DALLAS — For two weeks, Tommy Rees struggled to find a rhythm. The senior quarterback completed just 23 of 58 passes for 246 yards and threw as many interceptions (three) as touchdowns.
But against Arizona State, Rees was effective despite a 44.7 completion percentage, throwing for 279 yards and three touchdowns. T.J. Jones, who he's targeted every year since coming to Notre Dame, was a big reason for that success.
"He's such a smart football player," Rees said. "I think that's one of the things that all good receivers have, is they understand coverage. They understand leverage and how to run routes. T.J.'s best asset is how well he understands defenders are playing him, and then he runs routes based off that.
"A guy like that I can trust and count on being on the same page. He obviously catches everything and does a great job."
Jones and Rees came to Notre Dame in 2010, and while Rees' favorite target in 2011 was Tyler Eifert, he's developed a similar rapport with Jones in 2013.
Through six games, Jones has 33 catches for 481 yards and four touchdowns, the latter stat there already tying a career high. Against Arizona State, Jones caught eight passes for 135 yards and reeled in a critical touchdown with 10 seconds left in the first half.
"Whereas sometimes we misfire with some of the other younger receivers ... (Rees) and T.J. Jones are right on the same page," head coach Brian Kelly said. "And when he's in trouble, he's looking for T.J. Jones."
That doesn't mean Rees didn't look for Jones against Michigan State and Oklahoma, though. Rees, though, stepped his game up against Arizona State, as did Jones. And the result was an effective passing game, which helped steer the Irish to a 37-34 win over a top-25 ASU squad.
"T.J. is our big play guy," Kelly said. "He's somebody that we have to rely on."