NCF Nation: Jamoris Slaughter

The NFL does not wait for everyone, and so what was an otherwise 10 a.m. ET call out of Baltimore turned into an early-morning wake-up for the latest former Notre Dame player to take his talents to the next level.

Toma will join fellow Irish player Kapron Lewis-Moore with the Ravens. The often-overlooked 5-foot-9, 185-pound receiver is now the 13th former Irish player who will get a shot at the NFL in one form or another.

The official Notre Dame football page has a nice graphic of most of the players here.

To recap:
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Austin Collinsworth was careful not to say that he was completely, fully healed from shoulder and back surgeries in the past year, but returning to the field this spring has served as a final hurdle to cross after missing last season.

"I would say probably 98 percent, something like that," the rising fourth-year junior said. "But I'll be 100 percent by the end of the spring."

The safety underwent surgery following last year's spring season to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder, an injury that figured to sideline him for the 2012 campaign. That year-long wait became official when back pain that flared up in October eventually resulted in another operation, leaving him to watch the entirety of Notre Dame's run to the Discover BCS National Championship from the sideline.

"It's hard," said Collinsworth, the son of former NFL player and current analyst Cris Collinsworth. "It was a really exciting season. It was pretty terrible not being a part of it, but I liked watching my friends do well out on the field and it was a really fun season just to be a part of."

Collinsworth said that he began feeling great physically three weeks ago, and he impressed the staff in the weeks leading up to the start of spring practices.

"We had seven workouts where the coaches were involved in the conditioning elements," coach Brian Kelly said at the start of spring. "Our defensive staff feels really good. I had a chance to observe him because I wanted to see the guys that are coming back. I was really pleased with what I saw."

Collinsworth has been seen working with the second-team defense this spring upon his return, alongside Eilar Hardy. (Rising sophomore Nick Baratti has been sidelined following his own shoulder surgery.) After recording 25 tackles and forcing one fumble while playing in all 26 games throughout his first two seasons with the Irish, Collinsworth is hoping to crack the rotation of a secondary that finally finds itself with a good numbers problem, this after the unit suffered three season-ending injuries by Week 3 of last season.

The departure of Davonte' Neal has led to more opportunities for Collinsworth to field punts, too, something the Fort Thomas, Ky., native did for three years in high school.

"We lost some really good guys," Collinsworth said of the secondary. "Jamoris [Slaughter] last year only got to play a couple games when he was back at safety. And Zeke [Motta] -- that kid's an animal back there. But we've got a lot of good players that are returning, and I don't think our defensive backfield is going to take a step back at all."
After the NFL and the Manti Te'o questions came football talk, bringing some good and bad news to a 22-day-old Notre Dame offseason that has felt much longer.

Starting cornerback Bennett Jackson had surgery to repair a labrum tear. Starting inside linebacker Dan Fox had a similar operation. Both are expected to be limited to non-contact portions of spring practice, which starts March 20.

Safety Austin Collinsworth is expected to be ready this spring after missing the 2012 season because of separate shoulder and back surgeries. Brian Kelly also sounded optimistic about the playing future of center Matt Hegarty, who was shut down for the season following a Nov. 8 mini-stroke, while cornerback Lo Wood continues to recover from an Achllies tear suffered in fall camp.

Constant leg problems, meanwhile, may force offensive tackle Tate Nichols to take a medical redshirt.

Kelly pegged Hegarty, Nick Martin and Mark Harrell as players in the mix to replace Braxston Cave at center. Kelly said Fox, Carlo Calabrese and Jarrett Grace are the front-runners to replace Te'o at the MIKE linebacker spot, with Kendall Moore and potential incoming freshmen having a chance to be included as well.

The mentioning of Fox and Calabrese means both will likely be back for a fifth season in 2013, though Kelly said the official process needs to still take place.

"We're going to sit down when we get back, as we always have from recruiting, once we finish up our numbers in recruiting, then we start to talk about our fifth-year guys," Kelly said. "But they'll all, as we have in the past, they'll continue to train because they're in school anyway. And then we'll let them know our decisions as we talk to the university, relative to granting that additional year."

Kelly also said he is hoping the NCAA's ruling on safety Jamoris Slaughter's appeal for a sixth year will come before national signing day. Kelly said Slaughter is still in school.

