Not again…October 31, 2009. Dayne Crist escapes pocket pressure with a roll and scramble to his right. Seconds later, his season ended with a limited contact play that resulted in a torn ACL in his right knee. Six months of rehab (and generally more than a calendar year before an athlete returns to full strength).
October 30, 2010. Dayne Crist escapes pocket pressure with a roll and 29-yard scramble to his right. Seconds later, Crist's season is over due to a non-contact knee injury to his left knee that will require six months of recovery.
"The patellar tendon had in fact torn, and it was reattached," Kelly said of Crist Sunday. "The surgery went well. We're looking at a six-month recovery time."
Crist met last year's recovery and rehab head on - taking part in every rep of every spring practice and starting the Blue Gold Game in late April. Knee rehab No. 2 will likely include a mental strain for the dedicated, disappointed junior.
"I told him essentially that sometimes we look for answers and sometimes there are no answers," Kelly said of his initial conversation with Crist Saturday night.
"The second thing I said was you've been through this before. You don't want to go through it again but at least you've already exhibited the strength, the mental and physical toughness to get through this, and you're going to have to call on that to get through it again."
There was no direct hit on Crist's knee.
"There's nobody to blame. You didn't do anything wrong. You've conditioned yourself well. Sometimes those things are unexplainable relative to an injury," Kelly added.
Much needed respitePresent for a Tuesday post-practice interview session last week, injured senior nose guard Ian Williams donned two accessories that provided a clean summation of the 2010 Irish football season: a pair of crutches and a T-shirt reading: Next Man In...
Injuries are an accepted, necessary part of football. Still, Notre Dame's current list of sidelined stars is extreme by any reasonable measure:
Starting tight end: out
Starting slot receiver: out
Starting tailback: out
Starting quarterback: out
Starting nose guard: out
Starting inside linebacker: out
Starting free safety: recovering after 9 weeks on the sidelines/intermittent action
Starting right tackle: recovering after 5 weeks on the sidelines/intermittent action
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has an obvious game plan for his team's extraordinarily late Bye week: rest.
Though separate, exacerbating the situation nonetheless for a broken, battered football team was the practice-field tragedy that occurred last Wednesday and the trying days that have followed. The Irish need time to heal strains and sprains, but also remain in a fragile emotional state entering month No. 3 of a disappointing season.
"We are going to give them some time. I think it's important that they just get caught up in being a student and the athlete part needs to wait a little bit here," Kelly said of this week's practice plan. "They need a couple of days to be a student, to get back into a normal routine."
Kelly's Irish will practice Wednesday and Thursday, but those sessions won't follow a game week standard, either.
"We'll try to steal a day to give some of the guys who haven't played this year some scrimmage time," he offered. "I want to be able to see some of our young guys that have scrimmaged (but) that haven't played – of course," he added half-joking "we've played a lot of them…and in some instances that could be our 1s vs. our 1s.
"More likely some of the guys that didn't get any action will scrimmage a little bit. (Then) we'll get a day of Utah and then we're probably going to give them the weekend off."
Kyle Rudolph, Dayne Crist and Armando Allen are officially out for the season; Ian Williams and Theo Riddick may be as well, though both could return late if treatment and recovery progresses. Kelly noted that sophomore inside linebacker Carlo Calabrese (hamstring) could return for the November 6 matchup vs. current No. 5 Utah.
"Carlo Calabrese is much better," Kelly said. "We need this bye week to get him back."
The rest of Saturday's casualties fall under the category of standard football strains and sprains, including OLB Darius Fleming who tweaked his ankle. Backup freshman OLB Prince Shembo was concussed early, but he was apparently much more cogent Sunday.
"We knew it was a concussion because he said Dr. (Jim) Moriarity was a very attractive man," Kelly said. "So we knew that he was definitely concussed. He's better (Sunday)."
One to admireNotre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey referenced former star Luke Harangody as "A player that earned every second of his scholarship…and then some," adding half-jokingly that its not always the case around the college basketball landscape.
