Chicago Sun-Times
with Mark Lazerus

September 2010 Archives

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Refuting published reports that freshman Chase Rettig would start against Notre Dame on Saturday night, Boston College coach Frank Spaziani insisted that not only does he not know who will start at quarterback, but we might not find out until game time.

And Notre Dame doesn't care.

''They're all cut from the same cloth,'' Irish coach Brian Kelly said after practice on Wednesday. ''They don't have a dual-threat quarterback. All three of those guys are 6-4, 215 pounds, pocket passers within a system.''

Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph, hampered by a sore hamstring against Stanford, said Wednesday that he anticipates being healthy for Saturday night's game at Boston College.

''I feel like I'll be 100 percent on Saturday,'' said Rudolph, who was limited through most of preseason practice by a hamstring injury.

Rudolph had one reception for one yard against Stanford. He had a bad drop on a second-and-10 play late in the first half that helped give the Cardinal a chance to drive for a field goal in the final 34 seconds to take a 16-6 lead.

Rudolph said he might have tweaked the hammy on the one reception he had and was not 100 percent healthy after that.

''I don't know a percentage -- I wasn't myself. I know that,'' he said. ''Whatever it was -- aggravating it, the weather ... we did everything we could from a medical standpoint to get it loosened up. But it was something that nagged me for the whole [game].''
The suspense was killing us, but it might finally be over: highly touted freshman quarterback Chase Rettig will start for Boston College against Notre Dame on Saturday night in Chestnut Hill, Mass., the Boston Globe reported today.

''Chase is going to start and Mike [Marscovetra] and Dave [Shinskie] will battle for No. 2," a team source told the Globe's Mark Blaudschun. "Chase took about 80 percent of the snaps in practice [Tuesday]."

In the aftermath of Boston College's 19-0 loss to Virginia Tech last Saturday -- the first time the Eagles have been shut out since 1998 -- BC coach Frank Spaziani announced he would replace Shinskie and start either Rettig or Marscovetra against Notre Dame.

He said he would not make a decision until later in the week, possibly as late as game time. But the Globe reported that Rettig will start and the move will be announced later today.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- I have an aversion to the excitement and anticipation connected with high school commitments and signings that dates to not only my years of covering preps for the Sun-Times, but my previous experience covering Notre Dame in 1997.

The Irish had a former USA Today national prep Offensive Player of the Year (Ron Powlus) and Defensive Player of the Year (Kory Minor) and went 7-6 -- in part because neither Powlus nor Minor became the superstars they were expected to be. And they weren't the only ones in that category on that team.

So it's best to reserve judgment on the significance of Vernon Hills wide receiver DaVaris Daniels committing to Notre Dame on Tuesday -- though its worth noting that he committed three days after Notre Dame's worst loss of the season dropped the Irish to 1-3. He chose Notre Dame over Miami. A commitment from one of the top-rated receivers in the country is a tacit endorsement of Brian Kelly's offense that carries some weight.

Stanford throws Notre Dame, Brian Kelly for a loop, 37-14

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Notre Dame's best hope after its 37-14 loss to No. 16 Stanford on Saturday is that the Irish faced the wrong team at the wrong time.

Unless it turns out that Stanford is a BCS bowl team and a notch ahead of Michigan and Michigan State, the Irish took a significant step backward Saturday. When the defense is hanging its hat on holding Stanford to field goals on five drives, that's a problem.

The pressure is on Notre Dame's defense against No. 16 Stanford today, but quarterback Dayne Crist is the player to watch.

Crist has been as good if not better than expected in his first three starts -- 64-of-106, 851 yards, seven touchdowns, two interceptions and an efficiency rating of 145.83. But if he doesn't improve from here, it's almost certain Notre Dame will not improve either.

Michigan's Denard Robinson injured against Bowling Green

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When Michigan's Denard Robinson combined fo 502 yards of total offense -- including 258 yards rushing on 28 carries -- in the Wolverines' 28-24 victory over Notre Dame on Sept. 11, his resiliency was almost as impressive as his physical ability. It might have seemed like only a matter of time before a quarterback running 29 times a game would get hurt, but maybe not with Robinson. The kid could take a hit.

The inevitable happened on Saturday, as Robinson left Michigan's game with Bowling Green with six minutes left in the first half after suffering an apparent injury to his left knee after being tackled near the sideline on a 47-yard run. 

Robinson had already rushed for 128 yards on five carries  -- scoring on runs of two and 47 yards -- and completed 4-of-4 passes for 60 yards as Michigan took a 21-0 lead.
The extent of his injury was not known early Saturday afternoon.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame freshman wide receiver TJ Jones hopes Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh doesn't hold a grudge.

Jones, a starter who became the first freshman in Notre Dame history to catch touchdown passes in his frst two games with the Irish, was supposed to be on the other side of the field today when Notre Dame (1-2) plays No. 16 Stanford (3-0) at Notre Dame Stadium. He committed to Harbaugh and the Cardinal in April 2009. It was a significant recruiting coup for Harbaugh -- Jones was a five-star prospect who chose Stanford over Notre Dame and Georgia.

