By DAVID VANTRESS firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — SOUTH BEND — Despite a 5-2 record coming into Saturday’s game on the road at Air Force, Notre Dame had not really experienced the kind of blowout win that enables backups and younger players to see significant game action.
That happened against the Falcons, as Notre Dame won, 45-10 to improve to 6-2 on the season. The Irish moved into the USA TODAY/Coaches poll at No. 25 and just missed the AP poll.
Irish head coach Brian Kelly said on Sunday that he would have preferred to have this kind of game earlier in the season. But he will take it now
“We were able to take a load off some of our veterans and look at some younger players,” Kelly said.
And in the eighth game of the season, getting some rest for veterans is a good thing, Kelly said. For example, senior safety Mathias Farley already had nearly 1,000 snaps entering the Air Force game.
Notre Dame again got mixed performances out of its cadre of running backs:
The Irish had no rushing TDs on the day from their running backs. The only rushing score against Air Force came on a 4-yard run by backup QB Andrew Hendrix.
Cam McDaniel had 10 carries for 61 yards and Tarean Folston added 11 rushes for 52 yards.
George Atkinson III and Amir Carlisle were non-factors with six carries for 19 yards and three carries for four yards respectively
Kelly said he and his staff are still looking for one of those guys to break out of the pack.
“We’ll continue to get as much out of each player as possible and maximize the talents of each player,” Kelly said. “If a guy gets hot, we’ll ride him through November.”
The Irish did not need an overwhelming running game on Saturday against Air Force: Senior quarterback Tommy Rees was 17-of-22 for 284 yards and five TDs.
And additionally – no interceptions. Eight different Irish players caught a pass against Air Force, matching the team’s season high. Five different players also caught a TD pass.
The Irish also did not lose any fumbles on the day and improved to 13-0 under Kelly when they have no turnovers. It was the second turnover-free game by Notre Dame this season.
On the injury front, Kelly said defensive end Louis Nix is questionable for next week’s game against Navy, with a sore knee and tendinitis.
Notre Dame’s 45 points against the Falcons are its most since scoring 50 against Navy to open the 2012 season in Dublin. … Rees garnered his 20th win as a Notre Dame starter, moving him into a tie for ninth all-time with Johnny Lujack and Joe Theismann … Notre Dame improved to 24-6 all-time against Air Force and 13-2 at Falcon Stadium. The Irish have won 13 of the last 15 meetings and the last seven in a row at Falcon Stadium. … The Irish improved to 135-26-5 all-time against service academies. … TJ Jones recorded a catch in his 35th consecutive game for the Irish. Including the Air Force game, Jones has had multiple catches in 31 of those 35 contests.