SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd spent a lot of time on the sideline the past three games imagining what he would have accomplished if he were playing.
"Just knowing that on some plays it might have been going to me and maybe it wasn't a catch or something like that, or maybe I felt like maybe I could have probably gone in there and caught the ball too," he said.
The receiver from St. Paul, Minn., wasn't the only one imagining what might have been if he hadn't sprained his left knee on the third play against Navy. Irish fans have had similar thoughts.
Maybe the Irish would have been so far ahead of Navy that the Midshipmen would not have made it close at the end. Maybe Notre Dame wouldn't have lost 24-23 to a Syracuse team that finished the season 3-9. Maybe the Irish could have compiled more than an embarrassing 41 passing yards in a 38-3 loss to USC.
Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen doesn't know what might have been, but he knows losing the freshman wide receiver hurt the Fighting Irish down the stretch.
"He's a playmaker, a great player and a big part of our offense," Clausen said. "It will be good to get him back out there, help the offense out, and ultimately help the team out and help the team to win."
In the nine games Floyd played in, the Irish averaged 259 yards a game passing. In the three games he missed, including Navy, the Irish had two of the season's worst passing games and averaged just 147 passing yards.
The difference is more than the 70 yards a game Floyd contributed. That's because with Floyd out, opponents could focus much more on Notre Dame's other big playmaker, receiver Golden Tate. Tate found himself double-teamed much more often and saw his reception yards per game drop from 82 yards a game through nine games to 54 yards a game in the final three.
"We need him. He's a deep threat. He's got great hands, he's strong and powerful," Tate said of Floyd. "I feel like he might open it up a little more so they won't double-cover me as much and open up the running game."
The soft-spoken Floyd tries to downplay his importance to the Irish offense.
"I just try to help out any way that I can," he said. "I just try to do my job and that's catching the ball and running with it."
The 6-3, 215-pound Floyd set a freshman school record for receptions with 46, receiving touchdowns with seven and receiving yards with 702. He had four 100-yard reception games and ranks 52nd in the country overall in receiving yards per game and sixth among freshmen.
Those numbers aren't enough to satisfy Floyd.
"It just motivates me more to keep working hard because you always want to set yourself away from any competitors," he said. "I try to do better than everybody. I just try to work harder."
Floyd isn't yet sure he will be able to play when the Irish (6-6) play in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve against the hometown Warriors (7-6). While meeting with the media on Friday, just the third time freshmen have been allowed to talk with reporters this season, Floyd described his status as day-to-day, although he hopes to play.
Floyd said he's been focusing on getting his knee stronger. He said older receivers made sure he didn't get too down. He's tried to stay involved by trying to give some advice to some of the other freshman receivers.
His primary goal now is to help the Irish end their NCAA-record streak of losing nine straight bowl games.
"I think it's time to crack it open and end that streak of losing, so it's a big game here," he said.