The day after

Five day-after thoughts on Notre Dame's 45-10 win over Air Force.

1. Jaylon Smith got better as the game went on.

But it still often seems like the freshman is either going for the knockout, home run play or he is doing everything possible not to get burned. There's not a lot of in between, yet. His fumble recovery return for touchdown surely should have counted, but he's showing over the course of the last two games that he's a special play-maker who makes things happen, even if he's caught out of position or flat-footed on a number of occasions.

2. Tommy Rees had a day.

He finished the game 17-22 for 284 yards and five touchdowns and no interceptions. Air Force's defense hardly put up a fight, but Rees' touchdown passes were impressive nonetheless - especially the back shoulder throw to Chris Brown in the corner of the end zone. Andrew Hendrix redeemed himself, and that may pay dividends in the future if he's forced into action again. He was only 1-4 passing, but his one completion went for 47 yards, and he was able to score six on the quarterback keeper the play after. I know it was against Air Force, and it seemed like every shot down field was a completion, but play action worked beautifully yesterday.

3. Kendall Moore and Joe Schmidt are fulfilling the 'next man in' mantra.

Against Temple, Michigan State and USC, Moore had one tackle per game. Yesterday, he had five. Schmidt plays smart and he's not shy about delivering the big hit. He only had two tackles against Air Force, but they were memorable ones. This quote from Kelly after USC still stands out about Schmidt -- "We'd like him bigger, faster & stronger but we knew he would not get us beat."

4. The running back position looks bright.

Obvious questions still abound about running back in the 2014 recruiting class, but Tarean Folston did a lot to put those questions to ease yesterday. He gets in and out of cuts so well, is patient when he needs to be, and obviously has an extra gear of speed when he finds space. There's something about Folston that Atkinson, Carlisle and McDaniel lack, and I hope we see more of No. 25 as we finish out the season.

5. 9-2 a given headed into Stanford?

Yeah, you're not supposed to look ahead, but it's hard not to see Notre Dame absolutely rolling these next three games (Navy, Pitt, BYU), and heading into Stanford with a 9-2 record. Don't forget there's a bye weekend in there as well, which means even more time for improvement. I think the mark of a well coached team is a.) how they handle adversity and b.) how much they improve throughout a season. Notre Dame has responded to two early season losses and poor quarterback play with three straight wins, and they've looked better in each game they've played. The Stanford game should be a fun one.

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