Notre Dame got a much need 37-34 victory over Arizona State Saturday night in North Texas but it didn't come without some major injuries.
South Bend native and Clay High School alum Daniel Smith fractured his ankle during the 1st quarter and will miss the rest of the season. Smith, a senior wide receiver, may have played his down at Notre Dame.
"Had a fun career at ND," Smith tweeted Saturday night. "Loved every sec of the journey. I love my teammates & would give anything to fight next to them one more snap."
Kelly said Sunday that the chat at halftime with his players about Smith being injured was not an easy one.
"I usually don't use a win-one-for-the-gipper talk, and I don't want to equate it in those terms, but generally speaking, we talked about losing Danny and in particular that he probably wasn't going to play again," Kelly explained. "There was a lot of emotion in the locker room, because they love Danny Smith and what he's done for our program as a dedicated player for Notre Dame. He loves Notre Dame, and we've seen him grow as a person and as a player and he's going to be sorely missed."
Smith has been a role player for the Irish at wide receiver, being used mostly as a blocker when on the field but he was a favorite amongst the coaches and players.
"His impact is a local player that was on a 12-0, undefeated regular season team, and he's left an impact on our younger receivers as to how to work every single day and how to handle himself both on and off the field," Kelly said.
Notre Dame also lost linebacker Jarrett Grace, who fractured his leg. Grace was unable to fly back to South Bend on Saturday and had surgery in Dallas Sunday. He will be out 4-6 months.
The loss of Grace is a significant one at middle linebacker, where Grace was growing into a critical leadership role in the spot once held by Manti Te'o.
"Certainly you're losing somebody that we had counted on as a starter, so now you're deep into your depth and that wasn't an area with a lot of experience," Kelly said.
Dan Fox stepped into the role next to Carlo Calabrese and played extremely well in Grace's absence. Fox recovered a fumble that setup an Irish touchdown and then Fox intercepted a pass in the final two minutes and returned it for his first career score and the game clinching touchdown.
Kelly says Kendall Moore, Joe Schmidt, and Michael Deeb will all be the next options at middle linebacker.