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Crist’s development shows in loss

Chris Masoud | Sunday, September 26, 2010

Following a 28-24 loss to Michigan two weeks ago, Irish coach Brian Kelly said fans would be watching the development of junior quarterback Dayne Crist over the course of an entire season.

Crist followed his coach’s statement by throwing for 369 yards and 4 touchdowns against Michigan State — a clear step forward in Kelly’s eyes.

Yet after Crist threw for 304 yards (170 of which came in the final quarter) and a touchdown Saturday in a loss to Stanford, Kelly reaffirmed that the development will be a progression, not a simple transformation.

“You know, every day he’s growing,” Kelly said. “There’s new things he’s confronted with. He’s learning, but it is a process. This is the maturation of a quarterback right before your eyes. We’re going to have some growing pains along the way.”

Although Crist’s counterpart, Stanford junior quarterback Andrew Luck, threw for only 238 yards and one touchdown, the individual stat-line doesn’t tell the whole story. The Cardinal captain led his team to 11 of 16 third down conversions and a perfect seven scores in seven red zone opportunities.

While Crist may have displayed the physical attributes needed to be a successful passer, he acknowledged that the mental has yet to catch up to the physical.

“You have to have a greater sense of urgency, even if you just got to grind it out down the field,” Crist said. “You have to have a greater sense of urgency on third down, greater sense of urgency protecting the ball, taking what they give you.”

Kelly credited a number of defensive schemes employed by the Cardinal to keep his offense in check, including blitzes by the outside linebackers and dropping eight defensive backs in coverage. Yet unwilling to make excuses, Kelly added that a number of poor blocks by the Irish running backs and sloppy routes by the receivers gave Crist additional problems to deal with.

While much of the responsibility falls on Crirst to find the end zone, the Cardinal also effectively shut down the Irish running attack. Senior Armando Allen and junior Jonas Gray combined for 61 yards, an ineffective complement to a struggling passing game.

“We have to give Stanford’s defense credit for today,” Allen said. “They came ready and played a physical game today.”

Junior tight end Kyle Rudolph was also not a factor, finishing with one catch for one yard of total offense. Crist said that the Cardinal defensive backs gave special attention to Rudolph and did an effective job of limiting his ability to get open — a concern the offense looks to correct in practice this week.

Rudolph’s absence did create an opportunity for junior wide receiver John Goodman, who took full advantage, tallying five catches for 59 yards. After only appearing as an emergency punt returner against Michigan State, Kelly attributed Goodman’s emergence to a strong week of practice.

“Practicing better, catching the football, holding on to it, finishing plays — got a lot of confidence when he was at Michigan State, catching punts late in the game,” Kelly said. “Confidence is about doing.”

As the Irish prepare for Boston College this weekend, Crist said he looks forward to utilizing Goodman as an additional threat on offense. While he leaves the X’s and O’s to the coaching staff, he said he takes full responsibility for preparing the offense for another road game in a hostile environment — a task he said is easier than it looks.

“We have guys that want to win, guys that know we can win, and we have the potential to win the rest of the games on our schedule,” Crist said. “There’s really that belief in the locker room — it goes all the way through. There’s no guys in question right now of where we’re going. That’s a great feeling.”