SOUTH BEND - It was the question Brian Kelly didn’t think he was going to have to answer for a while, and certainly not Saturday.
Who’s the No. 1 quarterback now?
Sophomore Tommy Rees was more poised, more fluid, more productive in his relief appearance than starter Dayne Crist in 16th-ranked Notre Dame’s 23-20 season-opening loss to the University of South Florida at ND Stadium.
The man who stepped in for an injured Crist last season and led the Irish to four straight wins completed 24-of-34 passes in the second half Saturday for 296 yards and two interceptions. Crist, benched after a halftime session that stretched to two hours and 10 minutes due to a weather delay, was 7-of-15 for 95 yards and one pick.
“We didn't expect to have to make this move, obviously, so it's going to require us to obviously evaluate the quarterback situation and make another decision,” Kelly said when asked who would be the starter next Saturday night at Michigan.
“This was a step back for us as it relates to where we thought we were going. We certainly did not believe or think that we would have to make the decision that we made today.’’
Six true freshmen saw action for the Irish in the first half of Saturday’s game. Defensive end Stephon Tuitt was the first to get in the game, coming in on USF’s fourth offensive play of the game.
Defensive end Aaron Lynch and outside linebackers Troy Niklas and Aaron Lynch also rotated in on defense in the first half. Running backs George Atkinson and Cam McDaniel saw duty on special teams.
In the second half, kicker Kyle Brindza and his lime green shoes joined the youth brigade.
On Notre Dame’s first red-zone opportunity of the season, Kelly employed two defensive players in his offensive formations - linebackers Carlo Calabrese as a tight end and Steve Filer as a fullback.
Lakeland (Fla.) offensive lineman Evan Goodman, on his official recruiting visit Saturday, did not evacuate Notre Dame Stadium when the fans did for the first time just after 5:12 p.m. EDT
Instead Goodman waited out the weather delay in the ND Stadium tunnel.
Third time a charm?
Skip Holtz became the third Notre Dame alumnus ever to claim a coaching victory over his alma mater. Gerry DiNardo led LSU to a 27-9 win over the Irish in the 1997 Poulan Weedeater Independence Bowl and Eddie Anderson’s Iowa squad blanked ND, 7-0, in 1940.
South Florida became the ninth team in 55 tries to win at Notre Dame Stadium in its first trip to South Bend. Tulsa, on Oct. 30, 2010, was the most recent team to do so.
The others were USC (1931), Texas (1934), Iowa (1940), Missouri (1972), Clemson (1979), Florida State (1982) and Connecticut (2009).
-- Junior Cierre Wood rushed for 104 yards on 21 carries, becoming ND’s first 100 plus-yard rusher since the 2009 home finale against Connecticut, when Armando Allen hit triple digits.
-- Kayvon Webster’s 96-yard fumble recovery in the first quarter is the longest ever by an Irish opponent,
-- The Irish now sport a four-game losing streak in the month of September.
Staff writer Eric Hansen: