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.
''He had 13 incomplete passes [against Michigan State] that were all ball-control throws,'' Kelly said this week. ''That's the area ... when we clean that up, he will possess the things necessary to lead our football team as far as we can go. And that's an area of maturation.
''He's making the big throws, the big-field throws, the vertical throws, the dig routes. He's doing a great job on his progression reads now. It's the ball-control throws that we have to make, and those are the ones that can end up winning the game for you.''
Kelly has a history of getting things done when he sets his mind to it. Last week he put an emphasis on getting more production out of slot receiver Theo Riddick -- another key to success in the spread offense. Riddick, who had four catches for 52 yards in Notre Dame's first two games, had 10 catches for 128 yards and a touchdown against Michigan State.
It'll be interesting to see if he gets the same response from Crist. There's not a whole lot he can do about the defense. But Kelly's quarterback is like Tom Izzo's point guard -- if the coach can't get through to the player, it short-circuits everything else he's trying to do.