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Sunday, October 31, 2010
What we learned: Notre Dame, Week 9

By Brian Bennett

What we learned from Notre Dame in the Irish's 28-27 home loss to Tulsa on Saturday:

1. Rees' pieces: This is, for better or worse, Tommy Rees' team now. The true freshman will have to take over at quarterback for Dayne Crist, who's apparently out for the year with a knee injury. Rees had good moments against Tulsa, throwing for four touchdowns in a tough spot. But he also had three interceptions and should never have thrown the final pick in the end zone in the final minute with Notre Dame already in field-goal position. Notre Dame will have to coach up Rees as much as possible during the bye week and hope for the best in the final three games.

2. Bye bye bowl?: Now at 4-5, the Irish have games left against Army, Utah and at USC, a place they haven't won since 2000. Dropping games to Navy and Tulsa erased all margin for error, and it's looking increasingly likely that the Irish will stay home for the holidays in Brian Kelly's first year. Any way you slice it, that's vastly disappointing.

3. Youth steps forward: All of a sudden, Notre Dame is a very young team. There's Rees at quarterback, of course. Armando Allen's career might be done at running back, leaving that job in the hands of Cierre Wood. True frosh T.J. Jones is the second-leading receiver, and Tyler Eifert has taken over for the injured Kyle Rudolph. Sophomore Sean Cwynar is starting for Ian Williams at nose tackle, with freshman Kona Schwenke seeing reps at defensive end. All this youth shows how little experienced depth the Irish had and makes a strong finishing kick even more unlikely. If there's any good news, it's that these guys are gaining valuable seasoning for 2011.