Notre Dame Grounds Air Force In Dominating 44-14 Win; Makes Plans For A New Year’s Bowl
By MIKE NORBUT
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – For all practical purposes, Notre Dame’s season was riding on their performance against Air Force Saturday. A win would have meant a ticket to an $8 million Alliance bowl. A loss may have sent the Irish home for the holidays, since a lesser bowl would not exactly meet Notre Dame standards.
With that in mind, the Irish wasted no time in going for the jugular, scoring on their first four possessions en route to a 44-14 thrashing of Air Force.
The win, which came before a record crowd of 54,482 at Falcon Stadium, moves Notre Dame (9-2) up to No. 7 in the Associated Press poll, making them the highest-ranked two-loss team in the country.
“This is definitely a great way to go out,” senior captain Ryan Leahy said. “Now we just have to get ourselves ready for a big bowl.”
But with two more weeks of football to be played, trying to figure out Notre Dame’s opponent is still mere speculation.
“I haven’t thought about who we may play,” Irish coach Lou Holtz said. “The only team I want to be with on New Year’s is Notre Dame. I’m really happy for this team. The guys have really hung in there.”
Notre Dame made sure Air Force wouldn’t hang in with them by leaping out to a 20-0 halftime lead, failing to score on only one first half possession.
“I told the team at halftime that if we were down by 20, I wouldn’t think we were out of the game,” Holtz said. “I told them Air Force didn’t think so either.”
But in reality, the Falcons were not even in it from the beginning. A delay of game penalty followed by a timeout on their opening drive set the tone for the game.
“The off-date really helped,” Irish defensive coordinator Bob Davie said. “We were able to hide our intentions a bit more, so they didn’t know where we were coming from.”
The Irish defense controlled the potent Air Force offense, allowing only one scoring chance in the first half — a missed field goal attempt by the Falcons’ Randy Roberts.
“The missed field goal really took some starch out of our football team,” Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry said.
The Air Force offense did look soggy and formless in comparison to the Irish ground machine. Notre Dame piled up 410 yards rushing behind Randy Kinder’s 121 and Autry Denson’s 109. Just for good measure, fullback Marc Edwards added 84.
“They complement each other well,” offensive coordinator Dave Roberts said. “They, along with Robert Farmer, are three great backs.”
“It’s good to get some fresh bodies in there,” Kinder said. “We have lots of backs that start rolling and dominating. It’s a good feeling.”
Kinder started the good feelings with 5:26 left in the first quarter, scoring on a 17-yard run. The play capped off an eight-play, 94-yard drive that did not feature a single pass play. It was indicative of the evening on the whole.
“We knew everybody had to step it up,” Leahy said. “We just played straight-ahead Irish football.”
Straight ahead, literally. All the backs really needed to do was look for a hole opened up by the offensive line.
“It was such a physical mismatch,” DeBerry said. “Their offensive line has dominated a lot of teams they’ve played so far this season.”
Strong or not up front, the Irish still faced a potentially disastrous situation when quarterback Thomas Krug took a hit to the chest and did not get up right away. It looked as if whether Holtz wanted to play him or not, Jarious Jackson would get his chance.
“It was high drama,” Kinder said. “We thought it would be the same thing as Ron, but all we asked was, ‘Where’s Jarious?'”
“I knew Tom would get up,” linebacker Lyron Cobbins said. “We hit him a thousand times in practice.”
Krug did get up and, after a timeout, got his wind back enough to throw an incomplete pass. The 10-play, 13-yard drive culminated in a Scott Cengia 30-yard field goal to give the Irish a 10-0 lead. Cengia had three field goals on the evening.
Denson got in on the act in the second quarter, scoring from three yards out to increase the lead to 17-0. After another Cengia field goal, the Irish had a chance to put the Falcons away in the first half, but Krug was intercepted in the end zone by Kelvin King. It was the only questionable play in a game of consistency played by the junior.
“The only error he had was the one interception he threw,” Roberts said. “But on the whole, he had a complete game.”
Krug finished the game 8-for-13 for 96 yards. Falcon quarterback Beau Morgan, who Davie had compared to former Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie earlier last week, had only 40 yards rushing on 10 carries. He completed 8-of-16 for 63 yards. He was intercepted twice.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for their quarterback,” Davie said. “But they didn’t really know where we were coming from. We were able to create some more bad plays.”
At Falcon StadiumNovember 18, 1995Attendance: 54,482
Notre Dame (8) 10 10 17 7 – 44 Air Force 0 0 7 7 – 14
ND–Kinder 17 run (Cengia kick) ND–FG Cengia 30 ND–A. Denson 3 run (Cengia kick) ND–FG Cengia 26 ND–FG Cengia 27 AF–Addison 8 pass from B. Morgan (Thompson kick) ND–A. Denson 30 run (Cengia kick) ND–Kinder 5 run (Cengia kick) ND–M. Thorne 5 run (Cengia kick) AF–Brooks 11 pass from B. Morgan (Thompson kick)
ND AF First downs 27 14 Rushes-yards 63-410 37-223 Passing yards 104 63 Sacked-yards lost 4-0 0-0 Return yards 128 13 Comp.-Att.-Int. 9-14-1 8-16-2 Punts 1-38.0 4-55.8 Fumbles-lost 2-1 1-1 Penalties-yards 7-52 4-25 Time of possession 34:59 25:01
RUSHING:Notre Dame-Kinder 14-121, A. Denson 16-109, Edwards 14-84, R. Farmer 8-35, Sollman 1-16, M. Thorne 3-15, Krug 3-13, C. Stokes 1-11, Spencer 2-6, Barry 1-0.
Air Force-Addison 10-108, B. Morgan 10-40, B. Wilkerson 6-30, Tanner 3-17, D. Johnson 3-11, Eilers 1-10, Ruff 2-5, Jak. Campbell 1-1, Brown 1-1.
PASSING:Notre Dame-Krug 8-13-1-96, M. Perona 1-1-0-8.
Air Force-B. Morgan 8-16-2-63.
RECEIVING:Notre Dame-Mayes 3-46, Mosley 2-19, Edwards 1-13, Chryplewicz 1-11, K. Carretta 1-8, Stafford 1-7.
Air Force-Jak. Campbell 3-29, Addison 2-10, Brooks 1-11, M. Ranger 1-8, D. Johnson 1-5.