FORT WAYNE – Notre Dame fell out of the Associated Press Top 25 and the USA Today coaches poll for the first time since finishing 8-5 after the 2011 season.
The Irish were No. 22 in both polls before Saturday’s 35-21 loss to No. 11 Oklahoma (4-0), and Notre Dame had been in the AP poll since being left out of the 2012 preseason poll.
Coach Brian Kelly said the Irish (3-2) are not worried about rankings or their shrinking chances at playing in a BCS bowl game.
One bowl game or one game does not make it for these guys, Kelly said during his Sunday teleconference. They’re more focused – and we’re more focused – on being better as a football team and playing better week to week than the one game that we get at the end of the season. We know it can’t be a national championship, and we are disappointed that that’s the case.
For Notre Dame to make a case to play in a high-profile bowl, the Irish will need to get their offense in order as they get ready to play Arizona State in a Shamrock Series game in the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium on Saturday in Arlington, Texas.
Quarterback Tommy Rees threw three interceptions, one when he was hit from behind and two off deflections, against the Sooners. Rees has completed just 39.6 percent of his passes in the past two games and thrown for less than 150 yards in both after starting the season by throwing for more than 300 yards in three straight game and completing 60.7 percent of his passes.
There are no plans to change starting quarterbacks, but Kelly said senior Andrew Hendrix could be used more going forward. Hendrix was used as a change-of-pace quarterback against Oklahoma and ran for 10 yards.
There’s no question the quarterback that is going to start for us is Tommy Rees, Kelly said. We’d like to expand it where we get (Hendrix) to have some play-action pass. We don’t want to turn this into a wildcat. We want him to be part of the offense and one that you have to defend. It’s evolving, but it’s certainly something he can fit into and be part of what we do moving forward.
The biggest change Kelly wants to see on offense is getting the passing and running games working well at the same time.
Notre Dame, which opened the season with 188 rushing yards in a win over Temple, had only gained 269 total rushing yards in a loss to Michigan and wins over Purdue and Michigan State. The Irish finally got going on the ground against Oklahoma, running for 220 yards with George Atkinson III leading the way with 148 yards and an 80-yard touchdown run.
We don’t want to play the game one-dimensional. We want to be able to run it and throw it, Kelly said. That’s absolutely crucial to our offense moving forward. We got to be able to run for 200 and throw for 200. That’s the identity that we want to have as an offense.
Notes: Kelly said the Irish will review linebacker Ben Councell’s targeting penalty, ejection and first-half suspension for the Arizona State game with the ACC to make a case to lift the suspension because there wasn’t intent. Defensive end Sheldon Day (ankle) was held out against Oklahoma after re-tweaking his injury in warmups, Kelly said. Receiver TJ Jones rolled his ankle against Oklahoma, but it is not serious, Kelly said. Kelly said freshman running back Greg Bryant didn’t play Saturday because of a knee injury.