Irish unwavering in support of Tommy Rees

Irish unwavering in support of Tommy Rees

September 15, 2013, 12:45 am

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Tommy Rees' first-half line was, to say the least, not good.

The senior quarterback completed eight of 17 passes for 94 yards, and had a couple throws that easily could've went for game-breaking interceptions. Purdue forced Notre Dame to throw the ball, limiting the Irish to 29 yards on 15 carries in the first 30 minutes.

The strategy worked. Notre Dame's offense sputtered to gain just 123 total yards and score three points against a Purdue team that didn't play well in the season's first two weeks.

"We can't have first halves like we did today," Rees said.

[MORE: After narrow win, ND still searching for answers]

A landslide of tweets from Irish fans rolled in asking if a quarterback change was nigh. But Andrew Hendrix stayed on the sidelines -- as did Malik Zaire, who wasn't dressed for the game -- as Notre Dame remained steadfast in its support of Rees.

"There's never any shattered confidence around here," wide receiver DaVaris Daniels said. "We're a team, we stick by our guys. It wasn't just him, everybody had to step up. Everybody played poorly in the first half."

Rees completed 12 of 16 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns in the second half, and earned the game ball from coach Brian Kelly for his performance.

"He really settled down and ran our offense, managed it extremely well," Kelly said. "(He) made some big plays for us. Made the throws when we needed to."

One of those throws resulted in an 82-yard touchdown to Daniels, which gave Notre Dame its first lead of the game. Daniels himself had a massive came, reeling in eight passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns.

Kelly felt he had to light a fire under Daniels at halftime to propel him to that level of production.

"You don't have to do that to Tommy Rees," he added.

While Rees has his athletic limitations, he displayed a key trait in continually getting Notre Dame into the right protections against a Purdue defense that showed plenty of looks.

"There was a lot of chess going on, and Tommy did a really nice job of having the pen last and getting us into some good looks," Kelly said.

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Notre Dame's offense may always be flawed with Rees at quarterback, given his lack of scrambling ability and his less-than-ideal arm strength. It worked on the throw to Daniels, but offensive coordinator Chuck Martin's preseason words still ring true:

"Would I respect Tommy Rees' arm strength?" Martin pondered in August, "probably not."

If ever there was an opportunity for Kelly to make a quarterback change, it was after 30 minutes on Saturday. He didn't, and was rewarded with Rees' solid second-half performance.

For better or for worse, Rees is the guy for Notre Dame this year. That was confirmed Saturday night.

For 30 minutes, it was for the worse. And then, for the final 30 minutes, it was for the better.