Another step forward
In its annual home-on-the-road outing, Notre Dame took apart Maryland at FedEx Stadium in Washington, D.C., 45-21. The Irish led 38-7. The Irish caught the Terrapins in mid-collapse – they're now the losers of six in a row – but Notre Dame, now 7-3, did perform solidly, running the ball at will and, for the most part, completely shutting down the Maryland offense. As coach Brian Kelly said before the game, if Notre Dame avoids big mistakes, it can be a very good football team. Jonas Gray and Cierre Wood once again powered the Notre Dame ground game early and often. Gray ran for two first-half scores, with the 2-yard score on the opening drive coming after a nice 26-yard catch and run by receiver Robby Toma, making his first start. Michael Floyd caught a 19-yard fade for a second-quarter touchdown from Tommy Rees, and David Ruffer nailed a 52-yard field goal in a well-rounded offensive first half. Robert Blanton's personal foul helped the Terrapins' first-half scoring drive, with Danny O'Brien passing for a 13-yard touchdown to Quintin McCree. Notre Dame racked up nearly 300 yards of offense in the first half. Gray (21 carries, 136 yards) and Wood (18 for 99) shredded Maryland all night. Wood added a third-quarter touchdown, and Lo Wood returned an errant O'Brien pass for a score. Tyler Eifert caught a 34-yard touchdown pass late, aided by a crushing downfield block by Cierre Wood. Downfield blocking was a strength all night for the Irish, with Floyd, Toma, and T.J. Jones all registering noteworthy blocks that helped spring their teammates for extra yards. Toma had a solid game with six catches for 64 yards. Floyd had nine catches for 90. There wasn't much to gripe about, unless you weren't a fan of the green jerseys and one-shot shamrock helmets the Irish sported on Saturday night. They did allow three sacks of Rees, a rare occurrence this season, and had a couple of defensive breakdowns late, in addition to the one following the Blanton penalty. But for a team that appeared in some degree of disarray following the loss to USC a few weeks back, the Irish have grown up a bit. "We've really united since then," Rees (30 of 37, 295 yards) said after the game. "Sometimes those hard times bring us even closer. This team's definitely moving in the right direction."
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