Five defining plays from Notre Dame's win over UMass

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

A game with 89 combined points has plenty of big plays, but here are the five defining plays from Notre Dame's 62-27 victory over UMass:

1. Notre Dame running back C.J. Prosise rips off a 57-yard run for the game's first touchdown.

CJ Prosise 57 yard rushing TD pic.twitter.com/TjrlxshDi9

— THE MAIN MANN™ (@JacobMann_1) September 26, 2015

Notre Dame’s big-play back churned out another long run to start the scoring for the Irish. Running a counter to the left out of a shotgun formation, Prosise took the hand-off from DeShone Kizer and saw UMass defensive end Peter Ngobidi in his face. He cut back inside to give right guard Steve Elmer the time to seal Ngobidi to the outside. Tight end Nic Weishar also pulled from the right and cleared out linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox to create room for Prosise.

Prosise then angled for the sideline to run around a hard-charging secondary. He used his speed to get to the edge and found a clear path to the end zone. Wide receiver Will Fuller sprinted downfield to prevent defensive back Randall Jette from catching Prosise.

Prosise continued his hot start to the season with 149 yards and two touchdowns on only 15 carries.

2. Freshman wide receiver C.J. Sanders returns a UMass punt 50 yards for a touchdown late in the second quarter.

WATCH: SANDERS HOUSES IT. True freshman CJ Sanders catches the punt at the 50 yd line and takes it to the house! pic.twitter.com/XBzoxRiPbC

— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) September 26, 2015

Notre Dame needed to regain momentum, and Sanders provided the spark. With UMass forced to punt from its own two-yard line, the Irish chose to set up a return for Sanders instead of trying to block the punt in the end zone. The plan worked.

Sanders caught the punt at midfield and squeezed between five UMass defenders near the 37-yard line with the help of a block from Nicky Baratti. Equanimeous St. Brown and KeiVarae Russell picked up crucial blocks at the 10-yard line and Sanders shook off one more UMass player before reaching the end zone.

It seemed only a matter of time until Sanders returned a punt for a touchdown at Notre Dame. This return helped Notre Dame separate itself from the Minutemen on the scoreboard and took some pressure off the offense and defense before halftime.

3. DeShone Kizer finds Will Fuller for a 26-yard touchdown to put the Irish ahead 21-13 in the second quarter.

The Kizer-to-Fuller connection has proved fruitful already this season, but this touchdown had an added element of freelance to it. Rather than just chuck it deep to Fuller, the two had to work together to figure it out after the initial play broke down.

Kizer’s timing was thrown off by a blitz. As Elmer worked to protect Kizer, the quarterback rolled out of the pocket to his left. At the same time, Fuller redirected his inside slant to work in the same direction. The result was an easy throw to an open receiver, but only because Kizer and Fuller were on the same page.

The touchdown catch was the 22nd of Fuller's career, which moved him into a tie for fourth place in school history with Rhema McKinight and Derrick Mayes.

4. UMass quarterback Blake Frohnapfel completes a 56-yard pass to Shakur Nesmith on a flea flicker to set up the third score for the Minutemen (at 1:53 of below video).

UMass dived into its bag of tricks on the first play after Fuller’s touchdown catch. And just like Virginia fooled Notre Dame for a big play, the UMass setup allowed for Nesmith to be left alone in the secondary.

Frohnapfel started the play with a toss to running back Andrew Libby, who threw the ball back to Frohnapfel after faking a run to the right. Frohnapfel had plenty of time to find Nesmith nearly 10 yards ahead of the nearest defender. A slightly underthrown pass allowed Max Redfield, Elijah Shumate and Cole Luke to catch up to make the tackle.

The damage was done despite the Minutemen not scoring on the play. Four plays later, Jamal Wilson capitalized with a one-yard touchdown run. Notre Dame has to develop better awareness in the secondary to prevent lapses like this one.

5. Freshman quarterback Brandon Wimbush bursts through the UMass defense for a 58-yard touchdown late in third quarter.

@BrandonW_7 1st career #NotreDame TD !!! #teamVH#MadQBpic.twitter.com/Sif2Vf3I6V

— Varsity Highlights (@HDhighlights) September 26, 2015

Head coach Brian Kelly finally found an opportunity to get Wimbush into the game and the freshman delivered. Wimbush showed off his legs in relief duty of Kizer.

Wimbush faked a handoff to Josh Adams on a jet sweep and kept the ball for a run up the middle. With a good push from his offensive line, Wimbush cut behind left guard Quenton Nelson but was quickly met by a UMass defender. Wimbush shrugged off the tackle attempt and accelerated into the end zone. Nobody was going to catch him.

Few question Wimbush’s raw ability, but playing time is needed for the Irish to feel comfortable with him as the backup quarterback in case of an emergency.

tjames@ndinsider.com | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Notre Dame’s C.J. Prosise (20) breaks away from Massachusetts’ Kelton Brackett (1) on a touchdown run during the Notre Dame-Massachusetts NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN