Irish on a roll with three straight wins
In the fifth game of a season that got off to such a poor start, Notre Dame displayed the type of offense that coach Brian Kelly envisioned when he took the job.
No turnovers, a steady game from the quarterback, a run-pass balance that kept the defense guessing, an offensive line knocking tacklers to the ground and TD catches from three different receivers.
There was also an improving defense that stopped the run in a rout of Purdue. And now the Irish (3-2) go home for three straight games - starting Saturday against Air Force - with a real chance to transform their miserable beginning into something meaningful.
Quarterback Tommy Rees was 24 of 40 for 254 yards with no interceptions or fumbles. He had nine of the Irish's 15 giveaways entering the game, but was poised in the pocket and made the right throws, especially to Michael Floyd.
Floyd, looking like what he will be next season, an NFL pass catcher, had 12 more receptions for 137 yards and caught a 35-yard TD pass from Rees 24 seconds into the game, setting the tone for the lopsided victory.
"Michael Floyd is just a guy that can't be denied, whether you throw the ball 35 yards down the field or you throw it 5, it's just the individual Michael Floyd more than anything else making things happen after he catches the ball,'' Kelly said of the leading receiver in Notre Dame history.
Behind the Irish's fast and large front wall, Cierre Wood gained 191 yards on 20 carries, including a 55-yard scoring burst, and Jonas Gray added 94 more on 15 carries. Tyler Eifert and TJ Jones also caught scoring passes from Rees. Notre Dame ran up 551 yards of offense.
And Manti Te'o headed up a defense that kept the Boilermakers from establishing any kind of rushing attack.
"He might have had his best game against Purdue'' Kelly said of his star linebacker. "He was very detailed. He's never a guy that we worry about in terms of how he's going to play. But sometimes he tries to do a little too much. I thought this was his most disciplined game in the way he played it.''
Now the challenge for the Irish defense will be Air Force's option game. The Falcons edged Navy on Saturday by blocking an extra point try in overtime before scoring themselves to win.
Kelly said defensive end Ethan Johnson, who left the game early with an ankle sprain, will have it immobilized and then be rechecked midweek to determine his status for Air Force.
And long snapper Jordan Cowart broke his hand during a melee on a punt play Saturday night. His status will also be determined later in the week.
Kelly said the Irish need to step up some special team areas: snapping; longer kickoffs from freshman Kyle Brindza and more accuracy from place-kicker David Ruffer, who is only 3 for 7 this season and after going 18 for 19 a year ago.
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