The road to Miami has been full of drama for the Irish. With some tough, dramatic wins, came some unlikely heroes that were essential to the Irish making it to the BCS title game. Since there’s some time before the big game, I thought we could take a look at some of the unexpected game changers for the Irish this season. Each week we’ll take a look at someone different leading up to Jan. 7, we’ll start with Tommy Rees.
It didn’t take long for the Irish to need someone to step up in crunch time. In just the second week of the season, the Irish found themselves with their backs against the wall against Purdue. Late in the 4th quarter, 2012 started looking a lot like 2011. Everett Golson fumbled deep in Boiler territory, leading to a game tying touchdown pass from Caleb Terbush to Antavian Edison. Golson was replaced by Tommy Rees, and I, like many Irish fans, suddenly had flashbacks to last season of weakly thrown passes resulting in interceptions or fumbles in a collapsing pocket. I was pleasantly surprised while watching Rees engineer a scoring drive that led to a game winning field goal from Kyle Brindza. On 3rd and long, Rees connected with John Goodman to help the Irish get into field goal range for the game winning score. The game winning drive against Purdue was just the beginning for Tommy Rees this season. After Golson threw 2 bad interceptions and looked noticeably overwhelmed early on against Michigan, Rees stepped in and was able to settle the offense down. Tommy came in and did exactly what he needed to, didn’t turn the ball over and managed the game while the defense won the turnover battle. Against Stanford, Rees was called upon after Golson took a shot that forced him to leave the game late in the 4th quarter. A completion to Eifert and a pass interference penalty later, the Irish were in field goal range. Once again Tommy was able to orchestrate a key scoring drive; only this time was to send the game into overtime. In overtime, Rees faced a 3rd and 8, hitting Theo Riddick for 16yds and moving the Irish to the 7yd line. With 1st and goal, Rees completed a game winning touchdown pass to TJ Jones, putting Notre Dame up 20-13; the impending defensive stand secured the victory. The following week, Rees started against BYU with a chance to help the Irish move to 7-0. He was successful once again in managing the offense and hitting Eifert in the first quarter to help the Irish jump out to an early lead. Whenever Rees got his chance to play, the stakes seemed to be higher. This was no different when his number was called to convert a key 3rd down against Oklahoma. Facing 3rd and 7 on the Sooner 38, Rees hit Eifert for an 11yd gain and a key conversion on a drive that ended with a field goal, putting Notre Dame up 13-6.
I have been one of the biggest Rees haters you can imagine, and as much as I hate to admit it, every time the Irish needed him, he has come up big. Tommie’s ability to come in to a game, with no time to warm up and being able to understand the situation has been essential to the success Notre Dame has had this year. Along with his mentorship in the development of Everett Golson; Tommy Rees has arguably been as valuable as any single player on the team this season. Tommy Rees is an invaluable asset to this title contending team.