SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame will not change its offense after getting a glimpse of what life is like without starting quarterback Dayne Crist.
What coach Brian Kelly will change is how he prepares his backup quarterbacks as Notre Dame (1-1) gets ready to play Michigan State (2-0) at 8 p.m. Saturday in Lansing, Mich.
Freshman Tommy Rees and junior Nate Montana struggled to run the offense when Crist missed most of the first half of Saturday’s 28-24 loss to Michigan after suffering blurry vision after hitting his head on the first drive.
Kelly said he plans to create a package that is geared toward the strengths of Rees and Montana, but he did not say which quarterback would be first in line to replace Crist if needed.
I think we have to have something that really allows both of those guys to feel comfortable out there and still run our offense in a productive manner, Kelly said. I’m certain we will be in a much better place this weekend if we have to go to them.
Things did not go well for Rees, who enrolled early and participated in spring practice, when the Irish went to him first after Crist left.
Rees threw an interception on his first attempt and went three-and-out in his next series, but he said he will be ready if he is called upon again to step in for Crist.
With our next man in’ philosophy, I got to go in there and perform, Rees said. Quarterbacks are always going to not do as well as they wanted. You got to have a short-term memory.
Montana, the son of former Irish and NFL great Joe Montana, was more effective, running for 23 yards and completing 8 of 17 passes for 104 yards. But he did throw an interception and lofted a pass out of the end zone from Michigan’s 3-yard line at the end of the first half.
Montana said he is confident the package installed for him and Rees will prove effective.
He’ll pick a good amount of plays that we can run, and he’ll have confidence in us, Montana said of Kelly.
Although Kelly is changing how he is preparing the backup quarterbacks, he is not changing the offense to protect Crist, who hasn’t had any lingering effects from his first-half injury. Crist led Notre Dame to 17 points and gave the Irish a 24-21 lead with 3:41 to play Saturday. He finished with 277 passing yards and two touchdowns.
You want to keep Dayne Crist in the game, but I think that our offense is such that I don’t think you are ever going to be conservative with what you do, Kelly said. I think we have to be careful to not play scared.
Notes: Defensive line and special teams coach Mike Elston, who missed Saturday’s game with a virus, hasn’t rejoined the team and other assistants will handle his duties this week, Kelly said. Safeties Jamoris Slaughter (ankle) and Dan McCarthy (hamstring), who were unable to play Saturday, could be ready to play against the Spartans.