Players reviewed: Left tackle Zack Martin, left guard Chris Watt, center Braxston Cave, right guard Trevor Robinson, right tackle Taylor Dever, wide receivers Michael Floyd, Theo Riddick, and T.J. Jones, tight ends Tyler Eifert and Mike Ragone, running backs Cierre Wood and Jonas Gray, and quarterback Tommy Rees.
Second half yields just six official carriesWood's first rush of the half hit the right side for 8 yards thanks to seal blocks by Dever, Martin, and Cave and a backside seal by Watt; Floyd secured his man downfield as well. Wood showed power at the end of the run, gaining two yards through the tackle…Wood was stopped for no gain later on the drive on 3rd and 1, finding no room up the gut when Dever missed his down block allowing a free hit on Wood prior to the line of scrimmage… Kelly called for eight consecutive passes (spanning three series) following the 3rd and 1 stop, though one was a slot screen to Floyd – an extension of the running game according to the Irish staff – that gained 15 yards. Both Riddick and Jones applied key blocks wide of Floyd to clear a sideline path… The Irish scored on the seventh straight pass when Rees hit Floyd on a perfectly thrown fade pattern to cut the Bulls advantage to 16-7 Two runs by Wood totaled 11 yards on the final Irish drive of the third quarter; the first: a delayed counter from the shotgun saw Wood follow a combo block by Cave and Watt (who chipped a second defender as well) and a nice find in space across scrimmage into the second level by Dever, though his defender made the tackle after Wood was delayed in traffic…Wood's final carry of the quarter was five yards the hard way: taking first contact after two yards but gaining three more through leg drive. Stats of Note: Wood's final carry of the quarter was his 19th of the game, giving him a career-best 103 yards. It was the first 100-plus yard rushing effort by an Irish player in the Kelly era. The Irish rushed just four times for 19 yards (5 for 34 including the quick look to Floyd) in three third quarter possessions.
Shock of the day: The Irish drive stalled following Wood's runs and a subsequent miss of a 27-yard chip shot by David Ruffer served as a microcosm of Notre Dame's first Saturday. Instead of cutting the Bulls lead to 16-10, the Irish trailed 16-7 with just over a minute remaining in the third quarter. South Florida extended its lead to 23-7 on the ensuing drive.
Fourth Quarter – Scramble ModeTrailing 23-7 with 11:05 remaining, the Irish offense saw 11 consecutive passes to drive the ball from their own 24 to the Bulls 1-yard line. After getting stopped on his first dive attempt, Wood scored on 3rd and G from the 1 behind Watt, Martin, Ragone, and an attached Riddick.
Aside from a Rees 4-yard scramble late, Wood's score with 7:35 remaining was the last carry of the afternoon for the Irish.
- Kelly noted Sunday that Rees was in a bad position not only because of the deficit he inherited, but the fact that a second storm front was moving toward South Bend (it eventually delayed the game late in the 4th Quarter). Kelly's concern that the game could be called at any moment contributed to the over-reliance on the pass.
- Notre Dame is now 2-6 under Kelly when his quarterbacks attempt 35 or more passes; 1-5 when the total reaches 44 throws or more.
- Cierre Wood's carry total (21) is likely the high-water mark he can handle on a consistent basis. The Irish rushing attack will need more from Jonas Gray in the coming weeks.