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Football: Up and running

Laura Myers | Thursday, September 30, 2010

Despite operating in an offensive scheme that could benefit from a mobile quarterback, coaches have yet to call many runs for junior Dayne Crist through the first four games. But Irish coach Brian Kelly said that could change, and soon.

“We’re going to put a package in that’s similar to the package that [Michigan quarterback] Denard Robinson runs,” Kelly joked at his Tuesday press conference. “We just have to do some things with [Crist’s] speed right now.”

While Kelly may not be thinking of running Crist as much as Robinson, who averages 172 rushing yards per game, he was serious about getting his quarterback some more yards on the ground.

“You know, there has to be an element in the spread that the quarterback can keep the football at some time, and we’re moving in that direction,” Kelly said. “He’s got to have an element of that within our offensive structure.”

Crist has run the ball 23 times for a total of 16 yards on the season, though his -17 yards against Stanford Saturday hurt his totals. Junior quarterback Nate Montana has also run the ball this season, keeping it four times for 23 yards against Michigan on Sept. 11.

“I think because everything’s so new, we don’t readily go to all the options and all the alternatives that are available in our offense,” offensive coordinator Charley Molnar said. “We’ve taught most of them, but it doesn’t just naturally come to the quarterback. It’s apparent to us that not having the quarterback run at times puts us at a disadvantage.”

Crist said his comfort running the ball is not an issue.

“I’m 100 percent comfortable doing whatever I’m asked to do in the run game or in the pass game for that matter,” he said. “So if it presents a situation where I need to pull the ball down and run on a box play, I have no problem doing that, either.

“Just, the situation really hasn’t presented itself a whole bunch in the last couple games.”

Fear of injury could be a factor in the coaches’ play-call decisions, Crist said. After a 10-yard rush in the first quarter against Michigan, Crist’s head hit the ground and he was unable to play for the rest of the first half.

“It was never like a conversation that we had. But, I did notice that some of the play calls in which I’d be asked to run went down substantially in the past couple games,” Crist said. “I understand if that’s the reasoning for it. But we’ve never had that conversation.”

An improved ability to make reads and more work in practice could also increase Crist’s rushing yardage, he said.

“It’s just I needed to do a better job of identifying when it presents itself and things like that,” he said. “But I think that will come with experience and through game plan and everything like that.”

And according to Molnar, those opportunities should start presenting themselves more often.

“Who’s to say that we won’t cut Dayne loose at any point in order to win a football game?” Molnar said.