SOUTH BEND, IND. (AP) - Dayne Crist is directing an offense he wasn't recruited to run, playing for a coach who didn't bring him to Notre Dame and adjusting to life as the center of attention for a 4-4 football team.
Kelly can be a teacher and mentor. He can also he can be a vocal critic of his quarterback as they forge a relationship in a year of firsts for each _ Crist in his first year as a starter, Kelly in his first year in the high-profile, nationally watched job.
When Crist threw an interception in a lopsided loss to Navy last week, an angry Kelly let him hear about it as he came to the sidelines. It's all part of the process.
"That's his style of coaching and that's what he does. He's the coach and he's right, and I'm the player and I do what he says. That's basically how it goes," Crist said, shrugging off the sideline tension.
"You know, in the heat of the battle like that, obviously it's a very intense situation, just the language and the way the conversations go, it's just all about winning," he said. "And we have got to do things fast on the sideline, making adjustments between series and things like that. But really, I mean, it's an intense situation. There's no denying that."
It's that competitiveness that drives both the quarterback and the coach who agree on a couple of things for sure _ they both want and need to win and they can see improvement from Crist over the course of the season. He's more comfortable in the offense but is still sidetracked by inconsistency and mistakes at times.
Kelly said when he arrived in December that his goal was to win right away, something Notre Dame has struggled to do. With four games left, the Irish need to win three for a winning regular season, starting Saturday against Tulsa.
And Crist won't offer up alibis when he struggles, just because it's his first year in a new complex offense, actually his first season as a college starter.
"We don't have the luxury to put that into perspective, and we don't have time to use that as an excuse. I mean, we have got to win, and you know, I've got to be a reason that the offense is moving in the right direction and being successful," said Crist, who has completed nearly 60 percent of his passes for 2,033 yards with 15 TDs and seven interceptions.
"I understand that a lot of it falls on my shoulders and my back, but that's why you come to Notre Dame and that's why you play quarterback here," he said.
Kelly doesn't need to motivate Crist, his challenge is to teach him an offense that is difficult at times to master with an immense number of options and reads.
"Dayne cares so much about his performance. He cares so much about his teammates. He cares so much about Notre Dame," Kelly said.
"I think what my style has always been is to get him to understand the game first, because he cares so much. So a lot of it, for me, has been educational. And so my coaching style with him has been, we are driving points home. We are trying to fill his head with football knowledge. He didn't have a whole lot of football knowledge, especially the spread offense coming in."
As he works with Kelly and offensive coordinator Charley Molnar, Crist has also received some outside advice and encouragement from some who have been in his shoes _ former Notre Dame quarterbacks Jimmy Clausen, Brady Quinn and Joe Theismann.
"Just some other guys that have done it and understand what I'm doing through right now, especially my first season starting and things like that," Crist said.
"It's all stuff that I take very seriously and that I appreciate definitely."
Crist should have his favorite target back Saturday against Tulsa. Leading receiver Michael Floyd said Wednesday he expects to be recovered from a hamstring injury to play against the Golden Hurricane.
Last week, the Irish were without all three of their top receivers in Floyd, Theo Riddick (ankle) and Kyle Rudolph (season-ending hamstring surgery).