Win One For the Seniors.
That was the goal Irish Coach Brian Kelly laid out for his squad in Notre Dame's final home game of the season and the team delivered.
Cam McDaniel rushed for 117 yards on 24 carries, Tarean Folston rushed for 78 yards and a score and Tommy Rees put together a 235-yard, 1 TD performance as Notre Dame defeated the BYU Cougars, 23-13.
In a game that was at times sloppy from a slick field due to a gametime snowstorm and electric at others with long runs and pass plays, the Irish were able to hold on by putting together a gameplan that focused on time of possession and minimizing mistakes. After holding BYU on their opening possession of the game, Tommy Rees hit Daniels for a 61-yard score that would set off a wild first quarter where the Irish would score their only two touchdowns of the game.
Kelly leaned on Kyle Brindza and the Irish kicker delivered, hitting field goals of 26, 26 and 51 yards to carry the day.
The Irish defense and special teams looked both great and rough at times, but both did enough. Backup nose tackle Jarron Jones had an excellent game, with 7 tackles and a field goal block to lead the defensive side of the ball. Irish DE Stephon Tuitt had an excellent game as well, also getting 7 tackles and a sack of BYU QB Taysom Hill, who while gaining 101 yards on the ground, really struggled in the passing game.
In the grand scope of things, the Irish couldn't have played a more balanced game. They gained 235 yards on the ground and 235 yards in the air.
Brian Kelly Dominates On Senior Day: Say what you want about CBK's playcalling and schemes, but the guy knows how to win for his Senior class. This was the first senior class in a decade to win all four of their final home games. It is even more impressive when you consider Kelly's wins (Utah, BC, Wake Forest and BYU) versus the debacles of 2008 (Syracuse) and 2009 (UConn). As Kelly said in his postgame that the focus was on mistake-free football, both sides did enough to put the Irish over the top for the fourth straight season.
Next Man In: Conor Hanratty. Matt Hegarty. Jarron Jones (7 Tackles, 1 Field Goal Block). Tyler Stockton (1 TFL). Eliar Hardy (8 Tackles). Kendall Moore (2 Tackles). Romeo Okwara (2 Tackles). Joe Schmidt (2 Tackles). CBK really highlighted his "Next Man In" mantra in today's game. Consider those statlines for a second. What was essentially a hodgepodge of players on defense was able to hold a BYU offense that put up 40+ points on teams like Texas and Houston, whom the Irish might face in a bowl game.
#runtheballkelly Worked. Again. : After criticism of the pass-heavy playcalling against Pitt two weeks ago, Kelly went back to the run to great effect against the Cougars. The Irish surpassed the 200-yard mark on the ground for the third time this season and the second-straight at home (264 yards vs. Navy...the other being Oklahoma). Cam McDaniel rushed for 117 yards in his first 100-yard game of his Irish career. Freshman Tarean Folston showed a lot of elusiveness and speed despite the field conditions. I'll give a ton of credit to Matt Hegarty, who came in for the injured Nick Martin and played a very solid game after the Center when down with a knee injury.
The Irish Defense Struggled With Taysom Hill's Legs: The Irish Defense has struggled all year with dual-threat quarterbacks and today was no different. When Hill would hand the ball off, the Defense played great, holding BYU's rushing tandem (minus Lasike's two 40-yard scampers) to under 3 yards per carry. Hill, on the other hand, was able to beat the Irish Defense with his legs, rushing for 101 yards on 24 carries. While the D held Hill in check in the passing game, they had trouble containing him on the ground. Hill took advantage when the Irish would drop eight and when the pocket would collapse and the Irish really didn't have an answer all game.
The Seniors Got a Proper Sendoff: An Irish win in a packed house in a snowstorm? Danny Spond dressing in full pads and warming up? An Irish kicker nailing a 50-yard field goal in the snow and wind? Our special teams blocking a field goal? Cam McDaniel rushing for over a hundred yards? I don't think I could have drawn up a better ending.
Go Irish, Beat Cardinal!