Week Ten: Utah
| Monday, January 31, 2011
Notre Dame hasn’t seen a win on Senior Day since 2007. The 36 seniors on the roster put an end to that trend Saturday with a 28-3 victory over No. 14 Utah.
Junior cornerback Robert Blanton started the rout with a blocked punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter, and freshman quarterback Tommy REes threw three touchdowns in his first career start.
“It’s not a moment. It’s the culmination of what we’ve been working on since December,” Kelly said. “You don’t just pull these out of a hat. You don’t just wake up one day and go, ‘Oh, let’s rise up today.’ It’s the consistency of approach on a day-to-day basis and how we go to work every day.”
Momentum started to swing in favor of the Irish (5-5) when, after a sloppy beginning to the game from both teams,Blanton entered the backfield unblocked on a Utah punt, blocked the kick, and scooped up the loose ball to give the Irish a 7-3 lead that they never relinquished.
“I think any time you block a punt in the game, I think we’ve all seen enough games, they generally lead to real good things for you down the road,” Kelly said. “That was a big play for us, but it was a point of emphasis as well.
Notre Dame pulled away from Utah (8-2) on the strength of three touchdown passes from Rees, including two third quarter strikes from the freshman to senior wide receiver Duval Kamara. Rees was an efficient 13-for-20 for 129 yards on the day.
“I wasn’t going to put this game on Tommy Rees. I was going to take shots when we had opportunities because he’s an accurate thrower of the football,” Kelly said. “But it was all going to be predicated on our ability to get this thing into the fourth quarter and have a presence on defense as well.”