Notre Dame football: Opportunity arrives for Hendrix

ERIC HANSEN
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND -- The most memorable facets of Notre Dame’s complementary quarterback concept to date are Irish head coach Brian Kelly’s compliments about it.

Otherwise, it appears to be more myth than reality.

After reintroducing the tag-team system Sept. 28 vs. Oklahoma, Andrew Hendrix took just one snap two weeks ago in a 37-34 win over Arizona State and once in the first half of Saturday night’s 85th rendition of the Notre Dame-USC. And then it didn’t even go down as an official play.

Early in the second quarter, Hendrix came in on third-and-3 from the Irish 30. Irish offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley jumped for a five-yard illegal procedure penalty, and starter Tommy Rees came right back in.

Then fate forced Kelly’s hand. With 9:15 left in the third quarter, a blitzing Lamar Dawson came from his Weakside linebacker spot to sack Rees and knock him out of the game.

Rees was taken to the Notre Dame locker room.

Hendrix came in facing second-and-18 from ND’s 45-yard line and drove the Irish one yard before they punted.

After a USC punt, the Irish took possession at their own 42 with Hendrix at the joystick. The Irish went in reverse 13 yards before punting. The next Irish possession was a three-and-out.

Kelly used the concept with the same two players, with Hendrix amping up the running game, more extensively in 2011, the last time Rees was ND’s regular starter at quarterback.

When asked earlier in the week what was holding Hendrix back from being a more regular contributor, ND head coach Brian Kelly responded somewhat cryptically.

“I think the only thing that held him back was really putting him in the game and giving him reps,’’ Kelly said, “And I think, quite frankly, the focus was on Tommy getting him ready.

“(Hendrix) has gotten so much more time and so much more involvement in the game plan that I’m feeling so much more confident that he can go in and run the entire offense where I wasn’t so confident early in the year.”

Holtz adds pep to rally

Former Notre Dame head coach Lou Holtz wasn’t able to extend his reunion with the 1988 national championship team because of ESPN duties, so he got his money’s worth Friday night at the Irish pep rally.

Speaking to an amped-up crowd, Holtz said that “USC stands for the University of Spoiled Children” and “Most of their football players chose USC over UCLA, because it’s easier to spell.”

Personnel matters

Starting safety Elijah Shumate didn’t suit up Saturday. Kelly was asked Thursday night if there were any injuries that could keep a player out of the USC game. His response, “I hope not.”

For the fourth straight game, sophomore defensive end Sheldon Day was not in the starting lineup. But this time Day, who suffered a sprained ankle Sept. 14 against Purdue, did play extensively.

ND junior running back Cam McDaniel got his first career start Saturday.

Notable numbers

*USC interim head coach Ed Orgeron Saturday night was trying to become just the third Trojan coach to win his debut against Notre Dame and the first to do it in South Bend.

John Robinson (1976) and Paul Hackett (1998) were the first to break through against the Irish. Nine other first-year Trojan coaches lost their debuts against Notre Dame — Sam Barry (1941 at ND), Jeff Cravath (1942 in L.A.), Jess Hill (1951 in L.A.), Don Clark (1957 at ND), John McKay (1960 in L.A.), Ted Tollner (1983 at ND), Larry Smith (1987 at ND), Pete Carroll (2001 at ND) and Lane Kiffin (2010 in L.A.).

Robinson lost at South Bend in 1993, his first season in his second go-round at USC.

*Notre Dame was shooting for its first two-game winning streak in the series since coach Bob Davie pulled it off in 2000 and 2001, his last two seasons in South Bend.

*Notre Dame fifth-year senior Zack Martin made his 46th career start Saturday night against USC and is on pace to break Sam Young’s school record on Senior Day, Nov. 23 vs. BYU.

Squibs

*Only one member of the Notre Dame football team made college football guru Phil Steele’s midseason All-America teams, which go four teams deep.

Offensive tackle Zack Martin made the second team.

A large contingent of Irish players flooded Steele’s All-Independent team, though there were some surprises there.

Wide receiver TJ Jones; offensive linemen Chris Watt, Nick Martin, Christian Lombard and Zack Martin; defensive linemen Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix; linebackers Prince Shembo and Carlo Calabrese; and cornerback Bennett Jackson made the first team (of two teams).

Running back George Atkinson III, injured linebacker Jarrett Grace and safety Matthias Farley were named to the second team.

There are seven independents in the FBS this year Notre Dame, New Mexico State, BYU, Army, Navy, Idaho and FBS newcomer Old Dominion.

Irish quarterback Tommy Rees got aced out by first-teamer Taysom Hill of BYU and Taylor Heinicke of Old Dominion.

*Six NFL teams had scouts at the game Saturday: the Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, Philadelphia Eagles, St. Louis Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

*Notre Dame offensive line coach/running game coordinator Harry Hiestand was a graduate assistant coach at USC in 1987.

Notre Dame quarterback Andrew Hendrix (12) goes airborne after being upended by a USC defender during an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, at Notre Dame. SBT Photo/JAMES BROSHER