Video: Jamoris Slaughter still tutoring

January, 6, 2013
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Notre Dame safety Jamoris Slaughter hasn't let an injury keep him from helping his team get to the national championship game.

Kiel says he's not going anywhere

January, 5, 2013
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MIAMI -- Gunner Kiel says he will be at Notre Dame this spring, and he says the thought of transferring has never crossed his mind.

"It honestly hasn't," Kiel said at Sun Life Stadium. "I've been more focused on the season and been more focused on school and other things that are more important to me."

The ballyhooed quarterback recruit-turned-scout-team ace has watched as Everett Golson ascended from a similar role last season to starting quarterback in Monday's Discover BCS National Championship against Alabama.

Junior Tommy Rees has relieved Golson when necessary this season, with redshirt sophomore Andrew Hendrix seeing sparse action as well.

The math shows four men competing for one spot through next season, with Golson holding two more years of eligibility after that and Hendrix one. The domino effect equaling just one potential year for Kiel to be front and center in the quarterback race.

He sees other possibilities, and that starts with entering the competition with the right mindset come spring.

"Anything could happen," Kiel said. "[Golson] could go to the NFL -- you never know. He could also get hurt, other people could get hurt -- there's so many doors that could be opened that I just have to be patient, just wait my turn, wait to get better."

"I'm gonna try, but he's a great quarterback," he added when asked about unseating Golson this spring. "He's going to lead this team and he's going to keep getting better, so I just need to keep getting better and learn from him, and also learn from coach [Brian] Kelly and just try to keep getting better each year."

Saturday's media day being Kiel's first availability to reporters since fall camp, the Les Miles issue came up again. But Kiel took the high road, saying he can't blame the LSU coach for publicly questioning his heart after de-committing from the Tigers in favor of the Irish at the 11th hour.

"Once he said it, I don't blame him at all -- I was dumb during the recruiting process," said Kiel, who had de-committed from Indiana earlier as well. "I couldn't really make up my mind, but I was also doing what was best for me at that time, and that was picking a college. That much pressure and being so highly ranked, I couldn't make up my mind.

"It was hard, but I'm very happy with the decision I made, and I've always respected coach Miles. I'm not going to throw him under the bus, because I think he's a great coach. Everything he stands for I think is great. He's a winning coach. There's nothing more to say. I can't take back what I did, so I respect coach Miles and everything he stands for."

Notes: Redshrt junior running back Cierre Wood said he will announce his decision about his future shortly after Monday's game. … Redshirt senior safety Jamoris Slaughter has filed paperwork to the NCAA to petition for a sixth year and expects to hear in the weeks after Monday's game. Slaughter tore his Achilles in a Week 3 win at Michigan State. … Running back Amir Carlisle said nerve damage suffered during his ankle injury from the spring was what delayed his recovery and forced him to redshirt this season, which he had been granted a waiver to play in following his January transfer from USC after one year there.

NFL talent on Bama, Notre Dame

January, 4, 2013
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Alabama has 10 prospects currently receiving draftable grades from Scouts Inc. Notre Dame has seven, though it has additional NFL talent on its roster that will not be eligible for this April's draft.

Chance Warmack leads the contingent for the Tide. Manti Te'o leads the way for the Irish.

Todd McShay breaks down the pro potential on both rosters, and one of the names that may stand out for Notre Dame is Jamoris Slaughter, the fifth-year safety whose season -- and likely college career -- ended with an Achilles tear suffered in the Sept. 15 win at Michigan State.

As McShay notes, last year's BCS title game had six players who were taken in the first round. That likely won't be the case this year, but there are still a number of stars to watch both Monday and next season.

You can read it all here .

2012 Notre Dame regular-season wrap

December, 5, 2012
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Where do we begin? The spring, when a freshman All-America transferred to South Florida? Right after the Blue and Gold game, when the incumbent starting quarterback and a starting linebacker were arrested at an off-campus party?

How about fall camp, when one of two inexperienced starting corners ruptured his Achilles, months after a contributing safety underwent shoulder surgery that ended up sidelining him this season?

Notre Dame entered the 2012 season with questions under center, with very little experience in the secondary -- and even less when Jamoris Slaughter went down for the season Week 3 at Michigan State -- and with a schedule on deck that, on the surface, seemed as challenging as any in recent memory.

