IrishEyes' pre-season rank: No. 11 (of 12)
Quote to note: "We have coined the phrase, ‘Work in Progress.' That is what we're about." – head coach Brian Kelly after a 2-3 start.
By the numbers: Whether led by Dayne Crist or Tommy Rees, total pass attempts generally told the tale for Notre Dame's offense.
Crist in four wins: 137 pass attempts; 7 touchdowns and 2 interceptions
Crist in four losses (not including Tulsa): 155 pass attempts; 8 touchdowns and 5 interceptions
Rees in three wins: 72 pass attempts; 6 TD and 4 interceptions
Rees in one loss (Tulsa): 54 pass attempts; 4 TD and 3 interceptions
In tandem, Crist and Rees threw for 2,938 yards with 25 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Crist added a team-high (seriously) four rushing scores. Neither lost a fumble; both had an interception returned for a score in a loss (Crist vs. Stanford; Rees vs. Tulsa).
Both fired four touchdowns in a game (Crist vs. MSU; Rees vs. Tulsa) though neither effort aided an Irish victory. Crist completed 59 percent of his throws; Rees 63 percent. Both suffered multiple interception games (Rees twice in four games played; Crist once vs. Navy).
Notre Dame scored on a passing touchdown in each of its 12 contests; the Irish suffered an interception in 9 of the 12 (Purdue, Pittsburgh and Utah were the exceptions).
Best momentsBoth Crist and Rees produced healthy numbers at times, though the pair's top statistical efforts both occurred in Irish losses.
Crist tossed four touchdown passes and just one interception while piling up 369 passing yards in a 34-31 OT loss at East Lansing; Rees fired four of his own (with three picks) en route to 334 yards in a 28-27 loss to Tulsa.
In terms of game management and efficiency in their respective roles, Rees' best effort was likely a 28-3 upset win vs. No. 14 Utah, a game in which he fired three touchdown passes and completed 13 of 20 passes without a turnover.
Crist excelled vs. Western Michigan (though that was mandatory given the defensive talent of the opponent). His best effort vs. a strong defense was in Chestnut Hill as the junior led Coach Kelly's blitzkrieg to a 21-0 lead in the game's first 13 minutes, rushing for an opening score and throwing two more to key a 31-13 road victory vs. what became the nation's No. 14 ranked defense.
Moments to forget: In a season full of uneven play at the position, two contests – both losses – stand out: Michigan and Navy.
Crist had his worst game as a collegian against the Midshipmen – then again, so did about 40 of his teammates and the bulk of his coaching staff, so pinning the offense's issues on the quarterback that Saturday in the New Meadowlands would be inaccurate.
Still, a less-than-inspiring effort on a QB sneak at the Navy goal line; a poor read that resulted in an interception – and seven points at the end of the half – and another costly interception in the third quarter were but three black marks in an all around poor outing by the junior signal-caller.
In Week Two vs. Michigan, Crist did little wrong – staking the Irish to an early lead, then returning from a first drive injury and bringing the Irish back to the precipice of victory after the squad fell behind in his absence.
But it was that 26-minute absence from the field that felled the Irish when an unprepared quarterback duo played the position's worst ball of the season. Rees and Montana threw a combined 19 passes; two were intercepted, the first of which led directly to a touchdown (the ensuing play) by the visiting Wolverines.
The Irish ended both halves with un-catchable passes thrown out of the back of the end zone – the latter of which a potential game-winner from 26 yards out.
Eligibility status: Crist was withheld from action as a freshman in 2008 and is thus eligible through the 2012 season. Montana will be a senior next year but could also apply for a 5th-year in 2012. Rees will be a sophomore on pace to leave the program following 2013 while classmates Andrew Hendrix and Luke Massa were both kept from the field this season and can apply to remain with the Irish through 2014.
Final Analysis: Notre Dame finished 2-5 when its quarterbacks (alone or in tandem/trio) attempted 35 or more passes; 5-0 when attempting fewer. Crist finished 1-4 as a starter when he attempted more than 40 passes; Rees 0-1 (Tulsa).
The Irish finished 0-4 when its quarterbacks exceeded 300 yards passing.
It short, when the first-year spread attack strayed too far in one direction, the Irish offense suffered as a result. That's not all on the quarterbacks (that's a column for another week), but both Crist and Rees showed the maddening propensity for the unforced error and to leave potential big plays on the field.
Ranking position groups 1 through 12 necessitates a few bring up the rear. Notre Dame's quarterbacks played poorly vs. Michigan, Stanford, Navy and USC – irrelevant in the position's overall development but pertinent to the team's final record and this ranking.
The future of the position – and possibly for Crist or Rees – appears bright. One will likely earn the Game One start next fall though I'd wager neither would earn 12 starts in 2011. Healthy competition awaits as does another year of schooling in the offense.
Both will improve the position's overall level of execution and consistency next season.