Why Notre Dame Wouldn't Be Undefeated and Won't Finish 12-0 Without Tommy Rees

Randy ChambersAnalyst IOctober 30, 2012

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 22:  Quarterback Tommy Rees #11 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish looks to pass against the Michigan Wolverines in the third quarter at Notre Dame Stadium on September 22, 2012 in South Bend, Indiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

There has been a love-hate relationship with quarterback Tommy Rees from the moment he stepped on the field for Notre Dame.

Lately, it has been all love from everybody involved with the program, including the fans that would have given anything to see a change at the quarterback position just last season.

Rees is no longer the starter for this Notre Dame team in 2012, but he has become the guy that has finished the games on this magical run. When things turn sour with Everett Golson, Rees has been that guy that has stepped up and bailed this offense out, help resulting in many victories in this 8-0 start.

He was there in the Purdue game, after returning from a one-game suspension. The junior quarterback entered the game late, after watching the Irish struggle to move the ball. He only completed three out of eight passes for 35 yards, but he put Notre Dame in position for Kyle Brindza to kick the game-winning field goal.

And that's when head coach Brian Kelly knew he had something that could work the rest of the way, according to the AP, via ESPN.

This is not going to be an excuse for Everett that he's pulled out because of an injury. Kelly said. We also made the decision with the flow of the game that Tommy could come in there and manage out two-minute and he did a great job.

He has done a terrific job. The quarterback that constantly thought completing passes to the other team was a good thing last season, has quickly become the most valuable player on the offensive side of the ball.

In the game against Michigan, Golson looked shaky in his first true test of his career, as he threw two early interceptions. Rees entered the game once again, completing eight of 11 passes for 115 yards and generating a lead for the Irish. Notre Dame calmed down once Rees entered the game and was eventually able to pull away for a big victory.

Against Stanford, Golson left the game late with an injury, which forced Rees to enter the game with the Irish down three points. He helped lead his team down the field for a chip-shot field goal, which sent the game into overtime. It was his three completions in a row in the overtime period that resulted in a touchdown and another victory for the Irish.

Kelly was confident in the game plan after that close contest, according to the AP, via ESPN.

"We're halfway through the season, and six weeks left with this group," Kelly said, "I think they leave here knowing they can win if they stick with the plan."

The plan has been to help mature Golson into a solid quarterback that will eventually become the future of this program, as the kid has potential through the ceiling. But every young player needs help along the way and that is where Rees comes in, as he happens to be the most experienced signal-caller on the Notre Dame roster.

After leading the Irish in the game against Stanford, the junior also played the entire game against BYU, leading his squad to a 17-14 victory. It was just another game this season where Rees was able to get the job done and find a way to produce a win, something he wasn't able to do last season as a full-time starter.

Rees finished last season throwing 14 interceptions, three of which occurred in the red zone, which helped contribute to a disappointing year for the Irish. Now, he is making terrific decisions with the football and seems to be producing at a higher level with the less playing time he receives.

And while he may not be on the football field for the entire game, he is still helping the younger players on the field and constantly in their ear, according to Matt Fortuna of ESPN.

He's an incredible young man that he can stay so focused in the game, know what's going on during the game. At halftime I'm talking with him and Everett and he's pointing out some things about the outside coverages that we should maybe think about running, as well. He's just a very smart football player. Kelly said.

The guy who hurt the team the most last season has now become the most helpful player in just one season. He has not only become the closer for the football team, but is like a second coach on the sidelines that is there whenever needed.

However, Notre Dame is not out of the woods just yet. Rees will be needed throughout the remainder of the season even though the weak part of the schedule is now taking off and Golson has improved his play.

Despite playing teams such as Pittsburgh, Boston College and Wake Forest in the next coming weeks, teams that have a combined 10-14 record, it isn't time to begin looking ahead to USC just yet. All three of those teams have shown potential at times this season and are capable of pulling off an upset if the Irish aren't careful.

Pittsburgh managed to upset Virginia Tech earlier in the year, Boston College kept up with Clemson for four quarters and Wake Forest did knock off North Carolina earlier in the year.

We have seen this Notre Dame team lose many games that it shouldn't have lost, and you can never overlook a team that really has nothing to play for.

Golson also has quickly picked up a reputation of getting hurt quite easily, as he did miss the BYU game with a concussion. Due to his dual-threat style, the young quarterback does rack up a few unnecessary hits, which does lead to a higher risk of getting hurt on the football field.

As long as Rees continues to play his role, the dislike many had for the quarterback last season will continue to be forgotten.

He is quite popular on the Notre Dame roster right about now.

Note: All stats come from cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted.