(Saturday, November 13th)
Final Score: Notre Dame 28, (15) Utah 3
South Bend, IN (Sports Network) - Tommy Rees threw three touchdown passes in his first collegiate start and Notre Dame dominated all three phases of the game in a 28-3 rout of No. 15 Utah, snapping their 11-game losing streak against ranked opponents.
The Utes had their undefeated season ruined in a 47-7 drubbing at the hands of TCU last week and appeared as though they were still in shock against a Fighting Irish program coming off debilitating losses to Navy and Tulsa.
Rees, filling in for the injured Dayne Crist, completed 13-of-20 passes for 129 yards for Notre Dame (5-5), which needs a win against either Army next week or USC on November 27 to become bowl eligible. Duval Kamara caught two of the freshman signal-caller's TDs, while Michael Floyd hauled in the other.
Jordan Wynn had another tough day under center, throwing for 194 yards with an interception on 24-of-39 efficiency for the Utes (8-2), who had a blocked punt returned for a touchdown and fumbled the second-half kickoff.
Notre Dame turned the ball over on downs near midfield on its first possession of the game, and Joe Phillips put Utah on the board with a 46-yard field goal at the 8:31 mark of the opening quarter.
Utah was punting from its own 25-yard line later in the frame, and Robert Blanton gave the Irish some momentum by coming in untouched off the right edge for the easy block. The ball bounced squarely into his chest, and he went six yards the other way for a 7-3 Notre Dame lead.
Jonas Gray bounced outside en route to a 36-yard run down to the Utah eight early in the second quarter, setting up Floyd's three-yard grab in the end zone.
It remained 14-3 at halftime, and Shaky Smithson coughed up the ball at his own 26 to start the third quarter.
"I went through the hole and the helmet hit the ball. That was a great play. You can't avoid [fumbling] if a helmet hits the ball. It was a great play on their behalf," recalled Smithson.
On the next play, Rees threw a perfect toss to Kamara on a corner route at the front right pylon.
After a Utah punt, Rees settled in with two straight completions that covered 41 yards, then connected with Kamara in the corner of the end zone for a 12- yard score and a healthy 28-3 cushion.
The Utes penetrated the red zone their next two times with the ball, but Wynn threw incomplete on fourth down to turn the ball over on both occasions.
The Irish again forced a turnover on downs at their own 37, and the seniors finally had a little something to cheer about in their last game at Notre Dame Stadium.
"Through the last three weeks we certainly have had a great deal of adversity that we've had to overcome together as a group," Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said, referencing the passing of student Declan Sullivan at the team's practice on October 27. "In those times to steal a quote from coach [Ara] Parseghian, 'Adversity elicits traits sometimes that we didn't think we ever had.' I think for our guys they saw themselves in a different light. I don't want to get too philosophical other than to say that our seniors really provided great leadership over the past few weeks."
It was Notre Dame's first victory over a ranked opponent since beating No. 19 Penn State on September 9, 2006...Crist suffered a knee injury against Tulsa and will miss the rest of the season...Utah, which averaged 45.3 points in its first eight games, has scored a total of 10 in back-to-back losses...Matt Asiata gained 48 yards on 13 carries for Utah, which outgained the Irish, 265-256 but committed 11 penalties for 70 yards...Cierre Wood had 71 yards on 19 carries and two catches for 25 yards for Notre Dame.
11/13 21:01:51 ET