Twelve games later, the Irish stand undefeated and No. 1 in the country, awaiting their Jan. 7 date with defending champion Alabama in the Discover BCS National Championship Game. Brian Kelly has already worked his best job to date in a 22-year career that features championships at every level at which he has been a head coach.

The offense is led by a redshirt freshman quarterback who is only just beginning to realize his potential. The defense is led by a Heisman Trophy finalist who is as strong of a leader this program has had in decades, and its coordinator is one of the hottest names in coaching circles after the Irish led the nation in scoring defense.

That third-year coaching stigma around Notre Dame, the idea that something special happens in every strong leader's third year, from Frank Leahy to Dan Devine to Ara Parseghian to Lou Holtz? Maybe there is something to that, as Kelly has the Irish on the doorstep of a national title after consecutive 8-5 seasons.

Notre Dame entered the season unranked. It had dates with three top-10 teams, and five top-25 teams, with three coming on the road.

The Irish dealt No. 10 Michigan State its first blow of many this season. They turned the tables on Denard Robinson and No. 18 Michigan, a reversal of recent years. They beat No. 17 Stanford with a goal-line stand, a stark contrast in physicality between the two teams from past meetings. They won at No. 8 Oklahoma, and they won three games after that, setting up a showdown with their archrival.

USC entered the season as the No. 1 team in the country, with many of us viewing the teams' regular-season finale as a chance for the Irish to maybe play spoiler against the Trojans.

The Irish instead entered that finale as the nation's No. 1 team, with the Trojans unranked. Notre Dame won, delivering USC its fifth loss of the season.

How wrong we all were.

Offensive MVP: Tough choice, but I'll go with Theo Riddick. The senior has played all over the field during his career before finally settling into the hybrid role of running back and slot receiver. He established himself as the Irish's No. 1 back while Cierre Wood was suspended during the season's first two games, and he leads the team with 880 rushing yards and five touchdowns, while adding 35 catches for 364 yards and a touchdown. Tyler Eifert is the bigger name and will be a high-round draft pick, but his numbers became a casualty of an offense that was still developing early in the season.

[+] EnlargeTheo Riddick
Harry How/Getty ImagesTheo Riddick found his groove as a combination running back/slot receiver for the Irish.
Defensive MVP: Manti Te'o is the obvious choice here, as he is one of three Heisman Trophy finalists and leads the team with 103 tackles, seven interceptions and two fumble recoveries. He deserves all of the credit he gets, but let's not overlook the efforts of Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt up front, too. Nix might be one of the most underrated players in the country -- as inside linemen usually are -- while Tuitt made many forget about Aaron Lynch by recording 12 sacks this season.

Newcomer of the year: KeiVarae Russell was recruited as a running back, and he didn't get to campus until June. Then projected starting cornerback Lo Wood ruptured his Achilles tendon in camp, and Russell surged to the top of the depth chart at corner, before making an impact in his first season. He played outstanding on a big stage at Oklahoma and has made many forget that he is a first-year player.

Biggest surprise: Raise your hand if you thought, after four weeks and two yankings, that Everett Golson would be leading an undefeated Irish team at USC in the regular-season finale. The redshirt freshman quarterback's rise has been perhaps the biggest development for this Irish offense, as he has steadily grown while the playbook has steadily opened. He has become a bigger threat with his legs, has handled the bright lights well and, best of all for Notre Dame, has upward of 40 remaining college starts.

Biggest disappointment: We're getting picky here with a 12-0 team that is ranked first in the country, but there is room for improvement. How about the punt-return game, which, while not losing Irish yards the way it often did last year, has never really gotten going under true freshman Davonte' Neal, with the Irish ranking 115th nationally in punt returns, averaging 2.44 yards per return. Red zone offense, ranked 75th nationally, has room for improvement as well.

Best game: The end of the Stanford game, on Oct. 13 in Notre Dame Stadium, was out of a movie scene. Heavy rain, power against power, deafening roars from the home fans. Football at its purest element was on display, with the Irish winning their sixth game with a goal-line stand against a Cardinal team that had simply outmuscled Notre Dame in recent matchups.

Notre Dame: Looking back and forward

October, 1, 2012
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The first month of the season is in the books. Let's revisit some of it, and look at what October could bring us.

