Notre Dame met the Air Force Falcons on Saturday, the 30th meeting between the two teams in the last fifty years, most of them ending in a similar outcome, a Notre Dame victory. And this meeting was no different. While the results of this series may be lopsided, a program like Air Force built on service and honor always has a chance. The 2013 Falcon squad, however, was no match up for Notre Dame’s impressive offensive showing.
Coming into the game there was some talk that the altitude and oxygen level would hinder the Irish performance but there were no such issues.
Tommy Rees opened the game with big passes to Troy Niklas (11 yards) and TJ Jones (11 yards). Jones currently is the leading receiver for the Irish and now has receptions in 35 consecutive games. Notre Dame put together an impressive initial offensive drive but was eventually stalled by the Falcons and then had an unsuccessful field goal attempt which was blocked by the Falcons. At this point it looked as though it was going to be a long day for the Irish.
When your offense gets the ball first and fails to score your coaching staff needs to quickly readjust their strategy and regroup. After watching the Air Force offense take over, march down the field and score on their first drive, the Notre Dame offense came out determined and ready to show Notre Dame nation what in their core.
After an Air Force penalty which aided the second Irish drive Tommy Rees, under pressure from the Falcon defense, quickly released a touchdown bomb to Corey Robinson. The 6’4” Robison had no problem going up and grabbing Rees’ pass which was perfectly placed in the end zone. This pass was Tommy’s 16th touchdown pass of the season. The Irish very quickly answered the Falcon’s first touchdown with this very quick five play drive. This was the first collegiate touchdown for Robinson out of San Antonio, Texas.
The Falcons could not answer this Irish touchdown on their next drive and so the Irish got right back to work on offense. DaVaris Daniels had a big catch early on in the drive and George Atkinson III started to get his running legs tuned up. At the end of the first quarter the Irish and the Falcons were tied 7 -7.
To start the second quarter Rees came out all guns firing with a big pass to Jones, and then on the very next play a huge bomb to William Fuller for the second Irish touchdown of the game, Fuller’s first collegiate score. The Irish may have had a slow start, but nothing seemed to be stopping them as they scored their second touchdown of the game. Early in the second quarter Rees was already 11 for 13 in pass completions for 166 yards and two touchdowns. Notre Dame’s second scoring drive consisted of 6 plays, for 91 yards consuming only 2:18 off the clock. Fuller’s touchdown reception was 54 yards.
After an Air Force field goal the Irish offense returned to the field and literally hit the ground running. The possession began with an Atkinson 38 yard return giving the Irish great field position. Moving down the field Daniels caught a 28 yard pass to get the Irish down to the 21 yard line. This pass play was followed by a Tommy Rees touchdown pass to Ben Koyack. Rees was having a brilliant day, lighting up the Air Force defense. At this point Rees had completed 12 out of 15 passes for 215 yards. With this touchdown Rees tied Ron Powlus on the all-time Notre Dame passing list and the Irish went up 21-10.
Yet again the Air Force offense had no response and the Irish got the ball back. The ridiculously photogenic Cam McDaniel took the ball first and got nine and a half yards on the first possession of this drive. Amir Carlisle then came in and pounded out the first down. This drive was not as electric as the previous drives had been and on 4th and 5 the Irish decided to go for it and not punt the ball. The gamble paid off for the Irish as Rees hits Troy Niklas for a nine yard gain and the first down. Tommy Rees had a few bumps in this drive, holding on to the ball at one point and ending up with a sack, but they still converted the drive into three more points on the board for the Irish with a Kyle Brindza field goal. This increased the Irish lead to 24-10.
During the game they flashed up Lou Holtz’s “How We Win” philosophy and once again we are reminded why we love Dr Lou so much.
- Out hit
- Seven Areas: Turnovers, Big Plays, Missed Assignments, 3rd Downs, Foolish Penalties, Kicking Game, Red Zone
- Don’t Flinch
Okay, I digress; back to the offense. At the end of the first half Tommy had 224 yard passing and at one point he had eight straight completions and three touchdowns. A fantastic first half appearance for Tommy Rees. (First half stats. Tommy Rees: 14/19, 224 yds, 3 TD, TJ Jones: 3 receptions for 59 yards.)
The Falcons began the second half with the ball but on their first drive the Air Force quarterback Nate Romine turned over the ball and the Notre Dame offense continued what they started in the first half. The drive began with several Cam McDaniel rushes and then Rees aired out a long ball to TJ Jones (30 yards) which was caught in the end zone for yet another Notre Dame touchdown. It was a beautiful pass that Rees perfectly dropped into the corner of the end zone. Notre Dame successfully capitalized off the Air Force turnover and went up 31-10 in the third quarter.
Another unanswered possession by the Falcons gave the ball back to the Irish once again. Tommy Rees continued his mix of throwing the ball to his Irish receivers for big receptions as well as adding another component to the Irish running game with running back Tarean Folston. The drive culminated with yet another touchdown pass, this time to Chris Brown, Tommy Rees’ fifth touchdown of the game. (A career record for Rees.) This was Chris Brown’s first touchdown of the season and Notre Dame increased their lead to 38-10.
With a four touchdown lead the Irish brought in Andrew Hendrix to get him some more playing experience. On his first complete drive, the Irish took over possession at mid field. His first pass of the drive was a 46 yard long ball to William Fuller. What a great confidence booster for Hendrix! On the next play he keeps the ball and runs it in himself for the Irish touchdown. His first rushing touchdown of the season and the Irish moved to 44-10 over the Air Force Falcons. After a successful extra point the Fighting Irish move to a 45-10 lead which would be the final score of the game.
The Irish offense was dominating over the Falcons on Saturday. The statistics are quite impressive I must say. Here are a few notable statistics:
- A school-record five different Notre Dame players (Corey Robinson, William Fuller, Ben Koyack, TJ Jones and Chris Brown) caught a touchdown pass today.
- Notre Dame’s 45 points today are its most since scoring 50 against Navy to open the 2012 season in Dublin.
- Today’s game was the first time that multiple ND freshmen (Robinson and Fuller) caught touchdown passes in the same game since Sept. 29, 2007 when Golden Tate and Duval Kamara caught touchdowns vs. Purdue.
- The Irish did not turn the ball over today, improving to 13-0 under Brian Kelly in that scenario. ND has won all 13 of those games. It is the second time that Notre Dame has not turned the ball over this season, joining the season opener against Temple.
- Eight different ND players caught a pass today, matching the squad’s season high.
- Rees set a career high with five touchdown passes. He previously threw four against Air Force in 2011 and Tulsa in 2010.
This was a great confidence booster for many of the young players on this Irish squad. I see a repeat of this next week versus Navy which gives the Irish a chance to continue to fine tune their craft on their journey to some tough games on the horizon (BYU and Stanford are worrisome in my eyes.)
What say you? Did this offensive performance give us false hopes for the rest of this season or is this team really starting to gel and work together?