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November 16, 2008Notre Dame survived Navy without two of its best players. Now the Irish will be forced to stage an unwelcome encore against Syracuse and Southern California.
The knee strains suffered by wide receiver Michael Floyd and linebacker Brian Smith in the first quarter against the Midshipmen will shelve each for the remainder of the regular season. Charlie Weis said the pair should return in time for bowl practices with the Irish likely bound for the Gator Bowl or Sun Bowl.
"It would really be unreasonable to see either one of them playing in the next couple weeks," Weis said. "It's more of a four-week deal."
Floyd got hurt on Notre Dame's first series while blocking on a James Aldridge run play. Smith went down on a chop block on Navy's second series, giving way to back-up Toryan Smith, who wound up leading the Irish with 10 tackles in the 27-21 victory.
Floyd leads the Irish in receptions and touchdowns and owns freshman records for catches, yards and touchdowns. Brian Smith led all Irish linebackers in tackles entering yesterday's game and is the only player on the roster with a sack, forced fumble, fumble recovery and defensive touchdown.
"I think that they will both miss the next two games, but they will both be back probably back practicing by the middle of December," Weis said. "The bad, they miss the next two games. But the good is there will in all likelihood, there will be another game left after that where they will be back and have a couple weeks to get conditioned, because their knees will be fine by that time."
Weis got better news on cornerback Terrail Lambert, who suffered a sprained ankle going up for a jump ball in last Thursday's practice. The veteran hobbled onto the field against Navy on crutches, but Weis said Lambert had discarded them on Sunday and is "50-50" for the Syracuse game and a lock to play at USC.
"No one gets hurt on Thursday in practice," Weis said with a smile.
When Lambert returns he may not walk back into the starting lineup. His absence gave freshman Robert Blanton his first start and the corner responded by dropping Navy slotback Greg Shinego for a six-yard loss on the Mids' first play. Blanton also broke up a third down pass near the end zone on Navy's final drive, which ended with an incompletion one play later.
"I'm on the R.J. Blanton bandwagon right now," Weis said. "Here is a guy, a freshman, really not afraid of anyone, and that's a really tough position to say that at. You know, you go against so many good players out there or bigger players or faster players, there's a lot of physical skills that go there. He just goes up and lines up and plays.
"I really like the way he's playing."