Saturday, October 30, 2010
Tulsa adds to Irish misery
By Brian Bennett
It's hard to imagine Brian Kelly having many worse eight-day stretches as head coach of Notre Dame. If he does, he won't be the Irish coach for long.
The string of misery began with a blowout loss to Navy. Then there was the tragic accident in which student Declan Sullivan was killed when a practice tower collapsed. And then came Saturday, when Notre Dame lost starting quarterback Dayne Crist and lost 28-27 to Tulsa at home. Yes, Tulsa. At home.
The Irish had a chance to win at the end, but Tommy Rees threw an interception in the end zone in the final minute. There was no excuse for taking a chance there, with the team down by a point and on the Tulsa 19, well within kicker David Ruffer's range. Ruffer, after all, hasn't missed a field goal try in his career.
But Notre Dame found a way to lose, giving up a punt return for a touchdown, having a PAT blocked and returned for two points and allowing Tulsa to convert a 3rd-and-26 deep in its own territory on the game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter. It's always something.
Hard to blame Rees, a true freshman who threw four touchdowns but also three interceptions, including a pick-six. He had to step in for Crist, who is reportedly out for the season with a knee injury. That was the worst-case scenario for the Irish, and it looks like it's coming true. Rees may have to be the quarterback the rest of the year.
At least it might be a short year, as bowl chances are now dwindling. Notre Dame has to beat either Utah or win at USC to get to six wins, and neither seems likely. Heck, just having enough bodies is becoming a problem. Crist is out, and leading rusher Armando Allen didn't play with a hip problem. Top defensive lineman Ian Williams is out for the year, along with All-America tight end Kyle Rudolph.
The only good news for Notre Dame is that next week is a bye week. After this eight-day stretch, they really need it.