Michael Conroy, Associated Press
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has made a change: Tommy Rees will be the starting quarterback for Saturday night's game at Michigan.
Kelly announced the decision Tuesday, three days after benching an ineffective Dayne Crist in Saturday's lackluster 23-20 loss to South Florida in the season-opener. Rees played well in the second half but an Irish rally fell short.
Kelly had picked Crist as his starter just two weeks ago after he won a training camp competition over Rees, who went 4-0 as a starter for the Irish last season. Kelly said Rees' production was a factor in the switch, but so was his decisiveness in running the offense and making quick decisions with the ball.
"I want to win right now and believe Tommy gives us the best chance to win against Michigan," Kelly said.
He said Crist did some good things, also, in the first half when the Irish fell behind against USF 16-0. A long opening drive was stymied by Jonas Gray's fumble near the goal line. Another later TD run by Cierre Wood was called back by a holding penalty just before Crist through an interception in the end zone.
Rees, who won four games as the starter to close last season after Crist was injured, looked much more comfortable and got rid of the ball quicker.
He completed 24 of 34 passes for 296 yards with a pair of TD passes to Michael Floyd. Rees also had a pair of interceptions, one of which bounced off receiver TJ Jones and deflected into the air — a play that prompted Kelly to get in Jones' face on the sideline.
Rees was also good last season in relief against Tulsa. He put up big numbers in that game — 33 of 54 for 334 yards with four TD passes — but also threw a last-second interception in a tough loss.
Going to the Big House in Michigan will be another stop at a marquee venue for Rees. The sophomore started games last season at Notre Dame Stadium, Yankee Stadium and the Coliseum in Los Angeles. He also started the Sun Bowl victory over Miami.
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