Notre Dame linebacker Ishaq Williams warms up before facing Air Force in the first quarter of an NCAA football game at the Air Force Academy, Colo., on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Updated: October 26, 2013 8:01PM
Colorado Springs, Colo. – Strained neck?
Tommy Rees was more like a pain in the neck to the Air Force defense.
The quarterback carved up the Falcons. He set a career-high with five touchdowns in Notre Dame’s 45-10 victory Saturday at Falcon Stadium.
Rees completed 17 of 22 passes for 284 yards. He also moved into third place on the school’s career touchdown pass list. He has 54 career touchdown passes.
The senior’s previous career high for touchdowns in a game, four, occurred twice (Air Force in 2011 and Temple earlier this season).
It was an impressive comeback for Rees. He missed most of the second half of last week’s game against USC because of a strained neck.
Rees was cleared to practice Tuesday. He took all the first-team reps at Thursday’s practice and came out sharp against the Falcons.
Notre Dame (6-2) actually fell behind. Air Force (1-7) used its option attack to go 71 yards in its first possession. Colton Huntsman scored on a 10-yard run to give the Falcons a 7-0 lead.
The advantage didn’t last long.
Rees threw a 35-yard touchdown to freshman receiver Corey Robinson in Notre Dame’s next drive to tie the game. It was the first touchdown reception of Robinson’s career.
The Irish took the lead when Rees connected with another freshman. Rees completed a 46-yard pass to receiver William Fuller on the second play of the second quarter. It was the first touchdown of Fuller’s career. Rees completed all five of his pass attempts in the drive.
Rees threw a 22-yard touchdown to tight end Ben Koyack to extend the lead to 21-10 with 8:49 to go in the second quarter.
Kyle Brindza made a 51-yard field goal later in the quarter. It marked the third time in Brindza’s career that he made a field goal of at least 50 yards.
Rees went 14 of 19 for 224 yards in the first half.
Defensively, Notre Dame did a much better job defending the option in the second quarter. Air Force averaged 8.4 yards per carry in the first quarter. The average dropped to 3.7 in the second quarter.
The Irish recovered fumbles at the end of the second quarter and at the beginning of the third. Both times, Air Force had the ball in Notre Dame territory.
The second fumble set up a 30-yard yard touchdown pass from Rees to receiver TJ Jones. Jones has six touchdown receptions this season. It was his fifth consecutive game with at least one touchdown catch.
Rees threw his fifth touchdown to his fifth receiver later in the third quarter. Rees found receiver Chris Brown for a 15-yard touchdown to make it 38-10.
It was the first time in school history five Notre Dame players had a touchdown reception in the same game.
Backup quarterback Andrew Hendrix replaced Rees late in the third quarter. This time, instead of because of an injury, it was because the game was well out of reach.