Kelly sticking with Rees at quarterback; Zaire will only play due to injury

Brian Kelly left no doubt on Sunday. Tommy Rees is Notre Dame's starting quarterback moving forward despite a three interception performance in a 35-21 loss to Oklahoma on Saturday that leaves the Irish at 3-2.

"Oh, yeah, he certainly is," Kelly said Sunday. "And with the recognition that Andrew [Hendrix] is going to be able to help us out as well. But there's no question that the quarterback that's going to start for us is Tommy Rees."

Hendrix added a change of pace for the Irish at the quarterback position on Saturday to give ND a more running threat at the position. Overall, Notre Dame was able to run the ball a lot more effectively Saturday.

"I didn't want this to become Tommy Rees throwing it 50 times a game but that's the way it turned out in the first couple weeks, because it was pretty obvious the way teams were going to defend," Kelly said. "I think we talked about this last week; it was important to find a way to be a little bit more balanced in running the football."

Fans are hoping that additional help in the run game can come from freshman quarterback Malik Zaire but Kelly pretty much shut the door on that on Sunday. Zaire, who missed three weeks due to mono, will likely receive a redshirt---with the possibility of a medical one.

"My guess is right now, unless we have an injury, you're not going to see Malik, unless we get into an injury situation," Kelly said. "We only have the three quarterbacks, so we have to keep him ready to go. But I'd prefer not to play him unless we have a medical situation.

"And when I say a medical situation, I mean, if we have an injury to Tommy or to Andrew, which forces our hand to activate him, because he right now would down the line be eligible for a potential medical; that is, Malik, because of the mono that kept him out of action."

Irish fans have been up in arms since the loss to the Sooners on Saturday night. The quarterback situation certainly is at the top of the list but some fans have even been complaining about some players not participating in the Alma Mater after the loss. Many players were on the field for the Alma Mater while a number were not. Brian Kelly instituted a rule two years ago that said after a loss, the team would not stay on the field for the Alma Mater following a game. But the Irish haven't lost a game since the rule went in place.

"A lot of our players were confused because they had not lost; a lot of them had never lost at home and they weren't sure what to do, and it was really -- I didn't communicate it to them clearly what the protocol was," Kelly said.

"But we changed that protocol two years ago. After a loss, we do not stay on the field to sing the Alma Mater, we come in, and that wasn't communicated clearly. I wasn't thinking about losing a football game. It wasn't on my to-do list to go over with our team. But that's the protocol that we had changed a couple of years ago that we do not stay out on the field to sing the Alma Mater after a loss.

"I just don't think it's appropriate to put your players after defeat in a situation where they are exposed. I want to get them in the locker room. It's important to be able to talk to them and I just felt like in those situations after a loss, there's a lot of emotions. It's important to get the team back into the locker room and get them under my guidance."

Now the Irish look to pick up the pieces and move forward. At 3-2, a season like 2012 won't be a possibility anymore. But that doesn't mean the season is over, according to Kelly.

"We know it can't be a National Championship, and we are disappointed that that's the case but to say, hey, there's nothing to play for -- what, for one game in Florida?," Kelly explained. "What we are more interested in as a group and that's why we play this game, is as a team, to play better, to be more consistent; to challenge ourselves, each and every week to be better, and that's the group that we have here."

"That's the goal for this group. And I'm sure they probably articulated that to you guys in some fashion; that the most important thing is to get better as a group and play better football week-in and week-out. That's really what they want to be able to do."

Notre Dame will host Arizona State in Dallas Saturday night at 7:30. You can see the game on WNDU.

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