Notre Dame Football: Bulls-Irish-090311

Notre Dame helmet stickers: Week 1

September, 4, 2011
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- There are considerably fewer of these to hand out following a loss, but several Notre Dame players managed to stand out in a 23-20 defeat:

Michael Floyd: The senior hauled in a career-high 12 catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns. He passed Jeff Samardzija's previous school record of 179 career receptions, finishing the day with 183 for his career. And he moved into second on the school's all-time receiving yards list (2,693), trailing only Golden Tate (2,707).

Cierre Wood: Wood ran for 104 yards on 21 carries, becoming the first Irish back to eclipse the century mark in a game since Armando Allen did against UConn in 2009. He added three catches for 44 yards, including a career-best 31-yarder on the Irish's first play from scrimmage.

Manti Te'o: The defense as a whole deserves plenty of credit for holding USF to just one touchdown in less than ideal circumstances, and it was led by Te'o. The junior linebacker had a team-high nine tackles, including a sack on third-and-9 in the second quarter that forced a 52-yard field goal attempt Maikon Bonani couldn't connect on.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- There was nothing to prepare Tommy Rees to wait 2 hours, 53 minutes during a game that no one else thought he had any stake in.

At least not in the 12 days since coach Brian Kelly sat down with him and Dayne Crist and delivered the decision that would keep the sophomore on the sidelines when the Notre Dame offense took the field for the first time Saturday, a day that ended with a 23-20 loss to South Florida.

"Dayne will be the starter and I expect him to be the starter for 13 weeks," Kelly told reporters a day after making his choice. "We have great confidence in his ability to lead us to a championship."

[+] EnlargeNotre Dame's Tommy Rees
Matt Cashore/US PRESSWIRETommy Rees completed 24 of 34 passes for 296 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions after taking over as quarterback in the second half.
Eleven days, five turnovers and a 5-hour, 59-minute game later, Kelly, Reese and Crist find themselves at the same crossroads they entered preseason practices with. A fork in the road that was only supposed to arise had one of Crist's two surgically repaired knees not withstood the challenge of live-game action.

Crist looked fine health-wise, and everyone can be thankful for that. But nearly 11 months without game action and an inability to generate any momentum on an offense that looked so good so early has re-opened the battle for the No. 1 quarterback spot.

Distraction, Tommy?

"We have no choice," the sophomore said. "As the quarterback you're the leader, and you can't have a distraction like that take over the team. It's a long season and we can't let that get a hold of us."

Kelly didn't need to waste a moment of his team's 2-hour, 10-minute version of halftime before informing Nos. 10 and 11 of the change to open the third quarter.

A 16-0 deficit, a pair of turnovers in the red zone and four three-and-outs -- including three straight to end the first half -- was all Kelly needed to see before yanking his starter.

After the rain had subsided, after the 12-and-a-half-minute warm-up period had elapsed and after much of the 220th straight home sellout crowd had left and re-entered Notre Dame Stadium, Rees trotted out with the Irish offense at the 13:32 mark of the third quarter, much to the surprise of the teammates he took the huddle with.

"It's nothing that we haven't seen, so we know what we're gonna get," said running back Cierre Wood, whose 104 yards made him the first Irish back to eclipse the century mark since 2009. "As soon as he came out, 'All right, let's do this. It's time to move.'"

Oh, Rees knew the drill. The circumstances were different from Oct. 30, 2010, against Tulsa, sure. In that game he had to lift an offense that was looking for guidance after Crist went down with a ruptured patella tendon in his left knee that ended his season. Saturday he was faced with the same task when Crist simply couldn't get it done after his most promising drive, his first one, ended with a 96-yard fumble return for a touchdown and a 7-0 deficit, setting the tone for a frustrating first half.

The results last year and Saturday were similar for Rees, both ending in losses after high passing numbers, dazzling touchdown tosses and head-scratching interceptions.

"Completely," Rees said when asked how last year helped him. "Getting plenty of time and plenty of experience has put me in a good spot."

Rees completed his first four passes Saturday, then he threw a costly pick in the red zone on a day the Irish simply couldn't punch it in from close.

