Notre Dame secured bowl eligibility with its first resounding victory of the season, a 45-10 dismantling of Air Force. The Irish were shorthanded with Louis Nix and Christian Lombard out but the next men in stepped up admirably. Tommy Rees played by far his best game of the season and the Irish defense showed they can defend the option. The Irish freshman also had strong showings on both sides of the ball outlining the depth Brian Kelly is building. The following players were especially impressive in the Irish victory:
Tommy Rees: Irish quarterback Tommy Rees had a career day versus the Falcons. Ress went 17-22 through the air for 284 yards and five touchdowns. The Illinois native recognized he had matchup advantages all over the field and spent the game taking advantage of that while breaking records and recording first’s in Notre Dame history left and right. Rees is starting to find his form and with weapons emerging every week the Irish quarterback could put up similar numbers next week.
TJ Jones: Notre Dame captain and number one receiver T.J. Jones had yet another big day. Jones had seven receptions for 104 yards and a touchdown. Jones like every other receiver that played for the Irish enjoyed success and bullied the Air Force corners every down. The Georgia continues to play well every week and show he is the class of the Notre Dame receivers and one of the best route runners in the nation.
Jaylon Smith: Freshman standout Jaylon Smith continues to get better and better each week. Smith made positional mistakes early against the option but quickly fixed the problem and went on to dominate the Falcons attack. Smith had a team-high eight tackles as well as a fumble recovery. Smith also had some big hits and showed pure athleticism that can take over a game. The young linebacker also looked good in limited pass coverage opportunities.
KeiVarae Russell: Irish corner KeiVarae Russell played a very strong game versus Air Force. An option offense puts a lot of stress on corners to come up and make tackles in the run game while also staying honest in coverage responsibilities, something Russell did a great job of. The sophomore had six tackles, all of which solo. He also had a couple solid hits and a fumble recovery that killed some Air Force momentum.