A strong second half by Notre Dame gave the Fighting Irish perhaps their biggest win of the season, 37-34, over Arizona State. The defense forced key stops late and Tommy Rees threw three touchdowns to improve the Irish to 4-2 on the season.
Rees was strong under center for the most part. He led a a 71-yard drive, capped by an 8-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Jones in 1:20, to give Notre Dame a 14-13 lead at halftime. He came out firing after halftime as well, throwing his third touchdown pass of the evening to tight end Troy Niklas late in the third quarter to give Notre Dame a 24-13 lead.
The game quickly pivoted on a Rees mistake, however. On the next possession by the Fighting Irish offense, Rees threw a third-down pick-six to Orashon Irabor to pull the Sun Devils within one score once again. Notre Dame's next drive stalled on 3rd-and-1 on Arizona State's 15-yard line, and after a Kyle Brindza field goal, the Sun Devils responded with a game-tying touchdown drive capped by a Taylor Kelly touchdown pass to De'Marieya Nelson.
Things became tense after Notre Dame failed to convert on 3rd-and-goal from the 8-yard line and had to settle for a field goal. The Sun Devils had a chance to drive for a game-winning touchdown after a touchback, but Notre Dame's defense stood strong knowing that Arizona had to pass with just three minutes remaining in the game. Kelly was sacked on first down, and after two incomplete passes he threw an interception to Matthias Farley on fourth down.
Notre Dame went three-and-out on their next possession, and punted back to Arizona State with 1:30 remaining in the game. Kelly threw an ugly pick-six to Dan Fox on first down from the 14-yard line, however, seemingly sealing the win for Notre Dame.
Arizona State would not lay down, though. Without using their remaining timeout, Kelly and Co. drove 75 yards in 50 seconds to score a touchdown on a pass to Marion Grice with just 11 seconds remaining in the game. The Sun Devils had a valiant attempt on the onside kick, but Notre Dame came up with the ball in a scramble to seal the win.
Box Score Hero: Both passing games put up big numbers. Rees went 17-for-38 for 279 yards, three touchdowns and one interceptions. Kelly went 32-for-45 for 340 yards, three touchdowns and two costly interceptions.
On the receiving end, Jaelen Strong and T.J. Jones had huge nights. Strong had eight receptions for 136 yards and a touchdown. Jones had eight receptions for 135 yards and one touchdown.
Rankings Ramifications: Arizona State could drop out of the rankings. They are currently ranked No. 22 in the AP poll and No. 24 in the Coaches poll. Notre Dame is in the "also receiving votes" section of both polls, so there's a chance they could climb into the bottom of the Top 25.
But Did They Cover? Arizona State was favored by 6.5 points, so they did not cover.
Next Week's Schedule: Notre Dame is playing a Pac-12 school once again, with USC going to South Bend Saturday for a night game. Arizona State will be back in the friendly confines of Sun Devil Stadium, hosting Colorado.