FORT WAYNE – Notre Dame’s quarterback situation is uncertain a day after starter Tommy Rees was knocked out of a 14-10 home win over USC.
Rees was sacked on the first play of the Irish’s second series of the third quarter Saturday night. The senior remained on the ground after the hit before being able to walk off the field surrounded by trainers.
He was examined on the sideline before going to the locker room with what coach Brian Kelly said was a strained neck. Backup Andrew Hendrix finished the game at quarterback.
He’s feeling better today, still a little sore. It will be a day-to-day situation, Kelly said of Rees during his Sunday teleconference.
Kelly said he expects Rees to be able to practice Tuesday, and if he can practice, he will be able to play when the Irish (5-2) travel to play Air Force (1-6) on Saturday.
I would say that he’s got to have at least a couple of practice days where he is leading the offense, Kelly said. The quarterback really needs to get into a rhythm out there. We are not at a point where we can afford to just roll out there on Saturday.
Rees surpassed 6,000 passing yards for his career and improved to 19-6 as a starter after completing 14 of 21 passes for 166 yards with two touchdowns against the Trojans.
Notre Dame’s offense struggled with Hendrix at quarterback. The senior failed to complete any of his four pass attempts, ran for 5 yards on six carries and the Irish gained a total of 25 yards after Rees was injured.
Hendrix was in for one play before Rees’ injury, but Notre Dame was called for a false start before the snap, which has occurred on numerous other occasions in Hendrix’s brief appearances this season.
I could give you a couple of reasons, but it is inexcusable and shouldn’t happen, Kelly said of false start and delay of game penalties that occur with Hendrix at quarterback. We are going to have to give him more reps with the first group because clearly when he goes in there with the first group, there is something in his voice inflection that’s a little bit different. We are going to have to do a better job of coaching that.
Freshman quarterback Malik Zaire, who couldn’t practice for the first three weeks of the season as he recovered from mononucleosis, will also need extra coaching this week if Rees is unable to play against Air Force.
I haven’t really met with the offensive staff yet, but Malik will have to get some reps, obviously, if Tommy can’t practice on Tuesday. We are expecting that he can, Kelly said.
But if he couldn’t, hypothetically, Malik would have to get as many reps as necessary to get him ready to compete.
Note: Kelly said safety Elijah Shumate, who had started the last three games, didn’t play against the Trojans because of a hamstring injury the sophomore suffered at practice Thursday.