Best

1. Notre Dame is 4-0. This is a big deal. The Irish have not had a 4-0 start since 2002. They have beaten three of the Big Ten's better teams (sly word choice there, eh?) and have put themselves in a good position to make a run at a BCS game.

2. The defense has been phenomenal. We knew the defense would be good. But this good? No. 3 scoring defense in the country (9 points per game) good? With an early-season Heisman contender at linebacker and a pass-rusher as lethal as any in the country? Check out this stat unearthed yesterday by media relations director John Heisler: Notre Dame is now the only FBS football team in the country that has never trailed in a game so far in 2012.

3. The turnover margin. Want the biggest reason the Irish are undefeated? Look no further than their plus-2.25 turnover margin, third in the nation. The defense has forced 13 turnovers in four games, one shy of its season total from 2011. And more importantly, the offense has protected the ball, giving it away just four times this season. (It had five turnovers in each of its first two games last season.)

Worst

1. The quarterback situation is unsettled. Everett Golson has shown flashes of potential here and there, and he was a terrific game manager in both of the Irish's road contests. But he looked overwhelmed by the stage against Michigan, and Tommy Rees came in to save the day for the second time. The Irish are winning, so there's not much room to complain, but there is plenty of room for improvement from the quarterback of the future, regardless of how well Rees plays when he is in.

2. Little help from receiving unit. Defenses have wisely focused on Tyler Eifert, leaving the best tight end in America with just one catch over the past two games. No one has stepped up to make the plays with Eifert covered, leaving much room for the passing game as a whole. DaVaris Daniels, who left one game with an ankle sprain and barely played in another, leads the team with 159 receiving yards on the season.

3. Injury bug. The secondary will eventually be tested. Losing a fifth-year senior such as Jamoris Slaughter makes that eventual test all the more difficult. Make no mistake, the three starting newcomers, particularly Bennett Jackson, have done everything the Irish could have hoped for so far. Zeke Motta has emerged as a leader. But Slaughter's versatility is a big loss, and Notre Dame can't just rely on its front seven to be so dominant in every game this season.

Top storylines in October

1. Can the Irish run the table? Hey, they've done it so far. And it's easy for many to look ahead and think of a possible 7-0 Notre Dame team entering Norman, Okla., on Oct. 27. The daunting schedule looks far less daunting, and the Irish have every reason so far to feel that they can win every game. But they also have enough shortcomings that have kept them from running away in games they should win easily, so there is little margin for error against every October opponent.

2. Will the offense come through when needed? Offensive coordinator Chuck Martin made the point that the offense has delivered when called upon so far: against Purdue and against Michigan. But if the defense doesn't play at the same insanely high level it has so far, will the offense be consistent enough for four quarters to pick everyone up? Eventually the Irish will be tested to win a game with their offense, not in spite of it, and development there over the next month is crucial.

3. Quarterback situation. Check back next month, though I don't think this section will change.

It's game day at Notre Dame Stadium

September, 22, 2012
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- I'm back at Notre Dame Stadium for the first time since 2007, gearing up for No. 18 Michigan (2-1) against the 11th-ranked Fighting Irish (3-0).

In case you've been in a cave, this series has been just a bit entertaining in recent years, thanks mostly to one man: Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, who celebrates his 22nd birthday today (on Sept. 22, eerie!). The Wolverines senior has been Notre Dame's nightmare the past two seasons, rallying Michigan for wins and setting numerous records in the process. The Wolverines-Irish game takes place under the lights for the second consecutive year after last year's unbelievable finish at the Big House.

Michigan has won its past three meetings with Notre Dame -- all by four points -- and aims for its first four-game win streak in the series since 1898-1908. Although Notre Dame comes off of a big win at Michigan State, the Irish players should be locked in for this one. Notre Dame running back Theo Riddick said this week the three-game slide to Michigan is "basically tatted on us."

Robinson obviously is a huge key for Michigan, but he'll also need help from his receivers to pull off the mini upset tonight. Notre Dame's secondary is the weakness on a mostly stellar defense, and the Irish will be without starting safety Jamoris Slaughter, who suffered a season-ending ruptured Achilles' at Michigan State. The Spartans receivers simply couldn't attack Notre Dame; Michigan's core -- Devin Gardner, Roy Roundtree, Jeremy Gallon, Devin Funchess -- must create separation. It's also a big night for Michigan's lines, which struggled mightily in the season opener against Alabama and will be tested by Notre Dame's fronts on both sides of the ball.

