Notre Dame gets the win in Dallas with a complete team effort against a solid Arizona State team. Head coach Brian Kelly can walk away happy as his team performed on both sides of the ball in a 37-34 victory over the Sun Devils.
Quarterback Tommy Rees found a way to bounce back from his disappointing showing against Oklahoma and quiet some critics as he finished with 279-yards and three touchdowns. He threw Ben Koyack his first ever touchdown in the second quarter and secured Notre Dame’s first lead. Arizona State quickly struck back with a 36-yard touchdown pass of their own but Rees finished off the first half with another touchdown throw to TJ Jones putting the Irish up 14-13. The captain Jones had a huge day for Notre Dame with eight catches and 135-yards to go along with the score and game ending onsides kick recovery. Rees’ final touchdown pass went to the tight end Troy Niklas in the third quarter.
ESPN reported that Rees explained, "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. 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."
Rees’ day was made easier by an effective running game and strong defensive play. Cam McDaniel was able to rush for 82-yards while George Atkinson III added 54 of his own. Arizona State was only able to run for a total of 65-yards even with the mobility of Kelly at quarterback. Kelly did manage to to throw for 362-yards and three scores but his two interceptions hurt the Sun Devils. Kelly had a hard time finding his comfort zone with the heavy pressure he was under from the Notre Dame defensive line. Senior outside linebacker Prince Shembo led the way with three out of the six sacks for Notre Dame. Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly explained that, "They beat us in the turnover ratio so that's the biggest thing. 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."
Notre Dame’s Dan Fox intercepted Taylor Kelly late in the fourth and returned it for a touchdown putting the game out of reach. The Sun Devils added another touchdown but couldn't execute an onsides kick and Notre Dame ran out the clock.
Notre Dame will now have a bye week before their clash with Southern California under the lights in South Bend. The team seems to be maturing and learning from past mistakes. Tommy Rees is going to remain the determining factor for how good Notre Dame can be but the defense and running game have to keep making it easier. Arizona State was able to beat USC so Notre Dame has to expect a win at home. The Irish still have have a chance to turn the season around and beating the Trojans will be crucial to get back in the hunt for a BCS bowl game.