ARLINGTON, Texas – Notre Dame senior quarterback Tommy Rees had been the target of criticism over the past week but on Saturday night against ASU, Rees finally had the chance to quiet some of the critics.
Rees had 17 completions on 38 attempts for 279 yards and three touchdowns to three different receivers with one interception in the Fighting Irish’s 37-34 win over No. 22 ASU (3-2, 1-1 Pac-12).
“I think as an offense we settled in and had a good understanding of what they were trying to do,” Rees said. “I’m proud of how the offense played.”
Rees’ lone blemish came on the very first play of the fourth quarter when he was intercepted by ASU redshirt senior cornerback Osahon Irabor who returned the pick 37 yards for a touchdown.
Even though it was the worst part of what was a solid performance from Rees, it never got him down.
“Obviously you want to limit those mistakes and I’ve got to take accountability for that,” Rees said. “But I’ve got a hundred of my teammates and brothers counting on me and there’s never a moment to get down. Got to get right back out there and find a way to move the ball on the field which we did.”
Part of the game plan for Notre Dame was keeping the ball out of the hands of the Sun Devils potent offense.
“We knew that coming into this game, we had to control the football and keep that offense off the field,” coach Brian Kelly said. “I thought we started the game on a long drive which kind of set the tone for the game and limiting some possessions for them. I think that really helped kind of set us into a flow offensively.”
Getting the offensive flow going meant getting the ball to senior wide receiver T.J. Jones who finished with eight receptions for 135 yards and a touchdown.
Kelly said Jones was faced with a lot of man-to-man coverage as a result of the Sun Devils trying to load up to stop the run.
“Yeah, they couldn’t defend him,” Kelly said of Jones. “Their choice was to make it difficult to run the football but I thought we did a better job. 145 yards rushing, 279 (passing), that’s a little bit better mix with the kind of pressure defense that Arizona State brought today.”
However, ASU wasn’t able to get much pressure at all, failing to register a sack against the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame, on the other hand, had plenty of success rushing the passer, sacking ASU redshirt junior quarterback Taylor Kelly five times.
Senior outside linebacker Prince Shembo led the Fighting Irish with three sacks.
“We were practicing hard this week and our preparation was great,” Shembo said. “Things just came to us tonight.”
The win puts the Irish at 4-2 on the year and gives them a critical win before heading into a bye-week.
“We did feel it was a must-win we’re not going to try and hide it,” Jones said. “Leading into the bye week, we needed to leave on a good note and not have a loss mustering for two weeks.”
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