Oct. 16, 2010
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NOTRE DAME, Ind. (AP) - Brian Kelly had what he called a nice little chat with his team at the half. A good bet is that the Notre Dame coach delivered his remarks at a very high decibel level. He was not happy.
Whatever was said, it worked. The Irish got their running game on track in the third quarter; their defense played better, too; and they rode three TD catches from a less-than-healthy Michael Floyd to pull away to a 44-20 victory over Western Michigan. Notre Dame heads to East Rutherford, N.J., next week to face Navy at New Meadowlands Stadium. (Visit the Game's Rivalry Page)
"In the second half, we played the way I expect our team to play for four quarters. I think our defense limited them to very few yards. We ran the ball in the second half effectively the way we should have," Kelly said after his team's third straight win.
Playing with a tender hamstring, Floyd took a pass from Dayne Crist and raced 80 yards for a score on the game's first play from scrimmage. He also caught a 32-yarder on an option pass from John Goodman for a TD and later grabbed a 2-yarder from Crist in the third.
His trifecta came in the Irish's first game since losing star tight end Kyle Rudolph for the season because of a severe hamstring injury that required surgery.
"I just felt relaxed, not myself," Floyd said. "Up and ready, but I didn't want to go all the way just because of my hamstring. I wanted to protect it."
He looked fine on that early play, catching the ball near midfield and making a nice spin to get away from Broncos' defensive back Lewis Toler.
"He plays the game the way it's supposed to be played," Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit said of Floyd. "He plays with passion and there's no showboating. He's appreciative of the game ... He's a great player. He really is."
The Irish (4-3) led 27-17 at the half, using two interceptions to set up TDs. Cierre Wood's 39-yard touchdown run got the Irish rolling in the third and their defense blanked the Broncos in the second half until John Potter kicked a 26-yard field goal with just over five minutes left.
Kelly's conversation with his team centered on enthusiasm and attention to detail.
"I thought we made some poor decisions at the quarterback position. Dayne didn't play very well in the first half. ... He played much better in the second half, saw some things and made some plays," Kelly said.
"We need to play at the level we are capable of, so the conversation with them was, 'This is not how we play. We need to get back to what we do, which is lock in, be disciplined, no more penalties,' and they did a much better job."
After giving up 212 yards of total offense in the first half, Notre Dame limited Western to 102 in the second.
"It all comes back to what we did more than what they did. They really didn't make too many changes in the second half," Western Michigan quarterback Alex Carder said. "We played a great first half. The second, not so much."
Carder ran for a pair of first-half TDS for the Broncos (2-4) on a windy day at Notre Dame Stadium. He finished 28 of 43 for 277 yards.
Crist passed for three TDS, completed 18 of 28 for 255 yards and also ran for a score in three quarters of action.
In the second half, Notre Dame's physical play began to wear down the Broncos of the MAC.
"You hope it's a good game and No. 2 you hope the check doesn't bounce," Cubit said of the opportunity to play a big-name opponent. "And the third one, you're able to come back and you don't have too many kids hurt."
With leading rusher Armando Allen bothered by a sore hip and limited to only three carries, Notre Dame's rushing total in the first half was -4 yards, as Crist was sacked three times.
But Wood, Allen's replacement, broke away on Notre Dame's second play from scrimmage in the second half for his 39-yard TD to make it 34-17. Floyd caught his third scoring pass of the game, a 2-yarder on a fourth down from Crist later in the third.
Wood had 91 of his 94 rushing yards in the second half.
Crist found a wide open Tyler Eifert - playing in place of Rudolph - for a 39-yard TD on a fourth down to put the Irish up 27-10, a score set late up in the first half by Gary Gray's interception.
But the Broncos then took off on an 80-yard drive, using four pass completions by Carder, his 20-yard run and then 3-yard TD keeper to score with 15 seconds to go in the half to cut it 10.