Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist was poised for a heroic return to the field.
Crist, who began the season as the starter but replaced after the first half of the season opener, came into Saturday night’s 31-17 loss to USC when Tommy Rees went out with a knee injury in the third quarter.
Crist completed 4 of 5 passes for 36 yards when he came with Notre Dame trailing USC 17-10, and after change-of-pace quarterback Andrew Hendrix got the Irish to the Trojans’ 1, Crist came back in to tie the game.
But the senior couldn’t handle the snap, the ball rolled out to the 20, USC’s Jawanza Starling scooped up the ball and returned it 80 yards to put the Trojans up 24-10.
Rees was able to return on Notre Dame’s next offensive series and led the Irish to a touchdown. But Rees was charged with a fumble on the next Irish offensive series when his lateral pass was missed by running back Cierre Wood and recovered by USC.
The Trojans scored three plays after the fumble to ice the game.
Coach Brian Kelly said Sunday that he isn’t worried about Crist being able to handle the fumble.
“I don’t have to worry about that. He does,” Kelly said.
Kelly could be contemplating a change in his quarterback rotation though. As he answered a QB depth-chart question by saying, “We haven’t made any changes as of today.”