SOUTH BEND – So much for looking ahead.
In the first of two games it must win against middling teams to have any chance at the College Football Playoff, No. 6 Notre Dame dismantled Georgia Tech 55-0 in the most definitive beatdown of coach Brian Kelly's tenure. The victory came in front of a crowd of 70,011 on Senior Day at Notre Dame Stadium.
“You don't get many opportunities as a head coach where you have a Senior Day and you have a resounding victory and it's not snowing in November in South Bend,” Kelly said, laughing. “What's not to like about what happened today? ... Guys executed at a high level, players played to their potential.
“For those that are interested in style points – and you might not like me for this, but I'm not – I covered that one, too.”
The margin of victory was the largest for Notre Dame since a Lou Holtz-coached team beat Rutgers 62-0 in 1996.
The triumph was the sixth in a row for the Irish (10-1) since a loss to Cincinnati in September that seemed to doom Notre Dame's chances to play for a national championship. Now the possibility of a third CFP berth in four seasons is alive, thanks to a team that has grown by leaps and bounds late in the season.
“Sometimes (growth) is measured in much smaller increments, but this has been larger in those increments,” Kelly said. “We all want to see the growth and it's to the point where this is a really good football team. ... I'm watching this football team out there that looks nothing like it did back when we played Toledo.”
The Irish defense provided the first touchdown. On Georgia Tech's opening possession, defensive end Isaiah Foskey pressured quarterback Jordan Yates – the Yellow Jacket backup playing in place of injured starter Jeff Sims – and Yates' attempt to get rid of the ball went right to linebacker Jack Kiser, who returned it 43 yards for his second pick-six of the season.
Foskey later helped create another defensive touchdown when he strip-sacked Yates in the third quarter. defensive lineman Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa picked up the bouncing ball and rumbled 70 yards for a touchdown, the final score of the game with 4:50 left in the third quarter.
After the play, Foskey, Tagovailoa-Amosa and Kelly watched the replay on the stadium's videoboard.
“That was a cool moment, I was showing him I got his back,” said Foskey, who has 10 sacks this season. “I was blocking the quarterback because I knew that was the one person who could stop the whole thing. I tried to throw the quarterback into (a receiver chasing the play). I was showing (Tagovailoa-Amosa) I got his back and he got mine with a touchdown.”
The Irish sacked Yates six times and hurried him nine more. They have held opponents without a touchdown in three straight games for the first time since 2012.
Notre Dame scored touchdowns on five straight possessions to end the first half, including two scores apiece for running backs Kyren Williams and Logan Diggs. Tight end Michael Mayer caught a 52-yard deep post over the middle for a touchdown and at halftime it was 45-0.
Quarterback Jack Coan went 15 of 20 for 285 yards and two touchdowns, with all of the yards coming in the first half.
“We've definitely found our identity (on offense),” Mayer said. “Coan's been throwing the ball great, Kyren's been running the ball great, we've got Diggs now as our RB2, playing great. Our offense is really coming together.”
The victory gave Notre Dame 10 wins for the fifth consecutive season, extending the longest such streak in program history.