By The Numbers
2 Freshmen to catch touchdown passes, the first of their careers, for Notre Dame in the same game: Corey Robinson (35 yards) and Will Fuller (46 yards). The last time that happened was Sept. 29, 2007 with Duval Kamara (seven yards) and Golden Tate (25 yards) in a 33-19 loss to Purdue.
Freshmen Raghib “Rocket” Ismail and tight end Derek Brown also caught TD passes from quarterback Tony Rice in a 52-7 victory versus Purdue in 1988.
Tarean Folston's 11 carries for 47 yards were the most rushing attempts by an Irish freshman since Robert Hughes' 18 attempts for 136 yards in the 2007 finale at Stanford.
3 Career field goals of at least 50 yards by junior Kyle Brindza after he converted from 51 yards in the second quarter. That ties the career record at Notre Dame set by Harry Oliver when he started in 1980-81.
6 Freshmen offensive linemen in Notre Dame history who have started a game since the NCAA legalized their eligibility in 1972, with Steve Elmer joining the club after season-ending surgery to right guard Christian Lombard. The others were Mike Rosenthal in 1995 (three starts), Brad Williams in 1996 (two), Ryan Harris in 2003 (eight), Sam Young in 2006 (13) and Trevor Robinson in 2008 (three).
7 Consecutive games Notre Dame did not score on its opening possession while the opponent tallied the first touchdown of the game. The only time this season the Irish achieved a score on the opening series, and the first six-pointer of the game, was the opener against Temple.
11 Carries by freshman running back for Tarean Folston that netted 47 yards. It was the first time a freshman had the most carries in a game for the Irish since Robert Hughes had 18 (136 yards) in the 2007 season finale at Stanford. Folston’s yardage total was the most by an Irish freshman since Theo Riddick had 51 (nine carries) in a 40-14 win over Washington State on Oct. 31, 2009.
13-0 Notre Dame record under Brian Kelly when not committing a turnover. The Irish have committed only eight turnovers during this 6-2 season and five came in the two losses (Michigan and Oklahoma). In addition to Air Force, the other games Notre Dame didn’t have a turnover this year were Temple and Michigan State.
54 Career touchdown passes by Tommy Rees after tossing five to five different receivers — Corey Robinson, William Fuller, Ben Koyack, TJ Jones, and Chris Brown, who joined Robinson and Fuller as a first-time scoring recipient. Rees passed Ron Powlus for third place on the all-time Irish chart in touchdown passes, and he now trails only Brady Quinn (95) and Jimmy Clausen (60).
1977 The only other game we’ve seen five different Notre Dame receivers catch a touchdown pass in one game was during a 69-14 victory against Georgia Tech on Nov. 5, 1977. Terry Eurick, Kris Haines, Dave Waymer, Jim Stone and Speedy Hart all caught scoring passes in that game, three from Joe Montana, one by Rusty Lisch and one by Tim Koegel.
7,258 Feet above sea level that the Air Force Academy is officially located. CBSSports listed Notre Dame at only 662 feet above sea level. The Irish dealt with the high altitude against the Falcons with their highest point total (45) and largest margin of victory (35) in 2013.
After Notre Dame’s Kyle Brindza drilled a 51-yard field goal with 3:57 remaining in the first half to give the Irish a 24-10 cushion, Air Force marched 57 yards to the Irish 18. The gutty Falcons stayed competitive throughout most of the first half and had a chance to take momentum into the halftime locker room before also receiving the second half kickoff.
But with one minute remaining, running back Anthony LaCoste mishandled a toss sweep and sophomore cornerback KeiVarae Russell recovered the fumble. Then, on the opening series of the second half, Air Force again drove inside the Notre Dame 40 before a scramble by quarterback Matt Romine led to a forced fumble by junior linebacker Ben Councell that freshman linebacker Jaylon Smith recovered at the Irish 38. Six plays later Notre Dame was ahead 31-10. The back-to-back turnovers by the Falcons sealed their fate.
Stat Of The Game
Air Force entered the game ranked second-to-last nationally in pass efficiency defense (162.06 rating), including the opposition completing 73.2 percent of its passes while averaging 8.1 yards per attempt. Notre Dame senior quarterback Tommy Rees and the Irish offense fully exploited that deficiency. The three quarters that Rees played was a pitch-and-catch exhibition in which he completed 17 of his 22 passes (77.3 percent) for 284 yards (12.9 yards per attempt) and five touchdowns to five different players.
Rees’ 260.71 pass efficiency rating in the game was the best by a Notre Dame quarterback since Jimmy Clausen’s 303.7 against Nevada in the 2009 opener. It also was the seventh-best in the nation this year for a single game — and fifth-best against an FBS opponent. In his last two games, Rees is 31-for-43 for 450 yards with seven TDs and no interceptions for a 213.72 rating.
Brian Kelly’s Take
After Tommy Rees struggled with some of his throws in back-to-back home games against Michigan State and Oklahoma, his accuracy and production have been exceptional the past three games.
“He played well, except for the interception against Arizona State. I thought he played very well against Arizona State coming from a subpar performance against Oklahoma. I thought clearly he was playing well against USC until he got injured.
“Really putting the ball in great locations. I’ll give you one example. A couple of [TJ Jones’] catches the ball position was outstanding — but the one in particular that I liked was Chris Brown’s touchdown catch. It was put in a position where only he was going to catch it. He’s making those kinds of throws where even if you’re covered right now, Tommy can continue to make those kinds of accurate throws away from the defenders.”
Tommy Rees — He spread the wealth to eight different receivers, with five different ones also catching touchdowns. The numbers speak for themselves, and the TD passes were all placed about as perfectly in stride as possible, other than Corey Robinson’s leaping catch on the first one.
KeiVarae Russell — His reads, discipline and tackling against the triple-option scheme were superb after Air Force had some early success with the outside pitch.
Jaylon Smith — In the last three games the freshman Dog linebacker has forced a fumble (Arizona State), intercepted a pass (USC) and recovered a fumble (Air Force, which should have resulted in a touchdown had the officials not mistakenly blown the play dead), while also wreaking havoc and leading the team in tackles (21) in those three contests. It’s hard to believe that graduated consensus All-American inside linebacker Manti Te’o didn’t have an interception or fumble recovery through his first 39 games, and two forced fumbles.