And it was an eye-opener in recruiting circles. TJ's father, Andre Jones, was a former Notre Dame lineman/linebacker who played on the the Irish's 1988 national championship team. Stanford was making progress under Harbaugh (4-8 in 2007, 5-7 in 2008), but still hadn't had a winning season since 2001, when Tyrone Willingham parlayed a 9-3 season into the Notre Dame job. Oh, the irony.

But wait, there's more.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame freshman wide receiver TJ Jones hopes Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh doesn't hold a grudge.

Jones, a starter who became the first freshman in Notre Dame history to catch touchdown passes in his frst two games with the Irish, was supposed to be on the other side of the field today when Notre Dame (1-2) plays No. 16 Stanford (3-0) at Notre Dame Stadium.
He committed to Harbaugh and the Cardinal in April of 2009. It was a significant recruiting coup for Harbaugh -- Jones was a five-star prospect who chose Stanford over Notre Dame and Georgia.

And it was an eye-opener in recruiting circles. TJ's father, Andre Jones, was a former Notre Dame lineman/linebacker who played on the the Irish's 1988 national championship team. Stanford was making progress under Harbaugh (4-8 in 2007, 5-7 in 2008), but still hadn't had a winning season since 2001, when Tyrone Willingham parlayed a 9-3 season into the Notre Dame job. Oh, the irony.

But wait, there's more.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Earlier this week, Irish coach Brian Kelly said his defensive players were playing as hard as they could. But with a Stanford offense that is averaging 51.7 points a game up next, he's asking them to play harder. He needs them to take it to another level.

''What I've been talking [to them] about is, just have that nasty kind of tenaciousness to us that we've got t pay with,'' Kelly said after practice on Wednesday. ''No matter what happens we have to find a way to win.

''We play hard. We're doing the right things and that's all well and good. Now ... we've got to fall on our sword. We've got to play this game with more toughness and more tenacity than we've ever played with before.''


It's hard to tell how much of a difference junior safety Jamoris Slaughter makes on Notre Dame's defense -- he had only started one game prior to this season and he suffered a sprained ankle in the opener this year against Purdue. All the Irish know is that they miss him.

But coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday that Slaughter is likely to start Saturday against Stanford (2:30 p.m., Ch. 5) at Notre Dame Stadium in place of sophomore Zeke Motta.

''That's what [it] looks like is going to happen,'' Kelly said at his weekly press conference. ''We'll have a great feeling after practice today. But we really liked the fact that when we needed somebody to go in at safety [when] Zeke had an equipment problem, Jamoris ran in the game without anybody putting him in the game. So he's anxious to get back out there.

Save the date -- the Fighting Irish will play Navy at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland on Sept. 1, 2012. It will be Notre Dame's first football game on foreign soil since 1996, when the Irish beat Navy 54-27 at Croke Park in Dublin during Lou Holtz's final season as head coach.

Aviva Stadium, which opened in May, has a transparent roof and seats 51,000 for American football. All Notre Dame fans are encouraged to attend.

''To see this stadium is to believe it has to be one of the finest venues in the world,'' Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said. ''Although modest in capacity, few stadiums anywhere have attended to the detail, aesthetics and fan comfort found at Aviva.

''I guarantee those who travel to Ireland and attend this event will enjoy an experience that will be awesome and a memory not to be forgotten.''

Brian Kelly: Irish know how to win

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Brian Kelly refuted the most damning criticism of his first Notre Dame football team: that it's no different from Charlie Weis' last Notre Dame football team -- given the opportunity, it'll find a way to lose.

With back-to-back losses to Michigan (28-24) and Michigan State (34-31 in OT), Notre Dame has lost six of its last seven games -- by two, five, three, seven, four and three points, with two overtime losses. Each one had a familiar refrain: if not for a play her or play there, the Irish could have won.

But Kelly wasn't buying it when asked about it at his weekly press conference this week.

''Not this group,'' he said. ''I've had teams that didn't know how to win. You could just tell. That's not this group. They know to win. They have to play cleaner. And championship teams do.''

Notre Dame defense 'battling'' -- needs to battle better

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Brian Kelly's defense of his defense was also an indirect indictment: ''They're playing as hard as they can play.''

The Irish defense has been hot-and-cold at best in losses to Michigan and Michigan State the past two weeks. The problem can't be put much more succinctly than this: The Irish are giving up big plays, but making hardly any at all.

Kelly's defenses are going to give up yards, so 477 against Michigan State and even the 532 against Michigan are tolerable figures -- but only if they neutralize some of that damage by taking the ball away.

That hasn't happened so far. Notre Dame's defense has three interceptions -- two of them against Purdue -- with zero return yards. And the Irish have forced only one fumble -- linebacker Manti Te'o stripping Michigan's Denard Robinson -- and did not recover it.

It looked like quite the ironic twist at the end of Notre Dame's 34-31 overtime loss to Michigan State on Saturday night in East Lansing.

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, an aggressive, offensive-minded riverboat-gambler who understands the value of putting pressure on your opponent, disdaining a fourth-and-one at the Michigan State 18 in overtime to settle for a field goal; and Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio, a conservative, defensive-minded old-schooler beating Kelly with a well-executed fake field goal.

If Notre Dame's players want to join their fans in moaning about the apparent play-clock issue on Michigan State's game-winning touchdown off a fake field goal in overtime Saturday night, Brian Kelly's message was pretty clear Sunday: Look at yourselves.

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