SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Wake Forest had no answers for No. 3 Notre Dame.
The Demon Deacons fell behind quickly by three touchdowns en route to a 38-0 loss to the Fighting Irish on Saturday.
Wake Forest fell to 1-33 all-time against teams ranked in the top 5, the lone victory coming against No. 4 Tennessee in 1946. Wake Forest could do nothing to end that streak.
“This was just a day where Notre Dame was too much for us to handle,” Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said.
The Irish (11-0) scored on the fourth play of the game on a 68-yard run by Cierre Wood, who finished with 150 yards rushing on 11 carries.
Three plays later, Wake tailback Josh Harris caught a 13-yard pass but fumbled after a hard hit by Irish linebacker Carlo Calabrese and safety Zeke Motta recovered.
Harris, Wake Forest’s leading rusher, didn’t play the rest of the game because of a head injury.
The Irish scored two more touchdowns and the rout was on. Grobe said he’d like to say the fumble gave the Irish momentum, but said Notre Dame was just too much for the Deacons (5-6).
“We just weren’t enough for them,” he said.
Nose guard Nikita Whitlock said the defense didn’t do enough to give the Deacons a chance.
“They jumped on us quick, got momentum, kept momentum rolling, and when the defense can’t stop them, it’s hard for the offense to really play hard,” he said.
Especially for an offense that has struggled all season. Tanner Price was 22 of 33 passing for 153 yards for Wake Forest with his longest pass for 16 yards. The Irish held the Demon Deacons to 55 yards rushing as Wake Forest dropped to 1-4 on the road this season.
“They were where they needed to be and they just force you to execute,” Tanner said. “Obviously we weren’t able to do that today.”
The victory reinforced Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly’s opinion that his team is the best after seeing Everett Golson throw three touchdown passes to finish the season undefeated at home for the first time since 1998 and keep its national championship hopes alive.
“I told them tonight I’m proud of them,” Kelly said. “I voted them No. 1 for a reason, because I think they’re the best team in the country. I think they played like that tonight.”
Kelly, who saw his 12-0 Cincinnati team left out of the BCS title game in 2009, said he has no doubt his 11-0 team deserves to play for the championship if they win the season finale at Southern California. That’s all he wants his players focused on, he said.
“They cannot do anything else but beat USC,” Kelly said. “The rest is up to other people to decide.”
The Irish got some help later Saturday night when Kansas State, which was atop the BCS standings last week, was upset by Baylor 52-24 and second-place Oregon lost 17-14 in overtime to Stanford.
Grobe seemed to think the Irish have as much right as anybody to be in the title game.
“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.”
After posting a 17-16 record at home the past five seasons, the Irish victory Saturday improved their record at Notre Dame Stadium to 6-0 this year.
But this was the first time they made it look easy.
The Irish needed overtime to beat Stanford, triple overtime to beat Pittsburgh and won the three other home games by a combined 13 points.
“We put it all together and played a complete game today,” left tackle Zack Martin said.
The Deacons need to win their season-finale against Vanderbilt to become bowl eligible.
“Your back’s against the wall. It’s time to grind, finally get a win, it’s time to play hard,” Whitlock said. “We need to come out and play much better on defense and put some points on the board on offense.”