Rees leads Notre Dame to 45-10 win over Air Force

For the second straight week, Tommy Rees found himself on the

sideline.

This time, though, it wasn’t because of a strained neck, but

rather a stellar showing.

Rees was given the fourth quarter off after throwing a

career-high five touchdown passes to help Notre Dame rout Air Force

45-10 on Saturday.

The senior was on target all day, completing 17 of 22 passes for

284 yards as the Fighting Irish (6-2) won their third straight.

Rees now has 54 career TD passes and moves past Ron Powlus for

third place in team history.

”I felt really good out there,” Rees said.

That’s quite a contrast from last week when Rees left the game

with a neck ailment in the third quarter of a win over USC. Rees

was solid all week in practice and sensational on Saturday as he

picked apart the secondary of the Falcons (1-7), who dropped their

seventh straight game.

The resourceful Rees spread the ball around as he tossed TD

strikes to Corey Robinson, the son of former NBA star David

Robinson, William Fuller, Ben Koyack, TJ Jones and Chris Brown. It

was the first time in school history the Irish have had five

different receivers catch a TD pass.

”Tommy was great tonight,” Jones said. ”He showcased why we

have some much faith in him. He’s able to make those plays on a

consistent basis.”

Rees became the fourth Notre Dame quarterback to throw 50 or

more TDs, joining Powlus (52), Jimmy Clausen (60) and Brady Quinn

(95).

Even more, this was the 20th win of Rees’ career, tying him with

Joe Theismann and John Lujack for ninth most for a starting QB in

Notre Dame history.

He just shrugged when asked about being linked with an array of

former standout Notre Dame quarterbacks.

”I’m not too in tune with all that stuff,” Rees said. ”I’m

sure when my career is over that I’ll look back and be appreciative

of some of the things I was able to do. Right now, the focus is

week in and week out finding a way to be the best quarterback for

this team and try to win games.”

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly was certainly impressed.

”When we needed a play, he was able to make it,” Kelly

said.

Nate Romine started for Karson Roberts at quarterback for the

Falcons, becoming the fourth different signal caller the team has

used this season. Romine was fourth-string out of fall camp, but

moved up the depth chart due to injuries and an academic

ineligibility. Roberts suffered a concussion two weeks ago against

San Diego State, but recently returned to practice. He entered the

game in the fourth quarter in relief of Romine.

At times, Romine effectively ran the triple-option attack of Air

Force, gashing Notre Dame’s defense for big gains. But the Falcons

fumbled the ball away twice inside Notre Dame territory, thwarting

promising drives with the game still close.

”When you make mistakes against really good teams, they’re

magnified even more,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said.

The loss ended any chance of Air Force becoming bowl eligible

for a seventh straight season under Calhoun.

Air Force scored first when Colton Huntsman took a pitch from

Romine and scrambled in from 10 yards out. Notre Dame answered

right back, with Rees finding Robinson and then Fuller to give the

Irish a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. It was the first career TD

reception for both Robinson and Fuller.

Right before halftime, the Falcons had a chance to slice into

the lead, but Anthony LaCoste fumbled inside the red zone and

KeiVarae Russell recovered the ball to preserve a 24-10 lead.

On the opening drive to start the second half, Romine led the

Falcons down the field only to lose the ball as he scrambled away

from pressure. Jaylon Smith scooped it up and raced 62 yards for

what appeared to be a score, but officials ruled it an incomplete

pass and blew the play dead. After a brief review, the call was

reversed to a fumble, though, with Notre Dame getting the ball at

the 38.

It didn’t take long for Rees to capitalize as he found Jones for

his fourth TD of the game, matching the total he had against Air

Force on Oct. 8, 2011, and again on Oct. 30, 2010, versus

Tulsa.

He set a new personal-best on the next drive with a short pass

to Brown.

”We had a good game plan and I was excited about the

opportunity to execute it,” Rees said. ”This talks more about the

kind of guys we have on the outside. We have a lot of players who

can go out there and make plays for us.”