Nov. 12, 2011
LANDOVER, Md. (AP) – Notre Dame’s no-huddle offense created more than enough feel-good moments for the Fighting Irish and their “hometown” crowd.
Rees completed 30 of 38 passes, including 14 of 15 after halftime. The Irish (7-3) amassed 508 yards in offense and ran an astonishing 84 plays.
“We wanted to go with a hurry-up tempo offense,” Rees said. “Throughout the game they were getting tired with our tempo.”
The Irish have made a habit of playing one “home” game a year at a neutral site. Although this one was held at a stadium only 12 miles from the Maryland campus, both end zones read “Notre Dame” and most fans in the crowd of 70,251 at FedEx Field were pulling for the Irish.
They were not disappointed. Notre Dame led 7-0 after four minutes, 24-7 at halftime and 38-7 midway through the third quarter.
Gray led the charge, running for 84 yards and a pair of 1-yard touchdowns in the first half.
“Getting off to a good start is running the football,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “Jonas Gray is what we’ve all been talking about in a consistent performer. I thought he was capable of this before the season.”
Asked if it felt like a road game, Kelly said, “No, it was really loud coming in. It was an enjoyable atmosphere. We really loved being here. I know our players were excited when they got out on the field and heard the crowd and the action that in the stadium.”
Maryland (2-8) dropped its sixth straight and also lost starting quarterback Danny O’Brien, who broke a bone in his left arm and is out for the season.
“He’s not going to be back ready to play, I know that,” coach Randy Edsall said.
The right-hander was replaced by C.J. Brown, who ran 24 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to cap a 97-yard drive.
Both teams were dressed for success. Notre Dame wore green jerseys and affixed large shamrocks onto their gold helmets, and Maryland pulled out its garish “Pride” uniforms – a white, red, black and yellow salute to the state flag. The Terrapins last wore the ensemble in the opener against Miami, a 32-24 win that remains their lone victory over an FBS team this season.
After Gray dictated the action in the first half, Rees went 8 for 8 on an 84-yard drive to open the third quarter. The march, which was kept alive by Gray’s 19-yard scamper on a third-and-17, ended with a 3-yard touchdown run by Cierre Wood (who finished with 99 yards rushing).
Minutes later, Lo Wood returned an interception 57 yards for a score to make it 38-7.
O’Brien returned for one play after the pick and left after being tackled hard on a 5-yard run. He completed 14 of 21 passes for 132 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Brown went 6 for 10 for 87 yards and ran three times for 31 yards.
“C.J. played well when he came in,” Edsall said.
A week ago, Notre Dame needed a second-half comeback to beat Wake Forest. In this one, the Irish took control early.
After holding Maryland without a first down on the opening possession, Notre Dame cruised 67 yards in eight plays to take a 7-0 lead. Gray ran four times for 32 yards, including a touchdown that extended his streak of games with a rushing TD to seven – most by a Notre Dame player since 1998.
Late in the quarter, David Ruffer kicked a career-long 52-yard field goal to cap an 11-play drive and put the Irish up 10-0.
In the second quarter, Notre Dame gave up its first sack in five games and 195 passing attempts. That possession ended in a punt, but the Irish quickly got the ball back and went ahead 17-0 on a 19-yard pass from Rees to Michael Floyd, whose 36th career touchdown tied him for third place on the school’s career list behind only Allen Pinkett (53) and Autry Denson (47).
Held to three first downs on its first five possessions, Maryland finally got its offense clicking behind O’Brien, who went 5 for 5 on a 61-yard drive that ended with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Quintin McCree.
Notre Dame promptly restored the 17-point margin with a 13-play drive that ended with a touchdown run by Gray on a fourth-down play.
The Irish padded the margin soon after halftime. Notre Dame has outscored the opposition 77-13 in the third quarter this year.