SAN ANTONIO — Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer loosened up the Army defense with his arm. Then the Irish took advantage with their legs.
Kizer threw for three touchdowns and collected 72 of Notre Dame’s season-high 261 yards rushing, helping the Irish beat Army 44-6 on Saturday.
C.J. Sanders returned the opening kickoff for a score, and then Kizer took over. He was 17 for 28 for 209 yards with an interception before he was replaced by Malik Zaire for the fourth quarter.
Tarean Folston and Josh Adams each rushed for a score as Notre Dame rebounded nicely from last weekend’s 28-27 loss to Navy. Folston had 84 yards on 13 carries, and Adams finished with 15 carries for 70 yards.
“We were able to throw the ball over their heads, and it backed them off, so it gave us some opportunities to run the football,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said.
Along the way, Kizer looked at second and third options to find open receivers.
“He is maturing as a quarterback,” Kelly said. “I liked his leadership today. I liked his leadership all week. He was holding players to a higher standard. I liked his toughness.”
Kell Walker had a 2-yard touchdown run in the second quarter for Army’s only score. Ahmad Bradshaw, Army’s starting quarterback, was sidelined by a knee injury.
The Black Knights (5-5) began the day ranked in the top 25 nationally in several defensive categories, but the Irish (4-6) were in complete control right from the start.
Sanders returned the opening kickoff 92 yards, and Kizer tossed a 37-yard touchdown pass to freshman Kevin Stepherson with 10 minutes left in the first quarter. Adams had a 2-yard touchdown run with 3:44 remaining, and the rout was on.
The Irish led 38-6 at halftime. Tight end Durham Smythe had second-quarter touchdown receptions of 10 and 31 yards.
“I really don’t know what to say after a tail-whipping like that,” Army coach Jeff Monken said. “We couldn’t stop the ball and couldn’t run the ball effectively enough to keep drives going. Credit Notre Dame. They played like a championship team.”
Notre Dame had dropped three of four. But Kizer and company got a chance to enjoy their first runaway victory in a while.
“We kind of challenge ourselves to build off each other, both offensively and defensively, to sustain success,” Kizer said. “Today was the perfect example of us feeding off the defense, and the defense feeding off the offense, and one big special teams play.”
The Black Knights host Morgan State. They have met once before, with Army winning 28-12 in 2013. The Irish host Virginia Tech on Saturday in the first-ever meeting between the schools.