Around this time last year, Notre Dame fans were scared of the prospect of Tommy Rees starting a game in place of the injured Everett Golson. Fast forward a year and Notre Dame fans across the country can breathe a giant sigh of relief that that same Tommy Rees is going to be starting for the Irish this weekend after missing most of the second half last weekend against USC.
When Golson was knocked out against Stanford last year, Tommy Rees stepped in a delivered the game winner in overtime but Notre Dame fans were still a bit worried about him starting the following weekend against BYU when the Cougars came to town. This year the idea of Rees not starting as the Irish travel to Colorado Springs this weekend on the heels of 14-10 win over USC, had fans even more worried.
Notre Dame fans can rest easy though, since according to the man himself, Rees will be starting this weekend as the Irish look to pick up their 6th win of the season against BYU.
Without Tommy Rees under, or behind center, against USC, Notre Dame managed just one first down behind the arm and legs of Andrew Hendrix. Hendrix failed to complete a pass against the Trojans and without the threat of a passing game, USC crowded the line and shut down an Irish ground game that was picking up some big chunk plays in the first half.
Notre Dame’s offense will face a defense that is statistically one of the worst in the country in Air Force. The Falcons are giving up 488.7 yards a game at a rate of 6.29 yards a play. Air Force doesn’t stack up much better in scoring defense coming in a 113th in the country while surrendering 37.6 points a game most of which have come via touchdowns. The Falcons have given up 37 touchdowns and just two field goals all season.
With Rees starting for the Irish, Notre Dame shouldn’t have much trouble offensively. Without him? Things could be a bit more interesting. In fact, it’s no surprise that there wasn’t a line on this game in Vegas until news broke that Rees would start. That line? 19.5 points. Given how poor Hendrix performed last week, that kind of line suggests that Vegas believes Rees.
Two years ago Rees had one of the most impressive statistical performance of his career against Air Force with 261 yards on 23 of 32 passing with 4 touchdowns and no interceptions. Notre Dame won that game 59-33. Want to know who Notre Dame’s leading rusher was in that same game? Andrew Hendrix. In mop up duty Hendrix picked up 111 yards on 6 carries including a career long 78 yarder that ended a yard short of the endzone.
Given Rees’s health, Hendrix will still likely see some reps as Brian Kelly will do all that he can to protect Rees from taking too many hits, but having a healthy Rees should have Notre Dame fans feeling pretty comfortable about Notre Dame’s chances this weekend. Who would have ever thought that would be the case about six months ago?