SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame might have found a killer instinct.
After letting inferior teams hang around more than once in 2018 and struggling to put away Louisville in Week 1 this season, the No. 7 Irish piled on against New Mexico on Saturday to the tune of 31 points in the second quarter en route to an easy 66-14 win at Notre Dame Stadium.
“Our team found themselves a little bit (Saturday),” coach Brian Kelly said. “We have been looking to go into a second (game) here and put the pieces together and I think, by and large, they started to fall together for us today. You saw a number of different players on the offensive side of the ball have significant roles in what we did.
“That was kind of what we were expecting to happen (Saturday) and it came to fruition.”
It was the 14th consecutive regular-season win for the Irish (2-0), and it sets up a top-10 matchup of undefeated teams Saturday night against No. 3 Georgia in Athens.
Notre Dame's offensive explosion included six touchdowns from players who had never before found the end zone with the Irish. Kyle Hamilton, Javon McKinley, Avery Davis, C'Bo Flemister and Braden Lenzy all scored their first collegiate touchdowns against the Lobos (1-1).
Hamilton, a highly touted true freshman safety, got the scoring started early in the first quarter when defensive end Daelin Hayes tipped a New Mexico pass and Hamilton stepped up, adjusting to the changed trajectory of the ball, snaring it out of the air before racing 32 yards the other way for a pick-six and a 7-0 Notre Dame lead.
The Irish led by only seven at the end of the first quarter but exploded in the second behind a string of big plays on offense and defense.
Notre Dame picked off two more passes in the quarter, one going to safety Jalen Elliott and the other to cornerback Shaun Crawford.
Off both of those picks, the Irish scored quick touchdowns. On the first play after Elliott's interception, Davis took a jet sweep around the right side and sprinted untouched 59 yards for a touchdown.
Davis came to Notre Dame as a quarterback but has converted to running back, then to corner, then back to running back this week.
“I was smiling the whole way,” wide receiver Chase Claypool said of Davis' touchdown. “There wasn't a minute of that touchdown I wasn't smiling. Super happy for him.”
Claypool caught a 37-yard touchdown of his own two plays after Crawford's interception, a perfectly thrown pass over the middle from quarterback Ian Book to make it 35-0 late in the quarter.
McKinley came in with just one catch in his Notre Dame career, but he hauled in a pair of touchdowns, one on a bruising 65-yard catch and run in the second quarter on which he broke three tackles and the other on a 20-yard fade to the end zone in the third on which he outmuscled a well-positioned cornerback for the ball.
“It was good for us as an offense to get the confidence up for everybody, being able to go out there and execute,” said Book, who threw for 360 yards and a career-high five touchdowns.
“It wasn't a game we were going to look over. I thought the coaches did a great job of focusing in on the game in front of us.”
The Irish led 38-7 at halftime and scored on the first two possessions of the second half before letting off the gas and putting in backups.
“This team got juice, baby,” said Hayes, who had two tackles for loss. “This team can roll.”