The Wolverines are relatively healthy for the game. Linebacker Desmond Morgan and running back Stephen Hopkins both should return from injuries this week.

I picked Notre Dame 27-20, while Bennett forecasts another Michigan win (28-24).

Stay tuned for more coverage throughout the night.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Matthias Farley didn't want to play high school football because he didn't want to fit in. A little more than three years after first taking to the game, he is in a new position for a unit that is undergoing its second makeover in the past month alone.

And yes, he fits right in.

What's one more converted offensive player in the starting backfield of a defense tied for eighth nationally in scoring? Following the loss of safety Jamoris Slaughter -- who had successful surgery Wednesday for his ruptured left Achilles tendon -- Notre Dame's first-team secondary is down to a grand total of one player, Zeke Motta, who has spent his entire college career on the defensive side of the ball.

[+] EnlargeMatthias Farley
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesNotre Dame's Matthias Farley says he is comfortable at safety after converting from receiver.
"It's crazy to me to think about how it all started and how it all began," said Farley, a converted receiver who was dedicated to soccer until his junior year of high school. "But looking at it from this point of view now, I feel like I've been well-prepared, even though I haven't played that long and have the God-given ability to do the role I have to do.

"It's definitely crazy. I'm sure it's even crazier from the outside-in, but I'm real calm about the whole thing and just confident."

The last thing Farley wanted to do as the youngest of six was follow his brothers and sisters in football or basketball, but consecutive losing seasons on the pitch -- while his football-playing friends at Charlotte (N.C.) Christian made a pair of deep postseason runs, no less -- soured the prep sophomore's affinity for soccer.

So he gave in to coach Jason Estep's pleas to try football, struggling with being the guy whose technique was an early source of criticism before adapting to his roles as safety and receiver, his potential at the latter attracting the eyes of the Irish.

"Matthias is a quick learner," Motta said. "He's got that ability that's something special. I think to be able to pick things up quickly and apply it out on the field -- he hasn't really played football for too long ,but you can tell his athletic ability and everything like that is helping in his preparation, and his mental focus is right where he needs to be."

Farley became a full-time safety after not playing last season as a freshman, and he rose to the rotation quickly before falling into place following Slaughter's injury Saturday. Aided by crutches, the mentor walked off the Spartan Stadium field afterward with his protege, telling Farley that all these lessons weren't for nothing.

With cornerback Lo Wood (preseason Achilles injury) giving way to converted freshman running back KeiVarae Russell, who is starting alongside converted receiver Bennett Jackson, Farley is now the latest fresh face in a secondary that was pegged as a liability before the Irish's 3-0 start.

The newest member of that unit hopes to add to the surprises for a defense holding opponents to just 10 points per game.

"We never talk about it; everybody has settled into the roles they have," Farley said. "Maybe they didn't start, they didn't come in doing the roles they're doing, but everyone's been working real hard, and I feel like the fruit of everyone's labor is being seen as far as the play goes."

KLM good to go; Daniels, Day 'probable'

September, 18, 2012
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — A calf strain that forced Kapron Lewis-Moore out of Notre Dame's home opener two weeks ago and limited him this past Saturday at Michigan State will not be enough to keep the fifth-year senior out of action this weekend against Michigan.

"He's fighting through it," coach Brian Kelly said. "He's at that line of being hurt and being injured. And he's a tough kid. He fought through it on Saturday and had a big pressure on the quarterback late in the game. We'll be careful with him but he'll answer the bell on Saturday and he'll be in there starting for us. You know, that calf is one of those things that just is a bit of a nagging injury.

"We told him: You've got four or five days to get through it and then you've got a bye week. So he'll grind through it and be ready to go on Saturday."

Kelly said that DaVaris Daniels (ankle sprain) and Sheldon Day (bone bruise) are both, in NFL terms, "probable" for Saturday. Daniels suffered a setback Friday and was limited against Michigan State after injuring his ankle a week earlier against Purdue. Day appeared to hurt his foot Saturday after jumping up and down following a near-interception, but Kelly had said that the injury occurred one series earlier.

