Notre Dame holds on as ASU comes up just short
OCT 05, 2013 9:35p ET
The Arizona State quarterback instead threw an interception that clinched another Shamrock Series win for the Irish.
Notre Dame's Tommy Rees threw for 279 yards and three touchdowns, and Kelly offset his three scores with two of the three second-half turnovers for the No. 22 Sun Devils in a 37-34 loss to the Irish on Saturday night.
"I got hit as I threw it, so I've got to not do that," Kelly said. "I've got to get to the line of scrimmage, know where I'm at on the field and the situation of the game a lot better."
Kyle Brindza kicked three second-half field goals for Notre Dame, including the go-ahead kick from 25 yards out with 3:03 remaining. He tied a school record with a 53-yarder that matched the longest in a college game at the $1.2 billion home of the Dallas Cowboys.
Kelly's last interception came after Brindza's go-ahead kick. Throwing from his end zone, Kelly's pass over the middle floated to Dan Fox -- who also recovered a fumble earlier in the game -- and Fox easily took back the interception 14 yards to give Notre Dame a 37-27 lead.
It was the second win in Texas in the five-year Shamrock run of home games on the road for the Irish (4-2), starting with a victory over Washington State in San Antonio in 2009.
"It's a big win for us, to get right back on the right track in the bye week and the halfway point of the season," said Rees, who had just nine completions in a loss to Oklahoma last week. "It was kind of a game we understood the importance of, and we were really ready to go and had a great week of preparation."
The Sun Devils (3-2) missed out on a chance to become the first team to beat USC and Notre Dame in consecutive weeks.
Notre Dame's T.J. Jones had eight catches for 135 yards, including a pair of first-down catches on the drive to the winning field goal. Cam McDaniel, who went to school in nearby Coppell, had four straight carries for 32 yards to get Notre Dame into field-goal range. McDaniel finished with a game-high 82 yards.
After Fox's touchdown with 1:08 remaining, the Sun Devils pulled within 37-34 on Kelly's third TD pass -- a 16-yarder to Marion Grice with 11 seconds left -- but Jones recovered an onside kick that was briefly loose in the middle of the field.
Notre Dame, one of the best in the country at rushing the passer last year but statistically one of the worst this year, found its form in this contest. The Irish pressured Kelly throughout, and Prince Shembo had three of their six sacks, including one for a 10-yard loss the first play after Brindza's kick that put the Irish ahead for good.
"We all remember what we saw last year, defensively salting away games, and we feel like our defense is continually getting better," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. "We are not there yet."
The Irish led 24-13 after Rees' 21-yard touchdown on a jump ball to 6-foot-7 tight end Troy Niklas, but the Sun Devils got back in it with a 37-yard interception return for a score by Osahon Irabor and Kelly's 21-yard scoring toss to De'Marieya Nelson, which made it 27-all.
Rees' scoring toss to Niklas -- his third -- came two plays after Bennett Jackson stripped ASU receiver Richard Smith on a short pass, with the loose ball bouncing into the arms of Fox.
"I thought that was the play of the game," coach Todd Graham said. "There's 14 points off two plays, and guess what: Those count. We just did a poor job taking care of the football."
Notre Dame's first regular-season game in the Dallas area since 1958 was technically a home game, and it had that feel. Both end zones were labeled "Notre Dame," and the Texas-themed Shamrock Series logo engulfed the midfield area. The huge video board constantly showed smiling Notre Dame fans, and any sign of ASU maroon or gold was incidental.
Rees finally gave the green-clad bunch something to get excited about with two touchdown passes in the last 3:35 of the first half.
Ben Koyack scored his first career touchdown for Notre Dame when he caught a pass from Rees on the sideline with nobody around him and ran most of the 19 yards untouched for a 7-6 lead.
Kelly gave ASU the lead back when he took a snap with the play clock near zero and hit Jaelen Strong in stride behind the defense for a 36-yard touchdown on fourth-and-4. Strong had eight catches for 136 yards.
"They beat us in the turnover ratio, so that's the biggest thing," Kelly said. "We were winning that, and in the second half we lost the turnover ratio, and I think that's where we kind of lost it."