Horton opines on Crist situation

Midway through August, Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist was named the starting signal-caller for the Fighting Irish by head coach Brian Kelly, beating out precocious sophomore Tommy Rees.

And then he lost his job a half-game into the season when he started off badly against South Florida and Kelly called for Rees in the second half after severe weather forced the teams into a two-hour halftime delay. Now, Rees is the full-fledged starter and Crist is the backup, a talented fourth-year junior sitting behind a second-year player.

As USC and the Horton brothers -- Shane and Wes -- come into town this week, it's a fitting time to look back on what happened and what remains for Crist's collegiate career. The trio played together at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame and have kept in touch throughout college, meeting up during Notre Dame's bye last week when Crist came back to town.

They talked plenty, but not about the situation back at school, Wes Horton said Thursday. Still, the USC defensive end offered some perspective on the whole situation.

"It sucked," Wes Horton said of Crist's position. "He was kind of on a short leash and he had that one bad game, but that doesn't take away from the fact that he's a great quarterback and he can get the job done. It was a smooth transition, Tommy Rees is their guy now, and they've been winning a lot lately with him.

"It is what it is."

As for the Trojans themselves, Horton's aware of what the game against Notre Dame means for USC. If the Trojans win, they're guaranteed a spot in the top-25 and a 6-1 record heading into a big home date against Stanford. If they lose, they're 5-2 and vaulting downward.

Then there's the defensive line, too -- the unit that has performed OK over the first half of the year but hasn't quite met expectations.

"This is a huge game for us," Horton said. "Seeing them on film, knowing what we gotta do up front, this could really be a breakout game for us.

"If we can prove that we can constantly get pressure on them and make plays in the backfield, that's gonna say a lot and boost us as we go into the later part of the season."