Dayne Crist officially has his own Notre Dame football era, and it began at the 14:50 mark of the second quarter of last Saturday's game versus Purdue.
Yes, Jimmy Clausen, with his 3,300 career passing yards, remains the unquestioned starter. But Crist announced his presence with authority at Ross Ade Stadium and Notre Dame fans have reason to believe in life after Jimmy.
It’s time to consider the Era of The Great Dayne.
“And here he is, running it, for about 15 yards.” – Brad Nessler, ESPN announcer.
Former Michigan State head coach George Perles once claimed he was more worried about Irish quarterback Tony Rice than all-everything man, and future Heisman runner-up, Raghib “Rocket” Ismail. “He’s got the ball on every down,” Perles said, and that made him a constant and indelible threat.
Dayne Crist has that potential in the run game. He’s 6’4" and tops 230 pounds. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds.
If you want confirmation on those numbers just ask Brandon King what it felt like to bounce back three yards after trying to knock Crist out of bounds on his first play from scrimmage last Saturday night.
To watch Crist run a mis-direction, get out wide, and turn it up-field on that first carry of the game was a thing of frightful elegance. Images of a size-enhanced Jarious Jackson came to mind.
To watch Crist run a naked keeper, juke a Purdue cornerback out of his cleats, and slip for a modest three yards on his second run of the night was a thing of striking athleticism. Images of a size-enhanced Rice came to mind.
Every modern college football schemer this side of Southern California thinks to implement some variation of the Wildcat. Notre Dame now has the prototype to install that most potent offensive weapon.
“And now Crist wants to throw, and does. In and out of the hands of the intended receiver. And that was a pretty good throw. Probably a pass that should have been caught.” - Nessler
Duval Kamara has an alibi. When Crist rolled out to the left, paused to set up his feet, and wound up like Brett Favre looking for Greg Lewis in the back of the end zone, Kamara’s hands were nowhere to be seen.
The pass was dropped but the point was made. The boy has got a cannon and he can squeeze it in there when needed.
“Crist, deep ball. Had a man…but it was too far in front of Golden Tate.” - Nessler
Live game action involving Crist has shown a bubble screen or two, that drop by Kamara, and precious few deep balls.
Just 90 seconds into the fourth quarter we all watched as the ball bounced away from the free and clear Tate, just five yards beyond his grasp.
The bad news was the sure-touchdown went for an incompletion.
The good news was that Crist overthrew one of the most dynamic and explosive receivers in college football. Crist wound up at the Notre Dame 25-yard line and the ball fell clean on the Purdue 25.
Fifty effortless yards with one flick of the wrist.
Dayne Crist can undoubtedly throw the deep ball.
“Crist got leveled by Gerald Gooden as he let go of the ball.” – Nessler
Dayne took his share of hits but he dished them out as well.
An intriguing fact from the Purdue game was that it never looked like he was getting hit hard. It’s difficult to pound a man into the turf when he out-sizes seven of your defensive starters.
Another indication of Crist’s toughness is the fact that he came to Notre Dame one year after the ascension of Jimmy Clausen. Crist accepted the scholarship knowing he'd have to fight every day for playing time. He embraced the level of competition and the challenge to work hard behind a renowned starter.
The ultimate indication from the Purdue game that Notre Dame has something special came on the second touchdown of the game. Tate, running the Wildcat, faked the hand-off to Theo Riddick, and took it off right tackle. Riddick blocked a key defensive back, but sophomore linebacker Chris Carlino was closing in fast as Tate sprinted for the corner.
Enter The Great Dayne.
Dayne, coming off his wide receiver alignment, came so low and so hard into the unsuspecting Carlino that the linebacker's head violently snapped back and his knees buckled. The hard-charging Boilermaker was laid to rest and Tate continued into the end zone untouched.
Crist can take the hit, accept the challenge, and dish out the pain. He’s tough, but more importantly, he’s Notre Dame tough.
In summation, we know that Crist was a highly-rated passer coming out of Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, California. Scout.com had him as the No. 3 QB in the land in 2007 while Rivals had him at No. 2. Both services marked him as a five-star prospect.
What we haven’t known is if Dayne Crist possessed the “it” factor that separates prospects from suspects and contenders from pretenders.
If the Purdue game is indeed the first legitimate look at the Crist Era for Notre Dame fans then they should come away with great expectations. It's a small body of work but a quarterback who can run the Wildcat, hit the hot read, get the ball down field, take a hit, and throw a block is the type of Irish quarterback that so many Domers have waited for.
Clausen is the man of the moment, but the question must be asked: Is there life after Clausen?
There is, for Crist is risen.