SOUTH BEND — Usually you don’t think of Week 2 as a good time for a bye week. For Notre Dame, though, the bye week might not have come at a better time.
Three of the Fighting Irish’s preseason projected offensive starters are injured, meaning this weekend off could be huge for the eighth-ranked team in the country.
The most recent injury came Monday during Notre Dame’s victory over Louisville. According to The Athletic, redshirt sophomore running back Jafar Armstrong will miss “extended time” with a groin injury. Armstrong could miss up to two months, according to the report.
Armstrong played just one series against the Cardinals before leaving the game with the injury. Irish head coach Brian Kelly called it a “soft tissue” injury Tuesday in Armstrong’s groin and abdominal area.
Armstrong dealt with an injury last year as well, missing three games due to a knee injury. Armstrong was excited to enter the 2019 season healthy, but a Week 1 injury has curtailed that excitement.
“every [sic] great warrior must learn to endure and overcome the adversities of life,” Armstrong tweeted Wednesday.
Armstrong joins two juniors, tight end Cole Kmet and wide receiver Michael Young, on the injury list. Both Kmet and Young broke their collarbones during fall camp, making them inactive for the season opener.
Kmet broke his collarbone about a week before Young. Kelly expressed optimism the tight end would be back for the game against New Mexico at the time of the injury. The head coach said they had scheduled a CAT Scan for Kmet this past week to determine the next steps for the junior.
“(The CAT Scan) will give us, one way or the other, the green light as to whether we can begin his full regiment of practice,” Kelly said. “We’re close there.”
As for Young, Notre Dame conducted an X-Ray on the wide receiver this week. Kelly noted Young will go through a similar rehab process as Kmet did, given the two suffered the same injury.
“(The X-Ray) will set into motion the next step, kind of where Cole was, where we can begin moving him, catching the football, running,” Kelly said. “He’s about a week or so behind Cole Kmet in terms of that process, but he will follow very similar steps along the way as we work through, not the same kind of break, but a similar protocol as we work to get them both back.”
Notre Dame is one of two ranked teams not playing this weekend — No. 25 Iowa State is also on a bye week. It’s the earliest the Irish have ever had a bye week under Kelly. Notre Dame also gets a bye week in between the USC and Michigan games in mid-October.
“I would say it’s a little bit different,” Kelly said. “Sometimes we talk in terms of, ‘Hey, the bye week’s coming at the right time. We need some time to get our guys healthy and get a breather.’ I don’t think that’s the case here.”
Outside of the injuries to Armstrong, Kmet and Young, the Irish enter the bye week unscathed. With only one game under its belt, Kelly has taken this week to work on keeping his team fresh, rather than just resting all week.
“This is much more about continuing to develop our football team in terms of its preparation,” Kelly said. “It’s different in that respect. Certainly, it would be very difficult to put these kids in a position to come back and play on (this) Saturday, so we’ll take advantage of the week in terms of looking at the things we need to get better at and get better as a football team.”
BOB DAVIE UPDATE
Notre Dame’s next opponent, New Mexico, won’t have its head coach for the game.
Bob Davie, who coached Notre Dame from 1997 to 2001, will not be making the trip back to South Bend due to a “serious medical incident” that occurred after the Lobos’ Week 1 victory over Sam Houston State. Davie was rushed to a hospital immediately following the game, with media reports saying Davie was grabbing his chest throughout the contest.
“While I will be around next week and involved, I have decided to not make the trip to South Bend for our Sept. 14 game with Notre Dame,” Davie said in a statement Thursday. “After receiving advice from my doctors and wife, I wanted to make this decision now so our team and coaching staff could go into the weekend with clarity and consistency.
“My doctors have said that, with no setbacks, I can expect a full recovery with no limitations. I have great confidence in our staff, and this gives us our best chance for success and limits the distractions.”
Davie spent five years as the Fighting Irish head coach, compiling a 35-25 record. He went 0-3 in bowl games, including a 41-9 loss to Oregon State in the 2001 Fiesta Bowl. He was also the Notre Dame defensive coordinator from 1994-1996. Next Saturday would’ve been the first time Davie coached against Notre Dame since returning to coaching in 2012.
New Mexico is also off this weekend. Sage Tuitele, the Lobos’ running game and offensive line coach, will serve as the interim coach for New Mexico.