He finished 24-of-34 for 296 yards with two touchdowns and two picks, numbers that came in one half. And numbers that don't reflect the Irish's several dropped balls or lack of a running threat down two scores the entire time.

"I don't want to put him in that situation," Kelly said of Rees. "I want him to have the luxury of a running game which we had established when Dayne was in there. We just did not complete the circle relative to all the other things that needed to occur.

"We believe we can run the football. If Tommy has a good running game, if we decide that he's our guy, that's going to take a lot of the load off of him. He didn't have that luxury in the second half, so it's really hard to evaluate it per se."

Crist was the first person Rees turned to after losing the starting job, and he said Crist was there supporting him throughout the second half after being replaced.

The little brother, big brother relationship has eased this dynamic for the rest of the offense, which has seemed to tune out what in many locker rooms would be a distraction.

But make no mistake about it. Notre Dame, a BCS bowl game hopeful, is staring at an 0-1 start and a textbook quarterback controversy as it prepares for the first night game in Michigan Stadium history next Saturday.

"We didn't expect to have to make this move, obviously, so it's going to require us to obviously evaluate the quarterback situation and make another decision," Kelly said. "This was a step back for us as it relates to where we thought we were going. We certainly did not believe or think that we would have to make the decision that we made today."

Video: Notre Dame's Brian Kelly

September, 4, 2011

Coach Brian Kelly discusses Notre Dame's loss to South Florida.

Irish fall flat in opener against USF

September, 3, 2011
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Two rain delays and two quarterbacks equaled a difficult season-opening loss for Notre Dame on Saturday, as the Fighting Irish dropped a 23-20 decision to South Florida.

Five turnovers -- including three in the red zone -- ultimately doomed the Irish, who outgained the Bulls, 508-254. USF did not commit any turnovers on the day.

USF coach Skip Holtz joined Gerry DiNardo (LSU) and Eddie Anderson (Iowa) as the only other Notre Dame graduates to defeat their alma mater as a head coach.

Sophomore Tommy Rees replaced starter Dayne Crist to open the second half after Crist went just 7 of 15 for 95 yards in the first two quarters.

Rees finished 24 of 34 with 296 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Notre Dame resumes play once again

September, 3, 2011
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame's offense resumed play at its own 13 with 4:21 remaining in the game, ending a 43-minute weather delay, the second of the game.

The first delay, following the end of the second quarter, lasted two hours, 10 minutes and was the first of its kind in the Fighting Irish's 123-plus year history of football.

South Florida leads 23-13.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- It looks Notre Dame will have something in common with Michigan when the two teams meet next weekend in the Big House.

The Fighting Irish's game against South Florida was suspended at 8:41 p.m. ET because of weather conditions with 4:21 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Bulls lead 23-13.
Notre Dame will be facing a second-and-6 from its own 13 if play resumes.

The suspension comes on the heels of a two-hour, 10-minute delay after the first half, which USF entered with a 16-0 lead.

According to the NCAA, a game can be considered official after three full quarters, leaving open the possibility that we have seen the last of Notre Dame's opener.

The halftime delay was the first weather-related delay in Notre Dame football's 123-plus year history.

Michigan's 34-10 win over Western Michigan today ended with one-minute, 23 seconds left in the third quarter.

Never a dull moment around the Irish, win or lose.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- A quick scoring drive following a B.J. Daniels touchdown pass has Notre Dame closing the gap on South Florida. But will the Fighting Irish have enough time?

Cierre Wood's one-yard touchdown run cut the Bulls' lead to 23-13 with 7:35 remaining, but the Irish could not convert on a two-point try after a pair of USF penalties. The Irish took just three minutes, 40 seconds off the clock, relying heavily on Michael Floyd. The senior receiver hauled in four catches for 44 yards on the drive and has matched a career-high with 11 catches on the day, totaling 144 yards.

Floyd also surpassed Jeff Samardzija's school reception record of 179 career catches on the drive.

Notre Dame will have to rely on its defense to respond after it surrendered its first touchdown of the season.

Daniels' 2-yard touchdown pass to Evan Landi made it 23-7 with 11:05 remaining following a Gary Gray pass interference penalty on third-and-goal.

