Irish hammer WMU with second half surge
Published 8:54 pm Sunday, October 17, 2010
By AARON MUELLER
Niles Daily Star
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — At halftime, it looked like Notre Dame might be in for a dogfight against Mid-American Conference opponent Western Michigan.
Notre Dame had just allowed the Broncos to run a perfectly executed two-minute drill ending in a touchdown, and the Irish were clinging to just a 10-point lead going into the locker room.
Enter Cierre Wood. And goodbye concerns about the Irish’s ability to close out games against inferior opponents.
In his first start in place of the injured Armando Allen, Wood was held to just three yards on one carry in the first half. But in the second half, he had 10 carries for 96 yards, including a dynamic 39-yard touchdown run on the Irish’s first drive that would set the tone for the rest of the game — a 44-20 win for the Irish.
“It took him a while to get going,” coach Brian Kelly said. “He’s a guy that needs to get into the flow of the game. At times you wonder some of the things he’s doing out there, but once he got enough carries, he showed, obviously, that he’s got great athletic ability and it was fun to watch him.”
Coach Kelly said running the football was a point of emphasis in turning things around for his team in the second half.
“We were in too many third and 10 situations, where it’s not as manageable,” he said. “So we felt like in the second half we needed to run the football, which we did.”
Western Michigan defensive end Paul Hazel, who used his quickness to register two tackles for loss and one and a half sacks in the first half, was neutralized by the Irish’s commitment to the run in the second half.
And the ground game opened up things through the air, as Dayne Crist and his top target Michael Floyd led the way.
Crist was efficient, completing 18 of 28 passes for 255 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He also scampered for a nine-yard score.
Floyd stepped up in the first game without tight end Kyle Rudolph, who is out for the season with a hamstring injury. Floyd hauled in nine passes for 157 yards and a career-high three touchdowns, including an 80-yard strike on the first play from scrimmage.
Floyd’s performance had Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit comparing him to Roy Williams of the Dallas Cowboys, who Cubit saw play when he was on the coaching staff at Missouri and Williams was at Texas.
“I didn’t think I’d see another guy like him (Williams),” Cubit said. “Well, I just did. He’s physical and as good of a receive as I’ve seen. He plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played.”
But it wasn’t just a commitment to the ground game that turned things around in the second half. After what Kelly called “a nice, little chat” with the team at halftime, which was probably more of a tongue lashing, the squad looked more energetic and disciplined.
Kelly called the game a “learning experience” for the Irish.
“They are learning every day, and this is a great learning experience for them to say, hey, we have got to come out and play disciplined football,” he said. “We have got to play with great enthusiasm, because we are not good enough to play any other way.”
The defense looked more inspired in the second half, holding the Broncos to just 102 yards and three points, after giving up 212 yards in the first. Manti Te’o led the defense with 10 tackles and by putting pressure on quarterback Alex Carder.
Carder was impressive for Western Michigan, rushing for two touchdowns and completing 28 of 43 passes for 277 yards.
The Irish now have won three straight and are 4-3.
“Progress. This team was 1-3,” Kelly said. “You can go in one of two directions at 1-3. You can fall off the cliff and have a disastrous season or you can work towards 9-3. I think this is another step. Our players are learning how to win football games, regardless of who the competition is.”
Quick hits: Western Michigan became the first MAC school to play at Notre Dame Stadium…The Irish came into the game as one of the least penalized teams in the nation at 4.5 per game but committed nine Saturday for 80 yards, including some infractions that kept Bronco scoring drives alive…Kelly said he was trying to limit Floyd, who he said is dealing with a slight hamstring injury. The receiver still had three touchdowns on the day…For the first time all season Notre Dame won the time of possession battle, something Kelly was quick to acknowledge at the post-game press conference…The Irish displayed a quick-strike ability. Their first four touchdown drives took a total of two minutes and 48 seconds, including 12-second and eight-second scores…wide receiver John Goodman’s touchdown pass to Floyd was his first since he threw 16 touchdowns as a senior in high school at Bishop Dwenger…David Ruffer has now converted 17 straight field goals to open his career, a school record. The streak is also currently the longest in the FBS…NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was in attendance and said in an interview with NBC that Brett Favre will meet with an NFL official next week to discuss the recent allegations he sent racy text messages and lewd photos to a Jets game hostess in 2008
Western 7 10 0 3 – 20
Notre Dame 7 20 14 3 – 44
ND – Floyd, Michael 80 pass from Crist, Dayne (Ruffer, David kick)
WMU – CARDER, Alex 1 run (Potter, John kick)
ND – Floyd 32 pass from Goodman, John (Ruffer kick)
ND – Crist 9 run (kick blocked)
WMU – Potter 23 field goal
ND – Eifert, Tyler 39 pass from Crist (Ruffer kick)
WMU – CARDER 3 run (Potter kick)
ND – Wood, Cierre 39 run (Ruffer kick)
ND – Floyd 2 pass from Crist (Ruffer kick)
ND – Ruffer 33 field goal
WMU – Potter 26 field goal