Sunday, October 24, 2010
What we learned: Notre Dame, Week 8
By Brian Bennett
What we learned from Notre Dame's 35-17 loss to Navy on Saturday:
1. It's crossroads time: Last year's loss to Navy was the beginning of the end, both for the Irish season and of Charlie Weis's career. Brian Kelly is in no danger of being fired, but Notre Dame clearly faces a fork in the road. At 4-4 with tough games left against Utah and at USC, this season could easily devolve into another losing campaign. There will be a lot of questions this week about Kelly, defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, quarterback Dayne Crist and just about everything else. The Irish have to pick themselves off the mat somehow.
2. Fighting Irish? Hardly: All that talk in the preseason about Kelly instilling toughness and getting back to the blue-collar ways of the Fighting Irish has yet to become much more than talk. The key play in the Navy game happened early, when Crist got stuffed on fourth and inches from the goal line on the first Notre Dame drive. "If you can't get a foot on the one-half yard line, you get what you deserve," Kelly said. That's true. The one thing you can always count on from the Midshipmen is physical and mental toughness and a 60-minute fight. The Irish aren't there yet. Navy did some things with its running game that Notre Dame hadn't seen on film, but as Kelly said, "Scheme's one thing; you still have to win those one-on-one matchups."
3. Crist has to get better: Sure, Crist didn't have two key weapons in the injured Michael Floyd and Theo Riddick, not to mention Kyle Rudolph. And he's still learning the offense. But eight games in, he should be making better decisions and throws. His interception late in the first-half was inexcusable and led to a Navy touchdown. "He has some good moments, then inexperience hits him," Kelly said. "It's the consistency factor for him, and being able to do it with a competence that is play in and play out." Crist has to learn how to become more consistent, or else Kelly might have to look elsewhere for his quarterback of the future.