Red zone struggles continue for Irish

September, 3, 2011
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Maybe Notre Dame should just go for the deep ball every time. Thus far, the Fighting Irish have had more success that route as opposed to operating inside the opponents' 20-yard-line.

Tommy Rees and Michael Floyd broke the scoreless drought for the Notre Dame offense, hooking up on a 24-yard touchdown pass with 7:12 remaining in the third quarter to cut the South Florida lead to 16-7. But the red zone struggles have continued, keeping this a two-possession game.

Rees's pass pass to T.J. Jones on the quarter's opening drive bounced off the receiver's shoulder before dropping into the hands of Bulls linebacker Michael Lanaris. Two possessions later, David Ruffer missed a 30-yard field goal attempt that would have cut the Bulls' lead to six.

The Irish offense has certainly shown more of a hop in its step under Rees, who is 10 of 14 passing for 140 yards. But at what point does the unit -- along with the special teams, responsible for a turnover -- run out of chances?

Rees completed his first four passes on his opening drive before tossing a pick on a first-and-goal from the 5.

The defense has continued to do its job, forcing consecutive three-and-outs before holding USF to a single first down on its third possession of the second half.

Rees to start second half for Irish

September, 3, 2011
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- It took one half, two quarters and the length of an entire football game for Notre Dame to have itself a quarterback controversy in 2011.

And the Fighting Irish haven't even scored a point yet.

As Notre Dame and South Florida players take the field and warm up for their allotted prep time of 12 minutes, 30 seconds, it was announced that Tommy Rees will be the Irish's starting quarterback to open the second half, already facing a 16-0 deficit.

Dayne Crist, who won the starting job over Rees in preseason camp, went 7-for-15 for 95 yards in the first half, throwing an interception in the end zone with 12:06 to play in the second quarter.

The Irish offense as a whole generated 191 total yards in the first half but committed two turnovers.

Rees, a sophomore, went 4-0 as a starter last season after replacing Crist in the ninth game of the season because of a ruptured patella tendon in Crist's left knee. Crist's season-ending injury came one year after seeing his sophomore season end prematurely because of an anterior cruciate ligament tear in his right knee.

It's safe to say this is not how Crist envisioned kicking off his senior campaign, as the Irish face a big hole and an unforgiving September slate following today's opener.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame is scheduled for a school-record five night games this season, including a stop next week in Ann Arbor, Mich.

The Fighting Irish will likely get good preparation for that whenever the second-half of its opener against South Florida resumes, as the team is currently waiting out what is believed to be the first weather delay, home or away, in its 123-plus year history.

Fans took cover in the hoops team's Joyce Center next door, along with other nearby campus buildings. The athletic department announced a little less than an hour after the first half ended that a more serious storm was headed here, bringing high winds with it.

Once the weather clears, officials will meet with the head coaches to collectively determine how much time each team will need to warm up before resuming play.

According to the NCAA, three full periods must be played for a game to be considered official.

In a television interview, Irish athletic director Jack Swarbrick said each team met and would try to provide food for the players as they waited. The sides also went over ground rules for the break -- namely, that neither team can watch film.

Trailing South Florida 16-0 as it went into the break, Notre Dame will happily oblige.

Halftime: USF 16, Notre Dame 0

September, 3, 2011
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Here's a quick analysis of what's gone wrong for the Irish in a dismal first half against the Bulls:
  • Turning point: Everything was going the Irish's way on its first drive until it wasn't. Jonas Gray's fumble at the 1-yard line and Kayvon Webster's subsequent 96-yard return for a touchdown completely changed everything in the first half.
  • Stat of the half: Notre Dame has three turnovers. South Florida has none. Two of the Irish's miscues came in the red zone and the other, Theo Riddick's fumbled punt return, put USF in the red zone. That has been the difference so far.
  • What Notre Dame needs to do: The Irish offense needs to establish the kind of rhythm it thought it had on its opening drive, which will be all the more difficult with rain now coming down. The defense has done its part so far.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame's defense has held its ground thus far in the first half, limiting USF's offense to 122 yards and just six points (USF's Kayvon Webster returned a fumble by running back Jonas Gray 96 yards for a score). The Irish made a big goal line stop, watched Maikon Bonani miss a 52-yard field goal attempt to the left and then forced a three-and-out ... only to watch Theo Riddick fumble a punt return at his own 20. Notre Dame forced another three-and-out before Bonani's third field goal of the afternoon made it 16-0 with 4:04 left in the first half.

