The TSX Files: Notre Dame

What did Brian Kelly tell Tommy Rees when he gave him back his starting job this week? And why does Kelly say he picked him? Plus -- what does The Sports Xchange call its Number One Key to the game?

Rees gets his shot at #1

It didn't take long for the quarterback controversy many expected at Notre Dame to be the No. 1 story in South Bend.

In fact, it took a half of a game twice delayed by thunder and lightning for Brian Kelly to switch from senior Dayne Crist, a surprise starter in some eyes, to sophomore Tommy Rees, the kid who led the Fighting Irish on their late 4-0 that closed out last season.

Tuesday, as his team started preparing for this week's game at Michigan, Kelly, who promised a quick decision on this week's starter, told his weekly press gathering that Rees will be the starter.

"We try to live in the now," Kelly said. "The 'now' for me is winning football games. Tommy Rees gives us the best chance."

Rees threw for 296 yards and two touchdowns (along with two interceptions) in almost bringing the team to victory. He clearly has the confidence of his teammates. That confidence is shared by the coaching staff.

"As we had talked about, relative to Dayne, we talked about production," Kelly said. "Tommy was very productive in the second half and he'll get a chance to start against Michigan.

"Nobody wants to go in and change their quarterbacks every week. That's just not the way you play this game. So our hopes are Tommy is productive and can play at a high level week in and week out. He's got a pretty good resume. He's 4-0 as a starter and he's come off the bench twice and played well. We don't come to this decision thinking, well, he'll give us one game and go back to Dayne."

But it's clear that Crist will be more than available if Rees struggles.

"(Rees) knows what I told him; you have to be productive," Kelly said. "If you're not productive, you should be looking over your shoulder."

--Last week's loss to South Florida dropped Notre Dame from No. 16 to out of the AP Top 25 when the new poll was announced. The Irish received enough votes to stand at No. 36 in the nation.
--Notre Dame officials were pleased with the carrying out of the evacuation of Notre Dame Stadium when lightning struck within 10 miles of the field.
--Former ND coach Lou Holtz and his wife, Beth, were named as "ambassadors for research" for the school, the position aimed at increasing the awareness of the ND mission to pursue research that aims to heal and enlighten the world. Holtz has given $1 million to the school.
--RB Cierre Wood ran for 104 yards on 21 carries in the opening 23-20 loss to South Florida, making him the first ND runner to go for triple digits since Armando Allen did it against UConn on Nov. 21, 2009.
--TE Tyler Eifort established career highs with six catches and 93 yards in the opener. One of the grabs was a 37-yarder, the second-best of his career. He has 32 catches in the last eight games.
--The Fighting Irish will wear new/retro jerseys for the game at Michigan, the first night game in the Michigan Stadium history.
--The Irish have lost four straight road openers, one of them at Michigan, and have dropped 11 of their last 14 opening road games.
--Notre Dame will unveil a statue of former coach Dan Devine Oct. 7.

SERIES HISTORY: Michigan leads Notre Dame 22-15-1 (last meeting, 2010, Michigan 28-24)

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Notre Dame offense looked dead in the first half against South Florida, then came to life after halftime, when Tommy Rees came on and threw for 296 yards and two touchdowns. He also had two picks but the offense ran better under his leadership. Now, Rees is the starter but it's been made very clear that Crist is a 1A who will be called on if Rees struggles. "I have a great deal of confidence in both of them," coach Brian Kelly said. "Tommy gets the nod."

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Notre Dame almost won its opener and if the Irish had pulled it off, it would have been because of the defense, which continued the momentum built from last year's late run. Manti Te'o leads a defense that's full of tacklers and Michigan means having to face quarterback Denard Robinson, who accumulated 502 yards running and passing in last year's game. "It's our job to contain him," Kelly said. "Last year Denard had too many big plays against our defense."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We would like more guys to be at ease with the game. Tommy goes in there, and the game is not difficult for him. He's obviously got to get better in a lot of areas, but he doesn't go into the game and appear at any time to be overwhelmed or anxious." -- Coach Brian Kelly on quarterback Tommy Rees, named the starter for this week's game at Michigan. STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Notre Dame at Michigan, Sept. 10 -- The first night game at Michigan Stadium, with ND going in 0-1 and hoping to avoid the kind of start that put the Irish in the hole last year. That was when a home loss to the Wolverines started a three-game losing streak that left the Irish at 0-1. Michigan is coached by Brady Hoke now and the Irish come into this game as slight favorites on the road. Michigan beat Western Michigan, 34-10, in an opener called late in the third quarter because of storms.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Well, playing one quarterback the entire game might help, in terms of continuity, but the Irish have to take care of the ball and not take silly penalties. That's a blueprint for success in any football game but ND lost to South Florida because of five turnovers and eight penalties, with a Michael Floyd holding infraction calling back a touchdown in what turned out to be a 3-point loss. Tommy Rees is back at the starting quarterback spot after his productive second half in the opener.


The ND quarterback -- Tommy Rees is listed as the starter, which is the spot Dayne Crist was in last week against South Florida. Crist was not productive and was pulled at halftime, with Rees almost leading the Irish to what would have been his and team's fifth straight victory.

LB Manti Te'o -- He is the leader of a defense that returns eight starters from last year and continued to show in the opener it means business.

WR Michael Floyd -- Off-field troubles aside, Floyd is a star receiver, grabbing 12 passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns in the opener. But he was also guilty of a holding penalty that called back a Cierre Wood TD run.

RB Cierre Wood -- He became the first Irish runner to go for 100 yards since Armando Allen did it late in 2009, scoring one touchdown, having that other one called back and also catching three passes for 44 yards.

--S Harrison Smith will serve as Notre Dame's season-long captains and will be joined by additional teammates for each game. Saturday, offensive guard Trevor Robinson and cornerback Robert Blanton were picked.
--K David Ruffer, who made the first 23 field goals of his career before missing against Miami in the Sun Bowl last season, missed a 30-yarder on his only attempt in the opener and has now missed his last two.

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