Notre Dame overcame a sluggish start on Saturday to cruise to an easy 62-27 victory over UMass in the Minutemen’s first ever visit to Notre Dame Stadium for the first ever meeting between the two schools. The 62 points were the most of the Brian Kelly Era and the most scored by any Notre Dame team since Lou Holtz’s last home game as the head coach of the Irish. Notre Dame ran the ball for 450 yards with both CJ Prosise and Josh Adams toping the century mark and freshman quarterback Brandon Wimbush nearly joining them in his collegiate debut.
Here are four players who helped pave the way for Notre Dame’s easy victory over UMass on Saturday.
Any of Notre Dame’s three remaining healthy running backs could have been considered for the Shamrock Stickers, but CJ Prosise set the tone early and would have had a monster day had the Irish not opened up a huge second half lead sending Prosise to the sideline for safe keeping. As is, Prosise ran the ball 15 times for 149 yards and reached the endzone two more times this week giving him 6 on the season to go with his 600 rushing yards. Prosise lived up to his reputation as a homerun hitter with a 57 yard scamper into the endzone to opening the scoring for the Irish. At this pace, Prosise will run for 1,800 yards and 18 touchdowns which would put his name prominently in the Notre Dame record books.
While Notre Dame got off to a sluggish start and led just 21-20 as Doug Flutie made sure to mention over and over and over again during the telecast, it was Newsome’s leg that helped turn the momentum back in Notre Dame’s favor. Newsome’s 52 yard boot that was downed at the one set the stage for another one of this week’s Shamrock Stickers recipient’s shining moment. Up just one point at the time of Newsome’s punt, the Irish defense rose to the occasion and forced a punt that CJ Sanders used to turn the momentum of the game. Overall, Newsome punted five times with an average of 52.6 yards a punt. The one knock of Newsome Saturday was that three of his punts did reach the endzone, but he came through in the clutch when needed.
Freshman CJ Sanders has looked like a youngster who could take a punt the distance at some point this year through the first three games. On Saturday he did just that. After the Irish defense forced a three and out following Newsome’s punt that was downed at the one, Sanders fielded the ensuing punt at midfield with acres of green grass in front of him and knifed through the UMass coverage team and raced into the endzone to put the Irish up 28-20. Notre Dame never looked back. Sanders only picked up 13 yards on his other two returns, but his punt return for a touchdown was just the second such return of the Brian Kelly Era and the first true punt return for a touchdown – the other of the Kelly Era came on a blocked punt which Robert Blanton took to the endzone.
Sheldon Day might not have had a busy day on the stat sheet, but his presence was felt from the opening whistle until his day ended early with the Irish comfortably in command. Day had three tackles and one big sack resulting in a loss of 13 yards but the pressure Day applied on a continual basis forced UMass to get rid of the ball quickly and disrupted several designed screens. Day was almost unblockable on Saturday afternoon as he has been most of the early season thus far. Day’s sack was his second of the season after he collected just one a year ago and came into the season with only 3.5 for his career.