Inexperience, deficit too much to overcome

Notre Dame was rolling, having scored a touchdown on its opening drive against Michigan. That's when Dayne Crist left with an injury.

When starting quarterback Dayne Crist left with an injury after Notre Dame's opening drive, backups Tommy Rees and Nate Montana stepped in. The results: zero points.

Rees went 0-for-2 with an interception. Coach Brian Kelly turned to Montana, who offers more mobility. Montana had more success, going 8-for-17 for 104 yards and an interception passing, and running for 23 yards on four carries. He connected with Theo Riddick on a 37-yard pass that nearly led to a score near the end of the first half, but was off target on an end-zone pass to end the half.

Both Montana and Rees made their first Notre Dame appearances in the Michigan game.

Notre Dame's inexperience at quarterback showed as Michigan built a 21-7 lead in Saturday's 28-24 Wolverines victory, with Crist returning in the second half to lead a comeback.

Of the backups' performance, Kelly said, "I did a poor job preparing them."

Kelly switched to Montana after two ineffective series from Rees. "Nate gives us a little more running than maybe Tom does," Montana said. "And I didn't want to throw it all over the yard with Tom given the circumstances of the game. I needed to eat some clock. And Nate gave us a better option where he could run the football, too."

Kelly said that preparing the backups better might include developing specific packages of plays for them to use if called upon in a game situation.

When asked about the injury after the game, Crist said, "Just running the ball, just took a hit kind of on the side of the helmet. I had trouble seeing out of my right eye after that. Tried to get back into focus. I wanted to play but wanted to make sure I was all right as well. Trainers and staff were doing tests on this eye to make sure I was okay to play. And they decided I was OK to play after that."

Far from perfect

Michigan got an all-world performance from electrifying quarterback Denard Robinson, whose 502 total yards made headlines everywhere. But Saturday's victory also showed some holes in the Wolverines' game.

When Notre Dame had its regular quarterback in the lineup, the Irish outscored Michigan 24-7.

Besides Robinson, Michigan's offense didn't amount to much. Its other runners gained 30 yards on 13 carries.

And the kicking game left something to be desired. Placekicker Brendan Gibbons missed two field goals in the second half, from 39 and 40 yards, and punter Will Hagerup averaged a decent 38.3 yards on nine punts, but shanked a couple at inopportune times, including a 33-yarder and a 35-yarder in the fourth quarter.

"Wow," Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said with a laugh. "I'm disappointed. But those guys can kick. Brendan's a lot better than he showed today."

Unfamiliar (and somewhat familiar) territory

Coach Kelly saw a personal streak snapped with the Michigan loss. His teams had won 19 straight regular-season games, dating back to his Cincinnati days.

While Cincinnati's coach, Kelly faced off against Michigan coach Rodriguez in 2007, while Rodriguez coached West Virginia. Rodriguez's team won that one, 28-23.

The two coaches share small-college roots (Kelly at Grand Valley State, Rodriguez at Glenville State). Both run the spread offense, though Kelly's relies on a passing quarterback and Rodriguez's a running QB.

Kelly got in what could be interpreted as a dig on Rodriguez after the game, talking about whether Robinson can last the season running the ball so much. Robinson, listed generously at 6-feet, 193 pounds, ran the ball 28 times for 258 yards and two touchdowns against the Irish, this after a 29-carry, 197-yards performance in the first game of the year against UConn.

"When you run a quarterback 25 times, you've got to have toughness," Kelly said. " I'll let coach figure out whether that's the case for 10 games. Coach Rodriguez knows his team better than I do. But we hit him pretty hard today. He's a good, tough kid."

"He's a great player. He's very fast, very athletic and he's just a playmaker," Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o said. Top Stories