Kelly acknowledged Tuesday that sophomore end Chase Hounshell, who did not travel Saturday and has yet to play, has been plagued by a shoulder issue but should be ready to go this week. Kelly had said a week earlier that Hounshell was simply behind other defensive linemen on the depth chart.

"We think he's going to be ready to go this week," the third-year Irish coach said Tuesday. "We want to kind of protect him a little bit. But he'll be getting reps this week and we'll see where that goes."

Sixth year in doubt for Slaughter

Jamoris Slaughter ruptured his Achilles' tendon in the second half of the third game of his fifth season, so his chances at gaining a sixth year of eligiblity would appear to be slim to none.

"It doesn't appear so," Kelly said of the safety's sixth-year possibility. "He did have another injury that caused him to miss some time. We're still kind of vetting through all that right now. But the early indication is we couldn't tell you one way or the other. We'll do some more work before we're ready to publically comment on it."

Matthias Farley will start in place of Slaughter, but Kelly said that Nicky Baratti, C.J. Prosise and Chris Salvi will get in the rotation as well.

Notre Dame weekend rewind

September, 17, 2012
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Here's one last look back at the weekend that was as Notre Dame improved to 3-0 with a convincing 20-3 win at Michigan State.

[+] EnlargeBrian Kelly
Mike Carter/US PresswireCoach Brian Kelly has the Irish sitting at 3-0 this season and ranked No. 11 in the latest AP poll.
The good: Manti Te'o had a game-high 12 tackles. Stephon Tuitt notched his fifth sack of the season. The Irish defense kept Le'Veon Bell in check to the tune of 77 yards, and allowed MSU to cross midfield just once in the second half. (The Spartans also made zero red zone trips throughout the night.) You can't ask for much more from this unit, which propelled the Irish to their first 3-0 start in 10 years.

The bad: Everett Golson's first two (unofficial) plays in his first true road contest: False start, timeout. But what looked like it would be a long night was quickly turned around.

The ugly: Jamoris Slaughter ruptured his Achilles tendon on the first play of the second half and will miss the rest of the season. Matthias Farley is expected to step into his spot. The Irish have now suffered three season-ending injuries in the secondary -- Austin Collinsworth, Lo Wood and Slaughter -- and three of their four starters are converted offensive players: KeiVarae Russell (running back), Bennett Jackson (wide receiver) and Farley (receiver).

Still healing: Brian Kelly said Sunday that Kapron Lewis-Moore and DaVaris Daniels were not fully healthy following injuries suffered one week earlier. Both played sparingly. Sheldon Day suffered a bone bruise as well, though Kelly said it happened before he was jumping up and down after a botched attempt at an interception. He should be fine.

Next up: Notre Dame's second home night game in as many years features Michigan, which has delivered the Irish three crushing last-minute defeats in the last three years. The man responsible for two of them, Denard Robinson, is back for his senior year, and the Irish would like nothing more than to go through him en route to a 4-0 September.

Notre Dame weekend rewind

September, 10, 2012
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Here's one last look back at Notre Dame's 20-17 win over Purdue:

The good: Notre Dame is 2-0 for the first time since 2008. Remember, the Irish were 0-2 a year ago. They are Nos. 20 and 19 in the AP and coaches' poll, respectively. They overcame a number of injuries to pull out a tight win that, frankly, they probably don't finish last season. Tommy Rees proved he wasn't rattled by the offseason, or outside distractions, either.

The bad: Those injuries made things difficult. Among those to leave the game were Kapron Lewis-Moore, Sheldon Day, Ishaq Williams, Jamoris Slaughter, DaVaris Daniels and Tyler Eifert. Manti Te'o got banged up, too, and Nick Tausch missed the game with a groin injury. All should be good to go Saturday.

The ugly: Eight penalties after a flag-less performance against Navy was not what anyone had in mind. Notre Dame having to burn all of its timeouts with more than 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter was probably not part of the plan, either.

Biggest personnel change not involving a QB: Carlo Calabrese returned from suspension and played inside, with Dan Fox, who usually starts there, moving to the dog, where Ben Councell would be. Coach Brian Kelly said afterward that he wanted Councell "to see the game from the sideline," adding that the game plan for Navy was different a week earlier.

