Kelly’s task even steeper

The promise generated by Brian Kelly’s arrival at Notre Dame

still exists. It’s just been watered down early on by a 1-3 start

that has exposed the Fighting Irish’s weaknesses and put them in a

hole they weren’t expecting.

Kelly says it’s time to dig out, starting Saturday night back in

the coach’s home state when the Irish face Boston College, a team

with its own set of problems.

Dating back to last season, Notre Dame has lost seven of eight

and another setback would match the skid at the end of last season

that led to the ouster of Charlie Weis.

It’s hardly panic time in South Bend especially with a softer

schedule ahead – save for games against Southern California and

Utah – Kelly has worked through rough patches before in previous

successful stops at Grand Valley State and Central Michigan.

”It’s just the expectations are different,” Kelly said

Tuesday.

”It’s the same process that we’re going through in terms of

building our program and doing the thing that we need to do to win

for a long, long period of time.”

The Irish’s running game managed 44 yards last week in a 37-14

loss to Stanford and quarterback Dayne Crist threw an interception

that was returned for a TD. He did pass for 304 yards, but most of

that was after the game was out of hand.

And during the three losses – last-second heartbreakers to

Michigan and Michigan State preceded the Stanford setback – the

Irish have yielded 532, 477 and 404 yards, respectively.

Now Notre Dame faces a Boston College team that is switching

quarterbacks after it was blanked last week by Virginia Tech with

Mike Marscovetra or Chase Rettig taking over for Dave Shinskie.

Kelly’s not expecting big changes in the BC offensive philosophy

– no matter the signal caller – and emphasized he’s more concerned

with how his team performs and how he gets the Irish ready than

what the Eagles try Saturday night.

”Look, I coach and I teach,” he said. ”That’s what I

do.”

Having Crist take more of a ball carrier’s role this week – he

was dinged on a carry against Michigan in the second game of the

season – is one way of enhancing the running game.

”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 started four games and is still learning on the

job.

He’s passed for 1,155 yards so far, with eight TD passes and

three interceptions.

”His interceptions, obviously, are not crazy. They’re higher

than I want,” Kelly said.

”It’s the combination of making four or five really, really

good plays and maybe one or two not so good plays. So I think where

we are in the development is obviously playing more

consistently.”

Kelly’s not used to losing and he’s certainly not ready to chuck

what he believes in after just four games.

”What allows you to plow through those times is probably your

experience, you’re going through it before and having experienced

all of those things,” he said.

”You take over a new company as the CEO, and you’re having a

rough quarter, you know. You’re going, `OK, I’m not sure what’s

coming up here, but I’m going to stick with what I’ve been doing

and know that it’s worked in the past and it’s just a matter of

time.’ That’s kind of what we’re going through right now.”

Kelly’s evaluation of an offensive line that has three news

starters is that it’s been fairly good. But he added that center

Braxston Cave needs to work on his cadence and his shotgun snaps,

some of which come out below Crist’s knees and force the

quarterback to take his eyes off what is in front of him.

Kelly said fifth-year senior center Dan Wenger, who suffered two

concussions during preseason camp and has not played this season,

will have another evaluation next week before a final decision is

made whether he can return or be shut down.