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Ben Smith

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Associated Press
Notre Dame running back Cierre Wood runs past Wake Forest’s Justin Jackson in the first half Saturday in South Bend.

Soft foe roasted in home finale

– So here was your odd meteorological event of the day, as halftime arrived Saturday in Rockne’s joint: A Stay Puft Marshmallow Man blizzard.

Down there in the grandstand, in the corner beneath Touchdown Jesus and along the home sideline, tiny chunks of sugar and air were crisscrossing the cool November air in furious squalls, as Notre Dame rumbled off the field with Wake Forest in its hip pocket. Flinging marshmallows around is a Senior Day tradition here, apparently. But on this Senior Day, there was a special symmetry to it.

White marshmallows fluttering on the home side of the field. White flags fluttering on Wake Forest’s.

After all the close calls this year, here at last was a pure shearing for the Irish, with Wake Forest done like dinner from the moment Cierre Wood jetted 68 yards on the game’s fourth play. And if the Irish, 11-0 now and No. 3 in the BCS, will tell you style points aren’t in style in these parts … well, they’ll take ’em.

The final was 38-0 but felt more like 70-0, given everything. Wood ran for 150 yards on just 11 carries. Everett Golson threw for 317 yards and three touchdowns in the first half alone. And the defense ground all the tread off the Demon Deacons, limiting Wake to nine first downs, 55 yards rushing and just 209 yards in all.

“Everything was working,” linebacker Danny Spond said.

“We saved our best for the last home game,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly concurred.

Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe wasn’t about to argue.

“This was just a day where Notre Dame was too much for us to handle,” he said.

So does that mean they belong in the BCS title game, should they go out to the coast next week and put the boots to USC?

“Yeah, no question about it, but maybe there a couple others that should be, too,” Grobe replied. “That is kind of the deal right now. I can’t imagine anybody, from what I saw today, playing better than Notre Dame. But I think there are some other really, really good teams.”

So maybe it’s been the right way to go, eschewing style and simply doing whatever was necessary to stack W’s.

“You know, it’s definitely nice to go out like that, especially at home and a big shutout like that. But for us, our main goal was just to get the win,” Spond says.

And so maybe beating Wake Forest like a rented mule will make the BCS computers’ microchips flutter, and maybe it won’t. In the end, all that really matters at this point is that only 7-4 USC – a 38-28 loser to UCLA on Saturday – stands between Notre Dame and its first unbeaten regular season since the national title year of 1988.

“We’ve got to take care of USC before we can be talking about what to do,” is how Manti Te’o put it. “We’ve got one more game to go. If we don’t beat USC, there is no need to say whether you deserve (to play for the national title) or not. You have to beat USC first.”

Music to Kelly’s ears.

“We have one game left on our schedule,” he said Saturday night. “Our guys know what’s at stake now. This is about an undefeated season. They cannot do anything but beat USC. The rest is up to other people to decide.”

Blowout or no blowout. Thirty-eight zip, or 7-zip.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.

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