SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- No. 6 Notre Dame received a bigger scare than it probably anticipated early Saturday against UMass, but the Fighting Irish used a pair of quick touchdowns on each side of halftime to give themselves a cushion and exit Notre Dame Stadium with a 62-27 win. The Irish were without tight end Tyler Luatua, who was a late scratch due to an undisclosed injury. But they did get to work in No. 2 quarterback Brandon Wimbush early in the second half, a very important step given Notre Dame’s limited depth at that position (and many others).
The Irish now find themselves at 4-0 as they enter next Saturday’s primetime showdown at undefeated and 11th-ranked Clemson, the ACC favorite. Before looking ahead to Death Valley, let’s take a look at what went down for the Irish against the Minutemen.
What the win means for Notre Dame: The Irish did what everyone expected them to, even if it took about a quarter-and-a-half for them to wake up. They scored two quick touchdowns before halftime to extend their lead to 35-20, and opened the second half with two more to make it 48-20, essentially putting the game out of reach. The slow start was to be expected, as the Irish were facing UMass between Georgia Tech and Clemson, but the Irish sure put a finish on it in the second half, ultimately finishing with their highest point total, highest total-yard output and highest rushing-yard output of the Brian Kelly era. Now that this one is out of the way, everyone can look forward to Notre Dame’s battle with Clemson, as two undefeated teams will meet under the lights with early playoff implications on the line. Everyone should learn plenty more about both teams come next weekend.
What the loss means for UMass: The Minutemen entered with a chip on their shoulders after a close loss last week to Temple, as they pretty much went stride-for-stride with Notre Dame through the game’s first 25 minutes, trailing just 21-20 because of a missed extra point. They will get a chance to rebound next week at home against FIU before kicking off Mid-American Conference play Oct. 10 at Bowling Green.
Player of the game: C.J. Prosise continues to impress out of the backfield. He topped the 100-yard mark in the first quarter and was able to call it a day early after tallying 149 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. Prosise, a former safety and receiver, entered the spring No. 3 on the depth chart, but after Greg Bryant's academic shortcomings and Tarean Folston’s injury he has been the Irish’s rock, rushing for 600 total yards and six touchdowns through four games.
Unsung hero: Hats off to Irish punter Tyler Newsome, whose first-half kicking was probably the difference. He had punts of 59 yards and 52 yards, with the latter being downed at the 1. UMass then went three-and-out, and with the Minutemen using extra protection while booting it out of the end zone, Irish freshman C.J. Sanders had a clear path most of the way on his 50-yard touchdown return that extended the Irish lead to 28-20 late in the second quarter.