Notre Dame receiver T.J. Jones keeps improving
BY Mark Lazerus firstname.lastname@example.org October 17, 2012 10:52PM
Updated: November 19, 2012 3:34PM
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Tommy Rees’ veteran savvy put T.J. Jones in a position to win the game. Jones’ own improvement as a receiver allowed him to do so.
In the first series of overtime Saturday against Stanford, Jones caught the go-ahead touchdown on a seven-yard slant. Notre Dame’s defense made the 20-13 score stand up with a goal-line stand.
But Jones said Wednesday that the biggest catch of his career came on a play that was supposed to be a run.
“Initially, it was a run play, but Tommy saw they had man coverage on [Jones and Robby Toma], and he checked to slants.”
Jones beat the cornerback on the inside, but Rees threw a fastball behind Jones, who reached back and made a difficult catch.
“It was a life-or-death situation,” Jones said. “I knew I’d better give my all to try to catch it. I adjusted to the ball and held on. It was a huge relief. I wanted to jump and throw the ball, but I wasn’t really sure what to do. But there was definitely lots of excitement when I saw [the referee] put his arms up.”
Coach Brian Kelly said that Jones — thrust into a key role with the graduation of all-time leading receiver Michael Floyd — has improved as much as anyone on the team.
“He’s really focused on his craft and the skill of route-running,” Kelly said. “All of those little things that go into being a better football player.”
As Kelly expected, redshirt freshman quarterback Everett Golson passed his cognitive test Tuesday and was cleared to return to practice Wednesday. Golson suffered a concussion on a helmet-to-helmet hit in the fourth quarter against Stanford.
Feeling at home
BYU was one of three finalists in the recruiting derby for Manti Te’o four years ago, along with Notre Dame and USC. Te’o is one of a handful of Mormons on the team along with fellow Hawaiians Kona Schwenke and Toma and freshman safety Chris Badger, who played in the shadow of BYU in Provo, Utah.
“They have talked about it,” Kelly said. “But I don’t know if that card’s really going to be played in terms of more motivation [for Saturday]. I think they’re motivated about getting better as a football team.”
Te’o said the Mormon community at Notre Dame has embraced him.
“It’s very supportive and very helpful, and people have just always been there for me,” he said. “I’m really fortunate to have that.”