Oct. 13, 2012
Notre Dame 20, Stanford 13
The defense again is the story as No. 7 Notre Dame goes to 6-0 with an overtime win at home over the Cardinal (4-2).
A wall of defenders stops Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor inches shy of the end zone to preserve the win after Rees — again coming off the bench in relief of Golson — connects with T.J. Jones on a 7-yard TD to put the Irish up 20-13 in the extra period.
For Kelly, the difference in the game comes down to the Irish’s ability to control the line of scrimmage and matching the Cardinal line’s physicality.
“When you’re talking to your team all week about a heavyweight match, you can’t keep taking body blows,” Kelly said. “You have to stand in there, and sooner or later, you’ve got to be the one to deliver them.”
Oct. 20, 2012
Notre Dame 17, BYU 14
Once again, the Irish find a running game, and this time it comes against the No. 3 rushing defense in the country.
Senior Theo Riddick — the Irish’s smallest running back at 5-11, 200 pounds — rushes for a career high 143 yards, part of a 270-yard rushing effort by Notre Dame that also includes 114 yards from Atkinson.
Riddick’s day includes runs of 55 and 27 yards — the longest of his career.
“Just run and run until you can’t no more,” Riddick said. “And I got a little gassed at the end.”
Rees gets the start in place of an injured Golson and completes 6-of-7 passes for 86 yards and a TD on the opening drive, but struggles the rest of the afternoon, finishing 8-of-17 for 119 yards and a pick.
Oct. 27, 2012
Notre Dame 30, Oklahoma 13
In another big win on the road over a marquee opponent, the No. 5 Irish travel to Norman, Oklahoma and returning with a convincing victory over the No. 8 Sooners.
The Irish, despite being ranked higher than the Sooners, feel like the underdogs in Norman.
“What we’d been hearing was a lot of people didn’t think we could win this game,” said Golson, who returned after sitting out the BYU win with a concussion. “That just kind of added that fuel to the fire that was already burning.”
Golson throws for 177 yards and runs for the decisive 1-yard score in the fourth quarter.