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Crist's stats good, but Irish QB needs work

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- If you tuned in late to Saturday's game between Notre Dame and Stanford, Irish quarterback Dayne Crist's posture summed up the afternoon.

Even with 304 passing yards, it was an off day for a first-year starter still getting his bearings in coach Brian Kelly's shotgun spread offense. Crist finished 25-of-44 with a touchdown and an interception returned for a score. The film, Kelly said Tuesday, magnified shortcomings not always related to his production.

"It certainly was a game that provided so many opportunities for him to grow," Kelly said. "And not just from completions to incompletions, but in leadership, in body language and all the things that quarterbacks need to develop. He saw a lot of things; I think he learned quite a bit. Now, as I told him yesterday in our meetings, it's about retention. It's about making sure that we don't have to go down this road again."

Notre Dame goes to Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, this weekend for another classic Catholic clash with Boston College, which will air in primetime on ABC. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:12 p.m.

The Eagles defense is holding opponents to just 71.33 rushing yards per game but is vulnerable against the pass, surrendering an average of 238 yards through three games. Crist will try and regain his swagger against a Boston College unit that's produced just four sacks all year but boasts five interceptions.

"He's throwing for over 300 yards a game, his interceptions obviously are not crazy -- they're higher than I want," Kelly said. "It's the combination of making four or five 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. How do you get consistent? You gain confidence. And when he's confident, now, he's really, really good. When he loses a little bit of confidence at times, that's where we're working on the development of Dayne Crist. ... If there's a bad play, forget about it and let's move on to the next."

Other topics Kelly addressed Tuesday:

On Boston College’s running game: "[Montel] Harris, the running back, is a workhorse for them. He carries it, catches it, I think he was the leading receiver -- and rusher, obviously -- for them. Big, physical offensive line as you have always expected with Boston College -- that hasn't changed.”

On Boston College linebackers: "I think on defense is where they've kind of shown themselves to be consistently one of the top units in the country. [Mark] Herzlich obviously at the ‘Sam’ [outside] linebacker is a great story [beating cancer] but he's also a very good football player. Luke Kuechly I think was one of the best, if not the No. 1 tackler in the country last year, he returns at the 'Mike' linebacker position -- outstanding player. Their true freshman is playing really well for them, [Kevin] Pierre-Louis. So it's obviously a defense that prides itself against the rush. They've limited most opponents to well below their average."

On Irish special teams: "I think we had higher expectations. We have not punted the ball very well and we have not been, in using a word that I use, we have not been dynamic other than our punt return earlier in the year. Yeah, we haven't gotten the kind of production that we're looking for. We're still working on it. We expect to be there, we're just not there yet."

On production of D-line reserves: [Hafis Williams] and Sean [Cwynar] have increasingly played more and really have helped us out considerably in terms of lowering some of the reps [for the starters]. We're getting now into a 48- to 50-play max for our D-line, which is outstanding. That's where we'd like to be."

On Robert Hughes listed No. 2 at RB: "You know, we're still really high on Cierre Wood. This is not, ‘let's push Cierre to the side’. He's a young kid now. This guy's got four games, you know, and everybody wants to throw the poor kid under the bus. I think he's going to be a really, really good player. He just needs time. One of the things that Robert can do and utilize against BC is he's a big, strong, physical kid and he may be able to help us a little bit in pass protection.

"I want Cierre to know, 'Hey, there's no pressure on you, son. Go play.' Sometimes he plays like there's all this pressure on him to be the next Heisman Trophy candidate. He just needs to go play and relax and hopefully he'll do that."

On injuries: "[RB] Jonas [Gray] right now is the only guy right now that's questionable [with pulled groin] for Saturday.