Sunday, October 2, 2011
Offense clicks for Irish in rout
By Matt Fortuna
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- In a makeshift media room a football's throw away from the same Ross-Ade Stadium field he just watched his team demolish Purdue on, Brian Kelly was finishing off his opening statement when screams, roars and general excitement began emanating from the nearby Notre Dame locker room.
"You can see they're pretty happy about the way they played," the Fighting Irish coach explained.
What's not to love for Notre Dame fans about a 38-10 thrashing that, for at least one night, validated the early preseason expectations of Year 2 of the Kelly era?
His spread offense looked every bit as high powered as many initially expected, totaling 551 yards. The quarterback he has stood behind through a rocky three-and-a-half games impressed, completing 24 of 40 passes for 254 yards and three touchdowns.
Tommy Rees threw three touchdown passes in the rout of Purdue.
The wide receiver he insisted would not be kept under wraps after a rough showing at Pitt amassed 137 yards on 12 catches, none more important than his 35-yard grab on a beautiful play-action fake by Tommy Rees on Notre Dame's second play from scrimmage, making it 7-0 24 seconds into action.
"On the road it's really important," Kelly said of Michael Floyd's early touchdown. "You wanna take the crowd out of it, you wanna be able to put the first one on the board and kind of dictate the tempo of the game, and we did that at Michigan as well, we just didn't finish. It was very similar in the way we really started well [and we] built on that.
"The difference between the two games is we finished this one in the third quarter, is really where we finished it. We deferred, got the ball in the third quarter, had a great opening drive. I think dominating the third quarter really put us in a great position."
Rees completed 9 of 11 passes in the third quarter, ending both of the Irish's drives with touchdown passes. Notre Dame punted on just one of Rees' nine drives at quarterback (excluding his knee to end the first half).
And, more importantly, Rees, and the Irish, did not turn the ball over a single time; this after entering the night with an FBS-worst 15 giveaways.
"I don't know that that is a sigh of relief as much as we have a way that we need to play the game if we're gonna be successful, and we've said that from Day 1," Kelly said. "We're making good decisions, we ran hard. I thought physically our backs, both Jonas Gray and Cierre Wood, really exerted their will on Purdue today, and playing that way physically gives them a confidence that there's no reason why the ball should be on the ground."
No kidding. Notre Dame averaged a ridiculous 7.2 yards per rush, bursting through holes on the left side all night that Kelly, three weeks shy of his 50th birthday, could have probably run through himself.
Wood finished with 191 yards and a touchdown. Gray rushed for 94 yards and a score.
Asked if the backs or linemen were more excited breaking out of each huddle, Gray said: "Offensive line, definitely. You got five against two, they wanted to run it every play."
Tough to blame the group. Hit hard, hit early, leave no doubt. The Irish, above .500 for the first time this season, finally put on the performance they expected all along.