Offensive MVP: Tommy ReesIrish quarterback Tommy Rees wrecked the Falcons secondary throwing for a career-high five touchdowns -- to five different receivers -- en route to a 45-10 bundling of the Falcons in Colorado Springs.
Rees raced to a remarkable 11 for 13, 166-yard, two touchdown start over the game's first 15:29 and barely let up before exiting the contest prior to the conclusion of the third quarter.
His day ended with 284 yards and 17 completions in 22 attempts. Eight of his 17 completions hit for 15 yards or more.
The senior triggerman's last five halves of football have produced 10 touchdowns vs. one interception and 729 yards on 48 completions, or 15 yards per catch.
During the contest, Rees moved ahead of Ron Powlus into third place on the program's all-time touchdown list (54). Rees trails Jimmy Clausen by just six scores though record-holder Brady Quinn remains out of reach with a whopping 95 touchdown passes over four seasons.
Offensive Game BallsWhile Notre Dame's offense featured a host of new contributors on the stat sheet, senior T.J. Jones remains the constant. Jones secured seven of Rees' 17 completions for 104 yards and score, the fifth straight contest in which he's notched a touchdown. Jones entered 2013 without a 100-yard game to his credit and now has three after eight outings this fall.
Targeted for seven passes, Jones caught them all.
Aiding the captain's efforts were a pair of freshmen, Will Fuller and Corey Robinson. Fuller caught two passes, the first for a 46-yard score from Rees, then later a 47-yard contested catch on a sideline throw by backup Andrew Hendrix. Robinson kicked off the festivities for the Irish offense with a 35-yard touchdown he took away from Falcons cornerback Gavin McHenry, elevating about the defender to secure the pass, maintain his balance, and trot the final five yards for a score.
Both Robinson and Fuller's scores were the first of their careers, as was the game's final touchdown pass, a 15-yard fade route from Rees to sophomore Chris Brown.
Freshman running back Tarean Folston produced a career-best 47 yards on 11 carries, though most came with the outcome decided. Cam McDaniel led the rushing attack for the third straight week, totaling 61 yards on just 10 carries.
Defensive MVPs: The Field Side PairFreshman Jaylon Smith and sophomore Keivarae Russell saw plenty of action, and after a first quarter that caught the Irish defense off balance, the tandem began to shine and the Air Force rushing game scuffled as a result.
Smith appeared to struggle early, left to fend for himself on the wide-side perimeter vs. the Falcons rushing attack. Head coach Brian Kelly noted post-game that wasn't' the case, and Notre Dame's adjustment to contain the field side on which Smith roams was key to stopping the Falcons after a successful first quarter.
"We were in some coverages that put him as the only player on the perimeter. We didn't help him very much," said Kelly. "We got caught in some checks we didn't expect to make that are automatic in our normal system. We were playing an option team and we really couldn't go to those default checks. So we had to make some changes.
"He's a tough, physical kid. It was just a matter of getting him some support. Once we were able to play Cover 2 and role the corner to the field, then we got the game back in control."
Smith finished with a game-high eight tackles including one for loss while adding a fumble recovery. Of his eight stops, two came on third down to end Air Force drives while another limited a gain to one yard.
Playing well throughout was sophomore KeiVarae Russell. The field side cornerback finished with six tackles including one for loss while also adding a fumble recovery. Like Smith, two of Russell's stops came on third down to force a Falcons punt.
Defensive Game BallsFive Notre Dame backups chipped in tackles for loss on the day, with seniors Kendall Moore and Lo Wood, juniors Anthony Rabasa and Joe Schmidt, and sophomore Romeo Okwara all turning the trick. For Wood, Rabasa and Schmidt, it was the first stops behind scrimmage of their Irish careers, and the first for Moore since 2011. (Okwara recorded 1.5 TFL as a true freshman last fall.)
Moore added a stop for non gain and third down tackle that kept the Falcons short of the sticks.
True freshman Isaac Rochell registered one of the game's noteworthy stops, a diving ankle tackle of Air Force quarterback Nate Romine that held him to no gain on 3rd and 10 when it appeared a massive gap in the middle of the Irish defense would yield a Falcons first down. Air Force was limited to a field goal and the Irish held onto a 14-10 lead midway through the second half.
Special Teams MVP: Kyle Brindza The junior drilled a 51-yard field goal after having his initial offering of the contest blocked. It was Brindza's third field goal of 50 yards or more over the last two seasons, tying a program record. Of his eight kickoffs, seven resulted in touchbacks and the triple-threat kicker drilled punts of 42, 41, and 50 yards on the afternoon.