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Notre Dame drops season opener

Matthew DeFranks | Saturday, September 3, 2011

Turnovers and mistakes cost the Irish in a 23-20 loss to South Florida Saturday in the season opener for both teams.

Irish senior quarterback Dayne Crist, named the starter a mere two weeks ago, finished the game 7-for-15 for 95 yards and an interception before being replaced by sophomore quarterback Tommy Rees at the start of the second half.

“We didn’t feel like we produced the way we should have,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “It wasn’t a difficult decision to make that; it was difficult because it threw us into an area where we weren’t thinking we had to go.”

Rees’ entrance followed a two-hour, 10-minute weather delay due to lightning and heavy rain in the area.

Rees led the Irish to their first touchdown of the game on his second drive, connecting with senior wide receiver Michael Floyd for 24-yard strike to narrow the margin to 16-7. Floyd finished the day with 12 catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns.

Turnovers plagued the Irish under both Crist and Rees, as Notre Dame coughed the ball up three times in the red zone en route to five total turnovers for the game.

“You can’t start winning until you stop losing, and the things that we did today out there obviously go to the heart of how you lose football games,” Kelly said. “There’s no quit in the group, but you can’t win playing like that.”

The Irish will try to bounce back at Michigan next Saturday at 8 p.m.