Bonani's earlier miss came after a gutsy fourth-and-1 call from Skip Holtz at the Irish 48 that kept USF's drive alive, though it ended up not mattering. Holtz was faced with a similar situation in the first quarter inside the Notre Dame 1 and with a 10-0 lead but opted for the kick.

The fact he went for it in a worse spot a quarter later seems baffling, especially considering the pros and cons of each situation. Then again, we have already seen one goal line play go the other way.

Speaking of which, the Irish offense has clicked at times between the 20s but has been lost in the red zone. Gray's fumble on third-and-goal in the first quarter preceded a Dayne Crist interception on third-and-goal in the second quarter. The senior quarterback underthrew Riddick in the back of the end zone and was picked off by DeDe Lattimore.

The Irish went three-and-out following the missed field goal and will get another chance to atone for its weak early performance before halftime.

Notre Dame trailing early

September, 3, 2011
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Well, the first two drives for each team didn't go completely South Florida's way.

Notre Dame did come up with a couple of key stops at its own goal line after consecutive facemask penalties on Harrison Smith put the Bulls in position to make it a three-possession game early. A 17-yard field goal from Maikon Bonani has instead made it 13-0 in the first quarter.

The Irish's offense was clicking on all cylinders on its opening drive before a costly fumble by running back Jonas Gray on a third-and-goal from the 2-yard line resulted in a 96-yard score for South Florida, with Kayvon Webster doing the leg work on the return for the Bulls.

Maikon Bonani matched a career-long by connecting on a 49-yard field goal attempt on USF's first offensive possession.

Cierre Wood has 8 carries for 42 yards and got things started with a 31-yard reception on the first play of the game, but it all went for naught following the turnover.

Let's see if the Irish offense can take a cue from its 'D' following a big stuff.

Pregame notes from Notre Dame Stadium

September, 3, 2011
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Here are a few tidbits as the band takes the field and we get ready for kickoff in a few minutes:

-- The national colors today are presented by representatives of three Notre Dame families who lost loved ones in the last year:
  • Those of kicker Kyle Brindza, whose grandfather, Joseph, died in July.
  • The family of receiver TJ Jones, whose father, Andre, a former Irish player, died in June.
  • Alison Drumm and Barry Sullivan, whose son, videographer Declan Sullivan, died during a tragic accident in a practice last October.

-- USF coach Skip Holtz's mother, Beth, and wife, Jennifer, are in attendance for today's game, while former Irish coach Lou Holtz fulfills his duties at ESPN.

-- This game marks Notre Dame Stadium's 220nd straight sellout.

It's game day at Notre Dame Stadium

September, 3, 2011
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Tailgaters are slowly starting to trot in to catch an early glimpse of the second year of the Brian Kelly regime as the Irish prepare to take on a South Florida team with Big East title aspirations. Oh, and you may have heard about the Bulls' head coach, too.

The heat isn't too bad, at least not compared to the last two days here. And potential showers around kickoff could make things interesting for both offenses.

I'm curious to see what Notre Dame does on its first possession if the weather doesn't hold up. Kelly said Thursday he wants the ball early with a veteran group returning on that side of the ball. With three talented starting receivers in the fold, I think the Irish would look to hit hard and hit first against a Bulls team unfamiliar with a stage like this.

On defense, containing B.J. Daniels is key. The versatile quarterback is in his third year at USF, and with three newcomers on his offensive line, I wouldn't be surprised to see him break off at the first sign of trouble.

We're about an hour away from kickoff. Be sure to keep it here for more coverage of Notre Dame's opener.


Irish Flips Top TE Jones, Back In Top 10
National recruiting coordinator Craig Haubert discusses the impact No. 1 tight end Alize Jones, a former UCLA commit, will have at Notre Dame.