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Injuries slow but don’t stop Irish

Matt Gamber | Tuesday, October 26, 2010

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — With tight end Kyle Rudolph and receivers Michael Floyd and Theo Riddick out for Saturday’s game against Navy, the Irish called upon the likes of Tyler Eifert, Duval Kamara and TJ Jones in primary roles where they hadn’t played much in live action this season.

While the result certainly wasn’t pretty in the 35-17 loss, junior quarterback Dayne Crist said his new targets weren’t the reason why.

“All those guys played well and I have great confidence in them,” Crist said after the game. “All week in practice we continued to develop the chemistry that was already there, so really it was just fine-tuning and preparing for your opponent like you do every week.”

The passing attack, however, did not look as crisp as it has at times this season. Crist threw two costly interceptions, with one leading to a Navy touchdown to end the first half and the other halting an Irish drive in Midshipmen territory in the second half.

“Just trying to do too much, but at the end of the day it falls on me,” Crist said of the turnovers. “I can’t get those back. You can’t give the ball back to Navy, a team that really shortens the game. Knowing we needed to score on every possession, that falls on me.”

With the Irish down 35-10 midway through the fourth quarter, coach Brian Kelly pulled Crist in favor of freshman Tommy Rees, who promptly led Notre Dame on its only touchdown drive of the second half.

“Coach wanted to give him some reps and some great experience,” Crist said. “I think he did a heck of a job managing the game. He did everything he was asked to do and I was real proud of him.”

With Rudolph, Floyd and Riddick sidelined, and with Notre Dame’s distinct size advantage over Navy — after the game, Kelly said the Irish outweighed the Midshipmen by an average of 70 pounds along the offensive line — there was talk the Irish would try to run the ball more frequently than in previous weeks.

Notre Dame ran the ball 30 times for 122 yards, but only 19 of those carries went to running backs — and only 11 to senior starter Armando Allen, who managed 66 yards but saw an almost even split with sophomore Cierre Wood.

“We know we can the run ball,” sophomore tackle Zack Martin said. “Maybe our stats haven’t shown it this season, but we’re confident we can run the ball. With some key guys out, we definitely wanted to establish the run game and get the clock on our side because we knew they were going to try to control the clock.”

The Irish run game had a chance to make an early statement on 4th-and-goal inside the 1-yard line on the game’s opening possession, but Crist’s sneak attempt was stuffed. That play gave Navy the momentum and the ball, and the Midshipmen promptly drove 99 yards to take a lead they never relinquished.

“I don’t know what happened, we just didn’t execute,” Martin said of the play. “We didn’t get the job done.”

Crist added: “We didn’t put the ball in the end zone. It’s pretty plan and simple, looking back on it. It falls on our shoulders for not scoring, and really mine for not finding a way in.”

Despite the disappointing performance, Martin said he and his linemates would continue to seek improvement as the Irish look to improve the ground game.

“There’s always things you can work on,” he said. “We’re not going to be content — keep working in practice to try and establish that run game. Running the ball will make it a lot easier on Dayne and on the line, too.”