Monday Notebook

IrishEyes' weekly Monday update before a day in the film room.

Among the topics of discussion in Brian Kelly's standard Sunday conference call was the play of his backup quarterbacks, his star receiver, and his defense on the game's go-ahead drive.

No QB Carousel

The House of Cards that is the 2010 Notre Dame QB depth chart remained intact one drive into Game No. 2.

Irish fans' greatest pre-season fear came to fruition when junior QB Dayne Crist was sidelined due to blurry vision prior to the offense's second series.

Backups Tommy Rees (a true freshman) and Nate Montana (a redshirt-junior who spent last season at Pasadena Community College) had never taken a snap vs. FBS competition. Their assimilation to the college game proved trying: two key turnovers, no points, eight combined first downs, one semblance of a complete offensive drive in eight combined series under center.

Included in the backup stable are true freshmen Luke Mass and Andrew Hendrix. At the conclusion of the pre-season, Kelly stated both would remain in Scout team roles this fall.

Saturday's disappointing backup performance hasn't altered that plan.

"We're not going to play Massa; and we're not going to play Hendrix. So I have to get those two kids ready (Rees and Montana)," Kelly said.

"Flat-out. That's my job; we're going to have to do things a little bit differently during the scripting of our No. 2 reps to make certain I have a package that they can handle. (Saturday's package) was too much for them, they can't take the same plays that our first group does. That doesn't mean we can't make a successful package for them, but it has to be different for those two guys and I have to get that done this week."

Kelly was asked if this is a unique situation (the dearth of experienced backups quarterbacks on his roster).

"Yes. Precisely."

Where's My Floyd?

Two games: 10 catches, 148 yards, no touchdowns. Not exactly Golden…

Not exactly Floyd-ian either. Irish junior wide receiver Michael Floyd was billed here and nationwide as an All-America candidate entering the season but he's been decidedly average through two contests as a pass-catcher (Floyd has performed well as a downfield blocker for the Irish running game).

Notre Dame needs more from Floyd going forward for an offense that already appears one receiver short.

"Well, we have to move him around," Kelly said of Floyd's intermittent involvement to date. "Anytime he was in the short field he got doubled over the top. In the second half, we started moving him to the field (wide) side which freed him up.

"That's why it's so important that our Z Receiver (Theo Riddick) steps up. Our X has done a pretty good job in T.J. Jones, but our Z Receiver has to be more formidable in our offense so if you do double Michael, there are other options out there."

(I'll have more on Floyd and the rest of the Irish offense in my Eye in the Sky game tape review later today).

3rd Down Success…with one Notable Exception

Would you have guessed the Irish defense forced 10 punts? Or that the Wolverines, with 532 yards of total offense, converted just 3 of 16 chances on third down?

From the beginning of the second half until the decisive go-ahead drive, Notre Dame's defense limited the Wolverines to the following offensive series/results:

  • 3 plays, 2 yards, punt
  • 3 plays, 3 yards, punt
  • 10 plays, 51 yards, missed 39-yard field goal
  • 4 plays, minus 9 yards, punt
  • 9 plays, 36 yards, missed 40-yard field goal
  • 7 plays, 38 yards, punt
  • 3 plays, 4 yards, punt

The ledger above is a defense's blueprint for a comeback victory. The final Michigan drive: 12 plays, 72 yards, 1-yard touchdown plunge, represented the Tarantula in the ointment.

Kelly broke down the final drive, noting that the Irish lost to Robinson's questionable arm more so than his Hall of Fame feet.

"We were in Drop 8 and the quarterback was 5 of 6 for 58 yards on that drive," Kelly began. "We did not, in four of those six plays, play anything but zone coverage (Kelly noted Robinson's unique skill set forced the Irish to previously play more man coverage than usual). Where we feel like we need to do a better job is obviously in zone coverage."

Michigan converted a 4th and 1 (Robinson run left) and crucial 3rd and 5 on the drive. The Irish switched to man coverage on the key 3rd down, but safety Harrison Smith gave up inside position on a perfectly thrown post-route to Wolverines receiver Roy Roundtree.

"Our alignment on the last man-to-man catch where we brought an all-out blitz, we need to be inside-out on coverage (on that play) and we obviously weren't."

Welcome to the Family

October 25, 2008: the last time Brian Kelly lost a regular season game. His next defeat, Game Two of his Notre Dame tenure, coincided with visits from four seniors from the recruiting class of 2011, two of which gave their verbal pledges to the program: (brothers osh Atkinson. and eorge Atkinson.).

The FBS' 6th winning-est active coach admitted he wasn't sure how to broach the subject at breakfast Sunday morning.

"I'm not really sure how to handle myself here this morning after a loss," Kelly told the gathering, adding, "I can tell you it doesn't feel good; I'm sure this mood will not change until we get a chance to win again."

Prior to Saturday's loss, Kelly-coached teams had won 11 consecutive contests decided by one score (8 points or fewer). The Notre Dame program has now lost 10 of its last 15 such contests dating back to a 28-21 win over Stanford in late-September 2008.

"You learn how to compete for four quarters, you have the confidence that you can win, but I'm not going to talk about playing hard anymore," Kelly offered. "I'm tired of hearing about it. That's the way we're going to play no matter what; now we have to win football games. It's not good enough to talk about playing hard for four quarters.

"You have to play hard and you have to win."

For the first time in his Irish career, Kelly will encounter a practice field forced to respond to on-field adversity. Media members wondered how Kelly would handle a roster still too familiar with defeat.

"I think it's important to focus on the reasons for losing. Obviously if our team lacked emotion and didn't play hard, we'd have some different issues this week," Kelly said. "I might be throwing a fit out there all week; I don't have to do that.

"We know how we're going to play the game," Kelly continued. "Now we have to play it cleaner. We have to execute better on offense – you can't throw three interceptions – and you can't miss assignments against a very good offense like Michigan. That's what we'll focus on next week."

Injury Updates:

  • 5th-year senior center Dan Wenger will be withheld from contact for the next three weeks, then evaluated further as the result of multiple concussions suffered during August camp. A final decision regarding Wenger's return will be made by him and his family.
  • Senior inside linebacker Steve Paskorz will have knee surgery this week and is lost for the season. He will be eligible for a medical redshirt at season's end. Paskorz injured his knee during the final week of August camp.
  • Kelly hopes junior safety Jamoris Slaughter, who missed Saturday's contest with a sprained ankle, will be in a position to assist the team this weekend at Michigan State. Slaughter dressed as an emergency backup, but could not have played due to the nature of the contest.
  • Irish defensive line coach and special teams coordinator Mike Elston also missed Saturday's contest vs. the Wolverines. Elston has battled a viral infection and after a battery of tests (Kelly noted Elston had given approximately 72 vials of blood to diagnose the illness). He's expected to receive some resolution early this week. Tight ends coach Mike Denbrock headed the Irish special teams effort in his stead, receiving assistance from Tim Hinton, Kerry Cooks and Ed Warinner on Saturday.

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