Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said injuries to star players haven’t changed the goal for this season.
Kelly said the Irish are still striving to reach a bowl game.
After Saturday’s 28-27 loss to Tulsa, the Irish (4-5) have three chances – at home against Utah on Nov. 13, at Yankee Stadium against Army on Nov. 20 and at USC on Nov. 27 – to get the two more wins they need to be bowl eligible.
“Really the target here is to get bowl eligible for us. We have no margin, but it’s still the same goal and that is to get this team to a bowl game,” Kelly said during his Sunday teleconference.
Notre Dame can barely afford to lose another game, but the Irish really can’t afford losing another player.
Quarterback Dayne Crist’s season ended when he tore the patellar tendon in his left knee Saturday, and running back Armando Allen will likely not play again because of a hip injury.
“He has right and left torn cartilage in the hip. I think specifically the labrum,” Kelly said of Allen. “Very, very unusual. We treated the first one. Clearly if you watched him in the Navy game, he played hard. He played with great passion. But he did not have that second gear that he had earlier in the year. This other one was bothering him.
“We have not concluded with 100 percent certainty until the surgery is done, but we believe that some of this was a pre-existing condition.”
Kelly said surgery is being set up for Allen and that the running back dressed for Saturday’s game because it was likely the last time he would run onto the field as a player at Notre Dame Stadium.
The loss of the Irish’s starting quarterback and top rusher made a list of devastating injuries grow.
Notre Dame lost tight end Kyle Rudolph to a hamstring injury earlier this year, and receiver Theo Riddick (ankle) and nose guard Ian Williams (knee) might also not be able to play again this season.
Despite all the injuries to top contributors, Kelly said the program can continue to move in the right direction.
“There is so much more to it than just winning the game,” Kelly said. “We all want to win games, and every fan that follows Notre Dame wants to have a good Sunday and see a win. You can still be moving forward and being closer and closer to where you want to get to without those players.
“You are establishing it the other six days of the week working on what you need to do to be a winner. So, I would fall on the side that we can continue to make progress even though it is not how progressed is defined even without these guys.”
The closest thing to a silver lining on the injury front for Notre Dame is that some defensive injuries didn’t sound too serious Sunday.
Kelly said linebacker Prince Shembo did suffer a concussion, but that the freshman was feeling better.
Also, linebacker Carlo Calabrese, who missed the game against Tulsa with a hamstring injury, is recovering.
“I think Carlo Calabrese is much better,” Kelly said. “We need this bye week for him to get back.”