With Notre Dame’s 35-14 win over N.C. State on Saturday, college football pundits are going to have to start taking the Fighting Irish seriously.
One of the big reasons for that is what Notre Dame did to one of the best rush defenses in college football. That performance leads our three takeaways.
1. The Wolfpack’s defense is legit, but Notre Dame shredded it
N.C. State has one of the top defensive line prospects in all of college football in Bradley Chubb. It has a solid defensive line and a defensive backfield that flies up to defend the run.
Notre Dame was still able to run the ball on the Wolfpack. They finished the game with 318 rushing yards on 54 carries, and Josh Adams again was dominant tallying 202 yards on 27 carries that included a 77-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
The Wolfpack are still a top-10 rush defense – they allowed a mere 639 rushing yards through their first seven games – but Notre Dame’s offensive line overpowered them from the beginning.
2. This win means more to Notre Dame than the one over USC
Last week’s win over USC was huge for the Fighting Irish, as it gave Notre Dame legit national notoriety, but dominating a great N.C. State defense that made Louisville’s Lamar Jackson look average is far more impressive.
We already mentioned the numbers for the Wolfpack defensively, but N.C. State also has talent on offense and a potential NFL quarterback in Ryan Finley. After giving up 14 first-half points in the early going Saturday, the Fighting Irish shut out the Wolfpack in the second half in a smothering victory.
USC gave Notre Dame attention. The win over N.C. State proved its worth.
3. Ryan Finley has NFL tools, he just has to learn how to use them
The N.C. State quarterback came into the Wolfpack’s matchup with Notre Dame with great numbers. He had thrown 11 touchdowns to no interceptions and had 1,968 passing yards. But he threw his first interception of the season against the Fighting Irish, and the game showed the distance he has to go before he can fulfill his potential.
Finley brings to mind former Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel. The 2013 first-round pick had a powerful arm in college and was more than mobile enough to buy time. However, he often hesitated to use his arm strength in games and resorted to checkdowns rather than pushing the ball down the field.
Finley has the size, mobility and arm strength to be an NFL QB, but while he has touch on intermediate passes, he rarely gets all of his strength behind a pass. If he learns to trust his arm strength and use his size and mobility to extend plays, he could be a solid NFL signal-caller.