Dayne Crist was more solid than spectacular in his starting debut this weekend, but the former five star recruit gave a few glimpses of the potential that made him one of the most sought after prep signal callers in the country a few years ago.
Crist was a very efficient 19 of 26 for 205 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. He spread the ball around to seven different receivers and converted half of the third down opportunities he was faced with.
Crist might have been more impressive for what he didn’t do though. He didn’t turn the ball over, he didn’t take bad sacks, he didn’t force any bad pass, and he didn’t panic when faced with a pass rush. It might not seem like much, but Crist didn’t record any intentional grounding penalties either – a common mistake for young quarterbacks.
There is still plenty of work left for Crist though. While he was efficient against the Boilermakers, he also didn’t take many chances and went with the safe pass more often than not – even when there were open receivers down field. As Brian Kelly said after the game, “I would say that if we were looking at his performance, he played well enough today for us to get a win against a good opponent, but there’s great room for improvement.”
Despite a 73% completion percentage, Crist also showed some shaky accuracy on his touch passes. Twice in the fourth quarter Crist had Michael Floyd in single coverage streaking toward the end zone and both times he overthrew the route. With more experience his timing on these throws will improve and as his comfort level with his receivers grows he’ll trust throwing the ball up for grabs more and more knowing they’ll come down with it. In another instance, Crist had Rudolph open in the end zone in the second quarter, but air mailed the pass instead of dropping it over the coverage into the waiting hands of his All American tight end.
While his touch passes might have been a little off, when he had a passing lane and could uncork his arm, he showed a canon. In fact, on some of his throws he showed a stronger arm than his predecessor Jimmy Clausen. If he can start to show the accuracy and touch that Clausen developed, the Irish offense will be able to score a lot of points this season.
Brian Kelly said throughout camp that he wouldn’t throw everything at Crist right away and would let him digest everything as he went along and that was evident on Saturday. The play calling was a touch vanilla, but it put Crist in a situation where he could make some high percentage plays.
One area we didn’t see much from Crist was in the run game. There were a few designed quarterback runs called, but they were few and far between and when they were called Crist didn’t look entirely comfortable running them. With the limited depth at quarterback I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t see very many designed runs from Crist each week.
With a start under his belt and a week to review the film from Saturday, look for Crist to take some more chances down field and get a little more of the offense to play with from Kelly. ” There’s a lot more that he’s capable of doing,” Kelly said Saturday before adding, “I think he’s going to make great progress from week one to week two.”