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Crist out for at least six months

Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist’s season-ending injury added to the dark cloud around the program Sunday.

Crist had surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon in his left knee Sunday morning and will likely need six months to recover, coach Brian Kelly said during his Sunday teleconference.

It is the second straight year Crist’s season has ended early because of an injury.

Last season, Crist tore the ACL in his right knee in a game against Washington State in San Antonio on Oct. 31.

Crist, who has thrown for 2,033 yards with 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions, was injured when he fell awkwardly out of bounds at the end of a 29-yard run in Saturday’s 28-27 loss to Tulsa.

Kelly said he talked to Crist on Saturday night and told the quarterback that there are not always answers for why things like this occur and that the junior can draw from his experience of coming back from an injury as he tries to get ready for next season.

“There is nobody to blame. You didn’t do anything wrong,” Kelly said he told Crist. “You’ve conditioned yourself well. Sometimes those things are unexplainable relative to the injury. And second, as difficult as this is right now, you’ve been through this, and you’ve got the strength to get through it again.”

With Crist out, Tommy Rees will start the Irish’s final three games. Notre Dame is off this week and plays host to Utah on Nov. 13.

The Irish then travel to play Army in the new Yankee Stadium on Nov. 20, and they close the season with a road game against USC on Nov. 27.

Rees became the first freshman quarterback to throw four touchdowns in Notre Dame history on Saturday and finished with 334 passing yards. But he did throw three interceptions, including one in the end zone to end the game when the Irish went for a touchdown instead of setting up for a field goal when it had the ball on the Golden Hurricane’s 19-yard line with 42 seconds to play.

“I think clearly he is a young man that we can win with,” Kelly said of Rees. “He exhibited that. It’s not going to be flawless, and I think moving forward we can clean up some things and help him a lot in certain situations. Our game plan was established, and he had to run some things that maybe were a little bit out of his league. But he handled himself very, very well. I believe moving forward we can play winning football with him.

“He’s a gamer. I like his demeanor. He knows what’s going on out there. There were a lot of things that we had to talk about on the sideline that he didn’t understand, and then we went to some things he had comfort with. But he clearly has the right demeanor. He doesn’t get rattled. He got lit up pretty good on a missed block in protection and bounced right up as if nothing occurred. He’s got that savvy that you look for in a quarterback.”

Nate Montana will backup Rees, but Notre Dame will also have to get either Andrew Hendrix or Luke Massa ready in case of an emergency.

“We are going to begin working with Hendrix and Massa this week,” Kelly said. “We will whittle it down to one, because we are in a situation where we have to have another quarterback that is ready.”