Notre Dame became bowl eligible with a dominating defensive performance in the inaugural football game in Yankee Stadium Saturday night. The Irish defense led the way for the second week in a row as Notre Dame rolled to a 27-3 victory.
Here are some thoughts on the game.
- Tommy Rees wasn’t asked to do too much tonight, but what he was asked to do, he did fairly well. Outside of his first quarter interception, which was a bad throw and decision, Rees played well in his second career start. He showed nice touch on his down field passes to Tyler Eifert and at times showed some zip we hadn’t seen out of him yet.
- Brian Kelly deserves a lot of credit for having a true freshman as ready to play as Rees has been the past two weeks. Kelly has also done a great job devising a game plan that hasn’t required Rees to do to much as well.
- Tyler Eifert has his best game since taking over the injured Kyle Rudolph. He caught 4 passes for a career high 78 yards and came up about a yard shy of having 2 touchdowns in the game. Eifert also drew some praise from Mike Mayock for his blocking during the telecast.
- Cierre Wood might be the most improved player on the offensive side of the ball this year. He is making better decisions with the ball in his hands and ran with more power and authority against Army than he had all season. Wood ended up with 88 yards on just 14 carries.
- Robby Toma continues to impress and could end up playing himself into a more prominent role in the offense in 2011. The sophomore from Hawaii hauled in 4 passes for 63 yards.
- Michael Floyd had a quiet game with just 3 catches, but that had more to do with Notre Dame employing a run first attack.
- TJ Jones played sparingly leaving the Irish thin at receiver. Notre Dame will need a healthy Jones next week against USC.
- Robert Hughes had a nice game before his 4th quarter fumble which I’m sure he’ll hear about during film sessions this week.
- John Goodman appears to be at the bottom of the wide receiver rotation at this point. Even with an injured receiving corps, Goodman didn’t see much of the field other than in punt returning capacities (more on that later).
- Wow. Who saw Notre Dame completely shutting down Army’s option attack after the clinic Navy put on last month? Just a flat out dominant performance for the Irish defense for the second week in a row.
- Even Army’s first drive when they gained most of their yards, they needed 17 plays to go 78 yards and only put 3 points on the board.
- After that first drive, Army manage just 3 first downs the rest of the game.
- Army gained a meager 174 yards of offense. Heading into Saturday Army’s season low in rushing yards was 233 yards – they gained 59 fewer total yards than that this week.
- Army’s Trent Steelman completed as many passes, 2, to Notre Dame defenders as he did to his own receivers. Darrin Walls and Brian Smith both picked off Steelman with Walls scoring Notre Dame’s first defensive touchdown since Robert Blanton’s pick 6 against Purdue in 2008.
- Harrison Smith got off to a slow start, but ended up having a really good game. Notre Dame let him room free with 10 men in the box and he helped contain the pitch man well after the first drive.
- Anthony McDonald made a heck of a play in the 4th quarter when he shed a blocker, made the stop, stripped the runner, and recovered the ball, but the refs ruled the runner down even though it wasn’t even close. It won’t go down in the stat sheet, but I’m sure McDonald will get credit for it during film sessions this week.
- Gary Gray had another good game this week. The game plan this week left Gray and Walls on an island with the receiver they were covering and both responded well.
- The entire defensive line played monumentally better than they did against Navy. Sean Cwynar and Kapron Lewis-Moore especially played well.
- Since the Navy game, the Notre Dame defense has given up just 1 touchdown in 3 games. Considering where this defense was last year and even last month, that is a remarkable improvement. Props to Bob Diaco, Kerry Cooks, Mike Elston, and Chuck Martin for fixing their approach this week and having this defense playing it’s best football at the end of the season.
- David Ruffer continues to impress connecting on both of his field goal attempts including a 47 yarder. Ruffer is now 15 for 15 this season and 20 for 20 in his career.
- John Goodman had a few opportunities for some return yardage on punts, but he was shut down pretty well by Army. He has been a sure handed return man, but Notre Dame needs to start getting more yards in the return game.
- Ben Turk didn’t have to do much but he did have a 49 yard punt and 2 punts inside the 20.