Notre Dame’s latest meltdown is threatening the Fighting Irish’s preseason goal of going to the BCS.
Now 0-2 after a deflating 35-31 last second-loss at Michigan, the Irish are going to have to regroup quickly with 10 games to go, starting this Saturday against No. 15 Michigan State.
Against Michigan, there were five more turnovers and nine more penalties, giving the Irish 10 turnovers and 17 penalties in the two games.
Quarterback Tommy Rees looked poised at times but he also threw a pair of interceptions and had a costly fumble. And senior corner back Gary Gray was burned several times during the game as the Irish defense couldn’t protect a 17-point lead entering the fourth quarter.
“I still believe we’re going to be a good football team,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said Sunday. “But the chance to be a good team is all the things that we’re doing right now. We’re not giving ourselves a chance to be a good team.”
Rees, who replaced Dayne Crist after the first half of a loss to South Florida in the opener, was 27 of 39 for 315 yards with three TD passes, but fumbled deep in Wolverines’ territory. He is now 4-1 as a starter.
“You know, Tommy Rees is in his fifth start and the ball comes out of his hands when he makes a great check versus pressure to go to a one-on-one throw. It’s all those little things that seem to show themselves in games,” Kelly said. “Obviously we don’t expect those kinds of mistakes to occur.”
Gray seemed to be out of position all night and was beaten on the final TD when Denard Robinson lofted a pass to Roy Roundtree in the corner of the end zone with 2 seconds to go.
Just seconds earlier Robinson had connected on a 64-yarder to Jeremy Gallon in which the Irish blew coverage.
“There’s a couple of key coaching points on how you play that route. It’s a very common route. It’s not like it’s something we haven’t seen before. So we’ll address that with those guys that were responsible for it,” Kelly said.
Kelly said he had no intention of benching the experienced Gray.
“We’re not at that point with Gary. We’re two games into the season. He’s got a lot of pride and he’s a guy that has shown that he can bounce back from a tough day,” Kelly said. “The cornerback position is such that you’re put out on an island. Sometimes it doesn’t go your way. But I’m very confident Gary is going to bounce back next week.”
Kelly said switching around his corners is not an option.
“You want to be better in coverage, there’s no question. But the guys that we’ve got out there, I promise you there’s not three All Americans that we have on the bench,” he said.
Kelly said tight end Mike Ragone (knee) and linebacker Danny Spond (hamstring) would have MRIs to determine the extent of their injuries suffered Saturday in the first night game at Michigan Stadium.