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11/18/2012 12:40 AM EST
No. 3 Notre Dame stays perfect, beats Wake 38-0
NOTRE DAME 38, WAKE FOREST 0

By TOM COYNE
Associated Press

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- Notre Dame got one first-place vote in
the coaches' poll last Sunday - head coach Brian Kelly's.



He won't be the only one voting the Fighting Irish No. 1 this
week.



Against Wake Forest, the Fighting Irish reinforced Kelly's faith
in his team, then third-ranked Notre Dame got some help later
Saturday night.



Oregon and Kansas State, the two teams ahead of the Irish in the
AP and BCS rankings, each lost. Now Notre Dame will control its
own fate as it tries to capture its first national title in 24
years.



Earlier in the day, Everett Golson threw three touchdown passes
and Cierre Wood scored on a 68-yard run as the Irish beat Wake
Forest 38-0 to finish the season undefeated at home for the
first time since 1998.



"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."



The Fighting Irish were in third place in last week's BCS
standings, but likely will move up after Kansas State, which was
No. 1, lost 52-24 to Baylor and Oregon, which was in second,
lost to Stanford 17-14 in overtime.



If Notre Dame manages to beat Southern California next week, it
could wind up in a BCS title game against Alabama, now No. 4 in
those rankings. Notre Dame won the national championship in 1973
when it upset the undefeated Crimson Tide 24-23 in the Sugar
Bowl.



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 its win the season finale at
USC.



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."



Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe seemed to think the Irish have as
much right as anybody to be there.



"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."



Wood got the Irish moving with his 68-yard burst on the game's
fourth play. 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.



Golson kept the Irish going with his best passing game of the
season. He threw three touchdown passes of 50, 34 and 2 yards in
the first half.



Fourteen of his 17 first-half completions led to first downs as
the Irish opened a 31-0 halftime lead. He finished with 346
yards on 20 of 30 passing with one interception.



Wood rushed for 150 yards on 11 carries and Tyler Eifert had six
catches, giving him 130 for his career, breaking the school
record of 128 set by Ken MacAfee in 1977.



The Irish improved to 11-0 for the first time since 1989 and
need to beat USC to finish a regular season undefeated for the
first time since 1988, the last time they won the national
championship. The Demon Deacons (5-6) fell to 1-33 all-time
against top 5 teams.



The victory virtually assures the Irish of a berth in a BCS
game, even if it's not the title matchup.



Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, draped in leis after playing
his final game at Notre Dame Stadium and handing out candy to
anyone within reach, wasn't ready to make his argument that the
Irish deserve to be in the title game.



"If we don't beat USC, there is no need to say whether you
deserve it or not," he said. "You have to beat USC first. You
can ask me that question after."



The Irish dominated on both sides of the ball, outgaining the
Deacons 584 yards to 209. It was the first shutout for the Irish
since a 35-0 win over Nevada in the season-opener in 2009 and
their first shutout against a major conference team since a 42-0
victory over Rutgers in 2002.



"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," Wake Forest nose guard Nikita Whitlock
said.



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."



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.



Many Notre Dame students showed their respect by wearing yellow
leis to honor Te'o, who is from Hawaii and who has played a key
role in the Irish resurgence. Te'o, senior defensive end Kapron
Lewis-Moore and senior safety Zeke Motta left to standing
ovations with 13 minutes left.



"I wanted to make it a special moment for the seniors on
defense. They have been obviously the rock. They've carried us
while we were trying to find ourselves offensively," Kelly said.
"It just seemed to me to be a pretty good gesture to allow us to
honor those seniors."



When Notre Dame went 11-0 in 1989, the Irish were beaten by
Miami in the regular season finale and finished the season
ranked No. 2 behind the Hurricanes.



The last time the Irish headed to Los Angeles to play Southern
Cal undefeated was a year earlier, in 1988, when the squad
coached by Lou Holtz beat the second-ranked Trojans 27-10 en
route to the school's last national championship.



Te'o said that's the only focus now.



"I don't care about anything else but winning and being part of
this team," he said. "And now we have to work on USC, and
beating USC."

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