Next up: Notre Dame travels to East Lansing, Mich., to face rival Michigan State. We all know what happened last time the Irish walked into Spartan Stadium. And we all remember how the Irish took care of business last year. As will be the case with most games this season, the spotlight will be on each quarterback and the Irish's offensive line play, as Sparty brings in a very talented defensive line.
Brian Kelly re-enforced Sunday that Everett Golson is his starting quarterback, but the decision to put Tommy Rees in for Saturday's final drive had little to do with Golson's thumb injury.

[+] EnlargeEverett Golson
Matt Cashore/US PresswireEverett Golson put up good numbers (21-of-31 for 289 yards, 1 TD) before leaving the game.
"I had already begun the conversation with Coach [Chuck] Martin about installing Tommy into that situation, so the knowledge of running our two-minute trumped any kind of injury that he may have had," Kelly said during a teleconference. "Now, it contributed at the end to make it an easier decision for me."

Kelly again used a pitching analogy to describe his quarterbacks' roles, though he was careful not to peg Rees as his "two-minute" guy should a similar situation arise in the future.

"I don't see it as a role, I see it as if we feel like Tommy can help us win a game or he can come in a situation where we believe its the right fit, then he'll be prepared to do so," Kelly said. "I used this baseball analogy: We like our starters to finish the game. We want them to go all nine innings. Occasionally we might need some help. Maybe we need long relief, maybe we need short relief. I don't want to take anything off the table but we'd like our starter to start it and finish it."

Injury/personnel updates: Odds and ends:

  • Asked if he has a No. 1 running back with Cierre Wood back in the fold, Kelly said: "Yes, Theo Riddick."
  • Justin Ferguson will wear No. 82 for the rest of the season. Notre Dame was penalized (Purdue declined) during a first-half kickoff Saturday because the freshman wideout, who was No. 15, was on the field at the same time as senior Dan McCarthy, also No. 15. Ferguson changed to No. 82 at halftime. Alex Welch, out for the year (ACL), was No. 82 before.
  • Kelly elaborated on why he allowed only Te'o and Zack Martin to speak to reporters after the game: "I had to do what I thought was in the best interests of the team. At times that might put me at odds with you guys, and I understand that. Last night I thought it was best for our team to have a couple captains speak and I'll just leave it at that."
1. The QB position is, um, interesting. Well, that's one way to put it. Brian Kelly says there's no controversy, and that Everett Golson is his starter. Golson played well before Tyler Eifert (concussion) went down, but in the game's biggest moment -- when Kelly himself said that Golson probably was healthy enough to play -- he went with Tommy Rees, who ultimately delivered. The Irish escaped 2-0, and that will, in some way, validate the move. But does Golson need to look over his shoulder now? Things will only get more difficult at Michigan State, a tough environment that will also mark his first legitimate road test.

[+] EnlargeBrian Kelly
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesBrian Kelly has led the Irish to a 2-0 mark for the first time since 2008.
2. Players must get healthy. Notre Dame suffered a number of injuries Saturday that severely hampered it. Kelly said after the game that he thought none would require surgery or have any long-term effects. The wounded include: Kapron Lewis-Moore (calf strain), Jamoris Slaughter (shoulder), Eifert (concussion), DaVaris Daniels (ankle sprain), Ishaq Williams (elbow) and Sheldon Day (dehydration). Kicker Nick Tausch also hurt his groin earlier in the week, forcing Kyle Brindza in.

3. The O-line has some work to do. We knew the ground game wouldn't take off like it did in rushing for 293 yards against Navy. But few saw the Irish's front having so much trouble with Purdue's talented defensive line. Notre Dame rushed for 52 yards Saturday as a team, and Golson was on the ground early and often (five sacks). What was believed to be the team's biggest strength now prepares this week for Michigan State's tough defensive unit.

4. ND is 2-0 for the first time since 2008. This category counts, right? Rees' biggest completion, a 10-yard third-and-6 throw to John Goodman, may have come with no time left on the play clock. And Purdue insisted on playing two quarterbacks, when one (Robert Marve) looked better than the other (Caleb TerBush) for much of the day. But the Irish weathered the storm of multiple injuries to key players and, when it mattered most, took care of business. How they did it, and what's in store next, is anyone's guess.

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