COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – There was an inflatable bouncy house and slide situated just beyond the south end zone of Air Force’s football grounds, as well as a bungee-jump trampoline and a patch of grass upon which two giant plastic balls inhabited by humans rolled around all day.
Documentation of anything interesting happening at Falcon Stadium on Saturday more or less ended there, primarily because Tommy Rees turned the rest of the place into his personal playground. Notre Dame’s hard-wearing quarterback felt fine in a 45-10 victory, thank you, and probably progressively better with each clinical incision from the pocket.
One week after getting knocked out against USC, the senior was unconscious, an air force all alone with 284 passing yards and a career-high five touchdown passes in less than three quarters of work. Rees spread it around, with five different receivers grabbing scoring tosses in a game for the first time in program history.
The Irish (6-2) weren’t sparklingly clean, but they were close. Air Force (1-7) amassed more than 250 rushing yards and blocked a field goal en route to becoming yet another opponent to score before Notre Dame did. Still, there never was real dread against a hapless team, which is the entire point in games that fill this soft-underbelly portion of the schedule.
Notre Dame’s start was unfortunate, again. A false start penalty on a fourth-and-2 forced a field goal try, which Air Force promptly blocked, following that with a brute 71-yard drive to a quick 7-0 lead.
Rees erased that, then salted the earth. Notre Dame’s next three possessions ended in touchdown passes to Corey Robinson (35 yards), Will Fuller (46 yards) and Ben Koyack (22 yards). Air Force wilted, fumbling just before halftime to end one scoring threat and then again on the first series of the second half.
That led to Rees and TJ Jones hooking up on a picturesque double-move route to the end zone, a fourth aerial score for a 21-point lead and elimination of the last trace of doubt. There won’t be any proof-of-worthiness emerging from games against Air Force and Navy, because there just isn’t any available.
The Irish are set up to lose much more than they could gain over two weeks. So they just can’t lose. Rees kept a letdown at arm’s length Saturday.