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Outlook for Irish is promising
SOUTH BEND, IND. (AP) - Notre Dame's goal of making a BCS bowl lives. The Irish are on a roll with a four-game winning streak heading into a bye week before playing Southern California at home.
And now they have a new dimension and threat on offense.
Sophomore Andrew Hendrix, playing as a change-of-pace quarterback behind starter Tommy Rees, gave a glimpse of how the spread might look in the future _ and how successful a running quarterback can be.
Hendrix ran strong and fast and was accurate with his limited passing attempts during his first college action in Saturday's 59-33 romp over Air Force.
Hendrix broke off a 78-yard run, completed all four of his passing attempts and carried six times for 111 yards, making him the first Irish quarterback since Carlyle Holiday in 2001 to gain 100 yards rushing.
He ran out of gas on his long run and was ruled down at the 2 or he would also have scored a TD in his first game.
Rees threw four first-half TD passes Saturday, was not sacked and had no turnovers for a second straight game.
He's 8-1 as a starter and will continue to get most of the playing time. And Kelly made it clear Saturday that Dayne Crist _ benched after the first half of the season opener _ is still No. 2.
But just having Hendrix's athleticism expands Kelly's offense and gives defenses another area to defend. Mostly, Kelly said, Hendrix's abilities will help Rees improve.
"When you know you have to prepare for triple option and the ability for the quarterback to run, you put in one less coverage to cover (star receiver) Michael Floyd," Kelly said Sunday.
"You put in one less blitz package to get after Tommy because you're afraid you may get caught in that when Hendrix is in the game. It just protects him more when you have that kind of versatility to your offense."
The emergence of Hendrix likely means freshman Everett Golson will not see action this season and then have four years of eligibility remaining.
"I think you guys can figure out what the rotation is going to be at this point," Kelly said. "You know what I would like to say, but I'm not going to say it."
Kelly was also asked if Golson, a two-sports high school star from Myrtle Beach, S.C., might join the Irish basketball team.
"It really depends on some of the things that we talked about privately. Everett and I have made an agreement relative to basketball and he's got to take care of those things first before we entertain basketball," Kelly said.
After Southern Cal, the Irish (4-2) play at home against a Navy team that lost to Air Force two weeks ago; face a tough road test at improved Wake Forest, which beat Florida State on Saturday; have a designated home game against Maryland in Landover, Md., and then return to South Bend for a home finale against struggling Boston College. Then comes the regular-season marquee wrap-up at Stanford.
"We have said, 'Listen, if we want to make the playoffs, here is what we have to do, and that is win each and every week,'" Kelly said.
"So we effectively said, 'Listen, let's get into the top 14 in the country, and if you get into the top 14, you're in the playoffs and that means you've got to win a lot of games. They know what they need to do."
Notes: Floyd, who had six more catches including the first TD with a leaping grab in the end zone Saturday, also was ready for punt return duty. He volunteered for it after the Irish had struggled in that area most of the season. ... S Jamoris Slaughter also played some linebacker Saturday. He came up with an interception and a forced fumble. ... Star LB Manti Te'o has a mild ankle sprain, an injury he got in practice last week. But he was still able to go Saturday and make 10 tackles. He won't do much during the bye week. And DE Ethan Johnson, who missed Saturday's game with a right ankle sprain, is also expected to rest up. ... Air Force had 565 yards offense but scored two of its touchdowns late in the game with backups playing for both sides. "Any time we now enter a week where we are preparing against option, yards have nothing to do with the outcome. It's keeping the points down," Kelly said.
By Bob Dole
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