SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Dayne Crist threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to Michael Floyd on the first play from scrimmage, but Notre Dame needed an inspired defensive effort in the third quarter, Cierre Wood's 39-yard touchdown run and Crist's two-yard touchdown pass to Michael Floyd to pull away for a 44-20 victory over stubborn Western Michigan on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.
Crist was 18-of-28 for 255 yards and three touchdowns, Floyd had nine receptions for 157 yards and three touchdowns and wide receiver John Goodman threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Floyd on a reverse for Notre Dame (4-3), which won its third consecutive game after a 1-3 start. The Irish play Navy next week in the Meadowlands, then face Tulsa in South Bend on Oct. 30.
Quarterback Alex Carder led Western Michigan on a 10-play, 80-yard drive, scoring on a three-yard run off a draw play with 15 seconds left in the half to get the Broncos within 27-17.
But the defense turned it around in the third quarter to ignite the blowout. Kerry Neal and Ethan Johnson sacked Carder on the second play of the third quarter to force a 20-yard punt that gave Notre Dame possession at the Western Michigan 44. Two plays later, Wood bolted outside and down the right sideline for a 39-yard touchdown and a 34-17 lead.
After Notre Dame's defense forced another three-and-out, the Irish drove 53 yards on nine plays for another touchdown, with Crist hitting Floyd with a two-yard scoring pass on fourth-and-goal. That gave Notre Dame a 41-17 lead.
Notre Dame, which allowed 212 yards in the first half, held Western Michigan to 16 yards on 14 plays in the third quarter, including minus-five yards on nine plays on the Broncos' first three drives.
Eifert had four receptions for 72 yards and a touchdown in place of preseason All-American Kyle Rudloph, who had season-ending hamstring surgery on Friday.
Wood gained 94 yards on 11 carries. and also had 29 yards on three receptions.
Carder was 28-of-43 for 277 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. He was sacked four times. Wide receiver Juan Nunez had 11 receptions for 103 yards. Defensive end Paul Hazel had 1 1/2 sacks and three tackles-for-loss for Western Michigan, all of the damage done when the game was still in doubt.