab in as many weeks. 


    Grade: A-

Tyler Eifert, TE

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    It was business as usual for senior tight end Tyler Eifert against Wake Forest, as the future first-round NFL draft pick tied for the team lead in receptions, finishing the afternoon with six receptions for 85 yards and one score. 


    Grade: A

Zack Martin, LT

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    Zack Martin, who may have played the final game of his career at Notre Dame on Saturday, effectively protected quarterback Everett Golson's blind side by not allowing a sack. 

    Martin also played a penalty-free game. 


    Grade: A

Chris Watt, LG

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    Chris Watt, who also may have played his final career game against the Demon Deacons, continued his mauling of opposing defensive lines. He was a key aspect in the Irish's rushing attack that racked up 221 yards on the afternoon. 


    Grade: A

Braxston Cave, C

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    His leadership will be sorely missed, but fifth-year senior center Braxston Cave's career should be celebrated. 

    Perhaps the best center at Notre Dame since Jeff Faine in the early 2000s, Cave has been an integral part of redshirt freshman quarterback Everett Golson's development as a starter. 

    He's also been a voice of leadership along the offensive line for the past three seasons. 


    Grade: A

Mike Golic Jr., RG

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    Though Mike Golic Jr. had been abused by opposing defensive lines time and again throughout the season, Saturday was a bright spot for the fifth-year senior. 


    Grade: B+

Christian Lombard, RT

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    Christian Lombard is shaping up to be yet another dominating offensive lineman for the Irish, as displayed by his solid performance against Wake Forest. 

    The next step for Lombard will be polishing his technique and sharpening his mental skills. 


    Grade: A-

Stephon Tuitt, DE

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    Stephon Tuitt, whose alter ego is "Doc Nation," encountered no trouble from a weak Wake Forest offensive line on Saturday. 

    The 6'6", 303-pound Tuitt lived in the backfield and recorded one sack. 


    Grade: A

Louis Nix, NG

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    Louis "Irish Chocolate" Nix was back at full strength after battling flu-like symptoms during the Irish's previous two games against Pittsburgh and Boston College. 

    His ability to attract double-teams has been an underappreciated aspect of Notre Dame's staunch defensive play this season. 


    Grade: A

Kapron Lewis-Moore, DE

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    "Old Man Kap," as he's referred by on campus, shined in his final game at Notre Dame Stadium. The 6'4", 306-pound defensive end was disruptive against the run and made life difficult on the Wake Forest passing attack. 


    Grade: A-

Prince Shembo, LB

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    The key aspect to Notre Dame's defensive renaissance has been Prince Shembo's ability to set the edge. 

    Shembo has the ability to play either standing up in a three-down set, or play with his hand on the ground in a four-down set. His versatility as a pass-rusher has been invaluable this season. 


    Grade: A

Dan Fox, LB

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    Stuffing the run has been Dan Fox's specialty as a dog linebacker this season, which was more than apparent against the Demon Deacons. 


    Grade: B

Manti Te'o, LB

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    What a career for linebacker Manti Te'o. The former 5-star prospect's career has come and gone in a flash, but it will forever be remembered. 

    Te'o was all over the field on Saturday, and had a hand on seemingly every Wake Forest rush that advanced to the second level. 


    Grade: A

Danny Spond, LB

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    Danny Spond's ability to drop back in coverage as a cat linebacker in defensive coordinator Bob Diaco's defense has been tremendous this season. He has effectively covered opposing tight ends, as well as second- and third-read receivers all season. 


    Grade: B+

Bennett Jackson, CB

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    Jackson has finally come into his own as Notre Dame's top cornerback. The junior took away the big play against the Demon Deacons and was a key in limiting Wake Forest to 153 passing yards. 


    Grade: A

KeiVarae Russell, CB

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    Though he had been burned in coverage in spots this season, KeiVarae Russell played a nearly flawless game on Saturday. 

    Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco's scheme that allows the underneath routes has played to Russell's strengths and has helped avoid getting matched up in one-on-one coverage. 


    Grade: B

Matthias Farley, S

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    Farley has replaced the injured Jamoris Slaughter admirably for the better part of the 2012 season, and did so again Saturday. 

    He has played well within the scheme, taking away the big plays over the top. 


    Grade: B+

Zeke Motta, S

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    Zeke Motta's leadership role in the secondary has been vital this season and becomes increasingly important on Saturday against USC's Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. 


    Grade: A