Floyd center of attention for Notre Dame, defenses

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — As the Notre Dame football team made its way onstage for the year's first pep rally, St. Paul native Michael Floyd nudged his way to the front. Wearing a goofy smile, he pretended to conduct the band as it played the fight song, hamming it up with the students assembled before him.

Then the junior receiver was announced as a team captain for the opener. He gave an earnest speech, thanking the coaches and acknowledging his mother. And then the Irish's most explosive offensive asset and potential All-American dived headfirst into the crowd.

It may be the most crucial catch made by a Notre Dame student this year, Floyd included.

"You expect anything and everything with Mike," Irish quarterback Dayne Crist said. "He always finds ways to shock us and make us laugh. That's Mike Floyd in a nutshell."

It's no great leap to say Notre Dame's biggest offensive challenge is ensuring Floyd shocks and awes on the field, as it's already clear he is front and center on every defensive checklist.


Floyd managed five catches in the opener but went the first 17 minutes without a touch, a cornerback and safety eyeing him every snap. No Irish receiver has ever torched Michigan for more than Floyd's 131 yards receiving last year, so he can expect rapt attention from a ramshackle Wolverines secondary on Saturday.

"I think I'm going to have to deal with that a lot this year, and I'm just glad and thankful that we've got other guys on the other side of me that can make plays," Floyd said. "It is a little frustrating, but as long as we keep the sticks moving. When the opportunity comes and they throw the ball to me, I gotta make my plays."

Or just avoid calamitous injury. The only way Michigan stopped Floyd last year was with a particularly unforgiving sideline. Floyd tumbled on it late, causing a knee gash that idled him for the final few, ill-fated snaps.

And against Purdue last weekend, an overthrow in the corner of the end zone sent Floyd barreling toward the stands, his momentum halted by a band member in the way. Hence Irish coach Brian Kelly's plan for getting Floyd touches: "Don't put it up in the band section."

"The offense is always going to be how to get the ball to Michael Floyd," Kelly said. "But teams are going to double him. ... If I see they're doubling Mike, we're not going to go over there. We're going to do something else."

That something else may involve Floyd doing a little bit of everything.

"You move him around," Crist said. "That's what we try to do and we'll continue to try to do — just move him around so you've always got a potential big play when you're getting the ball in his hands."

When he wasn't handling the ball, Floyd evidently handled it well. Receivers coach Tony Alford said he asked Floyd if he was fine during droughts against Purdue, and Floyd quickly replied in the affirmative.


In fact, Floyd appeared content to spring Irish backs with perimeter blocking, as he did on Armando Allen's touchdown run.

"He understands he has to be a complete player and play without the ball sometimes," Alford said.

Of playing around with stage-dives, there was one near-catastrophe: Floyd's phone fell out of his pocket. Fortunately a student retrieved it and returned it, just another sigh of relief in that moment.

"I wasn't surprised," cornerback Darrin Walls said of the leap. "I just hoped they didn't drop him."

Said Floyd: "I just wanted to start off the year with something new and something funny and get the crowd going."

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