Notre Dame senior tailback Armando Allen falls into the category of the former: the player, the leader, the teammate that every coach, fan and media member witnessed giving his all to every snap and run.
Allen ranks as the most improved player of the remaining 2007 recruiting class and one of the few team members that consistently exhibited the toughness the new staff purportedly covets.
Allen dressed and ran out of the Irish tunnel for the final time in Saturday's loss to Tulsa. His season finished due to a hip injury.
"We're setting up potential surgery for him," Kelly said. "We dressed him (Saturday) so he could run out of the tunnel one last time because we were pretty certain that he was not going to be able to play again."
"He has right and left torn cartilage in his hip, I think specifically the labrum. (It's) very unusual. Clearly if you watched him in the Navy game he played hard, he played with great passion but he did not have that second gear that he had earlier in the year.
"We have not concluded with 100 percent certainty, and we won't know until the surgery is done, but we believe that some of this was a pre-existing condition," Kelly added.
Allen finishes his career fifth on the program's all-purpose yardage list, trailing program legends Julius Jones, Autry Denson, Allen Pinkett and Tim Brown while ranking one spot ahead of a guy name Rocket Ismail. Not a bad effort for undersized runner who made his living from scrimmage between the tackles; often when there was no daylight to be found.
Rees and the ReservesA program freshman-record four touchdown passes; 334 yards on 33 completions (the second-highest total of completed passes in program history). First-year triggerman Tommy Rees earned the right to guide the Irish through the season's final three regular season contests.
While Kelly questioned the freshman's far away look when he was first thrust into action vs. Michigan, he now sees what the former high school spread QB has to offer.
"He's a gamer. I like his demeanor," Kelly said of Rees Sunday. "He clearly has the right demeanor. He doesn't get rattled. He got lit up pretty good on a missed block and bounced right up as if nothing occurred. He's got that savvy that you look for in a quarterback."
Junior Nate Montana will backup Rees, but with Crist out, that leaves the Irish with two scout team freshman vying for the No. 3 role. Neither has played this season, which means both have technically preserved a potential 5th-year of eligibility for 2014.
"We're going to begin working with (Andrew) Hendrix and (Luke) Massa this week, and we'll whittle it down to one because now we're in a situation where we have to have another quarterback ready," Kelly said.
"In terms of our working with the freshmen, we've spent most of that time with Tommy (the last 3-4 weeks). Now we'll spend a lot of time with Hendrix and/or Massa. They become effectively the third, and obviously if we lose another quarterback, they would have to be ready to play."
One more time for posterityBy the time Brian Kelly's Sunday's 2 PM conference call rolled around, most print and internet scribes – and nearly every Irish fan great and small – had expressed his or her opinion on the kick that never happened Saturday in South Bend.
That doesn't mean all questions on the topic had been exhausted.
Kelly was asked if "playing his way" took precedent over what most perceived as the surest path to victory.
"There are always those concerns when the play caller is the head coach," Kelly said. "If it's the offensive coordinator that is making those calls, he's got a head coach on the other side advising or telling him what to do in those particular situations, i.e., ‘We're going to run the ball here and then take our shot with the field goal.
"When you're the head coach and the play caller, it's all in one. Over my career, I have not second-guessed my play calling. You always look at the execution or whether the player was in a position to execute it. So when the lines are sometimes not clear relative to play calling and head coach, you always come back to…'Did we do enough to make sure that play could get executed?'"
I surmised Sunday that Kelly's well-publicized list of 47 special circumstances, and/or the staff's "48-hour meeting" prior to each contest might have included a standard method for handling down, distance, clock and scoreboard situations.
That's not the case.
"We wouldn't discuss those types of situations. Those come to a head coach and play-caller being on the same page as to what they want to achieve. So no, that wouldn't be something I've typically talked about, that's something that happens during the game and those decisions play out on the field."
Did Kelly feel good about the call 24 hours later?
"You don't feel good about losing football games. That's the thing that eats at you because you put too much time into this. But play calls, those things are separate for me. I think it's more about the execution of the play."
Sometimes you have to agree to disagree
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