FORT WAYNE – Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly referred to his locker room as a triage after Saturday’s 38-34 home win over Navy.
And on Sunday, his rundown of injuries, which included losing backup linebacker Ben Councell for the season with a significant knee injury, did nothing to dispel that comparison.
This is close to the pinnacle, Kelly said during his teleconference of ever having to deal with so many injuries. They don’t give you any points for complaining about it. If they did, I would complain every minute. We just take care of it internally and get the next guy ready.
Kelly admitted it is harder to find the next man, especially on defense.
Along with Councell, defensive lineman Kona Schwenke suffered a high-ankle sprain against Navy and linebacker Ishaq Williams, who suffered an ACL injury two weeks ago against Air Force, will not play when the Irish (7-2) travel to play Pittsburgh (4-4) on Saturday.
Nose guard Louis Nix III was cleared to resume practice after an MRI on Sunday, the university said. The senior missed the last two games with a torn meniscus and tendinitis in his knee. Kelly is waiting to find out if safety Austin Collinsworth, who suffered a neck strain Saturday, will be able to play against Pitt. Collinsworth is scheduled to have an MRI today.
These injuries come on top of a defense that lost former Bishop Dwenger standout Tony Springmann (knee) and fellow defensive lineman Chase Hounshell (shoulder) along with linebacker Danny Spond (migraine) and safety Nicky Baratti (shoulder) before the season and linebacker Jarrett Grace (leg) on Oct. 5.
We are running out of next man, Kelly said. It becomes an issue now where we have to be very creative in what we are doing and how we are doing it.
Defensive lineman Sheldon Day also re-injured his ankle against Navy, but Kelly said he is optimistic the sophomore will play this weekend. Notre Dame will also have safety Elijah Shumate back from a hamstring injury that kept him out of the last three games, Kelly said.
Kelly was also optimistic that left guard Chris Watt will be able to play against the Panthers. The fifth-year senior didn’t play against Navy because a PCL injury proved too restrictive for him to perform, Kelly said.
There’s no surgery involved when you tear your PCL, Kelly said. This is a matter of managing it. It’s loose, there’s that feeling that there’s some instability there, so you’re really adapting to it.
He tried to go (against Navy), he just didn’t feel like he could do some of the things. He didn’t want to let his team down.
Note: Notre Dame returned to both polls Sunday, getting ranked No. 24 in the Associated Press Top 25 and remaining No. 25 in the USA Today coaches poll. The Irish are at 23rd in the BCS.