SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Two games into the season, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly considers junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush a work in progress – and his receiving corps the same.
“I think he learned a lot from that game,” Kelly at Tuesday, three days after the Fighting Irish lost at home to Georgia, 20-19. “I think it will be a springboard for him.”
Wimbush, who played sparingly his freshman year and then sat out last season, had 290 total yards (106 rushing, 184 passing) and three touchdowns in Notre Dame’s season-opening, 49-16 victory over Temple. But against a quicker, stronger and more deceptive Georgia defense, Wimbush seemed slow at times in his decision-making. Though he was 20-of-40 passing for 210 yards, Wimbush was sacked three times, lost two second-half fumbles and managed just one net rushing yard on 16 attempts.
“You have your teaching, and you go through it during week, then it happens in the game,” Kelly said. “Just trust what you see and go with it. Don’t be indecisive. Be decisive, trust it and go with it. I think that’s the biggest learning curve for all young quarterbacks.”
Notre Dame (1-1) plays at Boston College (1-1) on Saturday.
Wimbush, who played at St. Peter’s Prep (N.J.) and was offered by Boston College, acknowledged Saturday night that he’s still learning the nuances of new offensive coordinator Chip Long, one of several new staff members brought in by Kelly following a 4-8 campaign in 2016.
“I’ve just got to understand where the pressure is coming from and put my guys in the right position to make the block, and I think we would have been fine,” Wimbush said.
Kelly believes giving Wimbush more targets in the passing game will help. Georgia blanketed 6-foot-5 junior Equanimeous St. Brown, who had 2016 team highs for receptions (58), yards (961) and TD receptions (nine). St. Brown managed just two receptions totaling 16 yards against Georgia after grabbing four for 80 yards and one score against Temple.
“We know how to move him around and get him the football,” Kelly said. “That’s not the issue. We got to continue to target him, but we’ve got to fine better balance within the structure of the offense.”
Junior punt returner Chris Finke, a former walk-on, is listed as a starter this week at another wide receiver spot after making three receptions for 36 yards against the Bulldogs. He replaces graduate transfer (from Michigan) Freddy Canteen, who is doubtful with a shoulder subluxation.
NOTES: Kelly, who was criticized on social media late Saturday for the way he responded to a reporter’s question, was asked whether he thought Saturday’s loss was similar to the fourth-quarter woes Notre Dame endured in 2016. “I know that question was asked at the press conference, and I probably could have handled it a little bit better,” Kelly said. “But in the heat of the moment, my thoughts were on the game itself.”