Notre Dame loses Joe Schmidt for the remainder of the 2014 season


After the Notre Dame Fighting Irish survived the onslaught of the triple-option from the Navy Midshipmen, they stood together with the Middies as Navy sang its alma mater, a show of respect from the Irish. But it was hard not to notice one Irish player on crutches.

Joe Schmidt left the game in the first half and never returned. The Irish received the worst news possible when it was revealed he had a fractured and dislocated left ankle. The redshirt junior has a year of eligibility left, and coach Brian Kelly expects he will return in 2015.

His story has been well documented, as the former walk-on earned a scholarship this season, and has led the way for the Irish defense. Leading the team in tackles (65), he also has two interceptions, three quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles. Now Kelly will need to not only fill the position, but someone to replace his on-field leadership.

"“I think everybody is going to have to pick up a little bit,” Kelly said. “Jaylon [Smith] is going to have to pick up. I think the defensive line is going to have to be more assertive in making sure they’re taking care of their end of things. I think our safeties. I think everybody is going to have to pick up the slack for the loss of a guy that really did most of the work. h/t  Matt Fortuna,"

True freshmen Nyles Morgan filled in for Schmidt against Navy. Morgan was a four-star ESPN recruit, and the No. 5 inside linebacker in the country at the time. He is a raw talent with a high upside, but won’t be ready to take on the playcalling duties that had been put upon Schmidt.

"“We’re certainly going to have to take some of that load away from Nyles and really kind of disperse it to others because we’re not going to heap that all on him. We obviously felt good about putting all that on Joe’s plate. We’re not going to be able to do that with Nyles."

The loss of Schmidt comes at the most inopportune time, as the Irish have given up 30+ in the last three games, and now head to Tempe to take on the No. 11 Arizona State Sun Devils. Kelly and defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder need to make the necessary adjustments, and fast.