David Woods and Ryan O’Gara break down Notre Dame’s win over Ball State.
David Woods, [email protected]
Two games represent small sample size in college football. So what to make of Notre Dame’s sputtering offense?
Not even coach Brian Kelly can explain it.
“We’re in that process of kind of figuring out our identity on the offensive side of the ball,” he said Sunday.
The Fighting Irish have been especially ineffective running the ball. Out of 130 teams, they are close to last – 120th – in yards per attempt, 2.83. They are 106th in rushing yards per game, 124.5.
That would be tolerable if they had one of the most efficient passing offenses. They don’t.
Notre Dame ranks 94th in team passer rating, and Brandon Wimbush is 89th among quarterbacks. Wimbush has completed 55 percent of his passes, but with one touchdown and four interceptions.
More: Notre Dame doesn’t play up to its standards, but does enough to survive Ball State
More: Buzzer breakdown: Notre Dame defense saves Irish blushes vs. Ball State
Perhaps shortcomings were inevitable given the loss of two top-10 NFL draft picks on the offensive line (Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey) and a 1,400-yard rusher (Josh Adams).
In Saturday’s 24-16 victory over Ball State, the Irish totaled 73 yards on two running plays. Otherwise, they had 44 yards in 39 attempts. Even disregarding 25 yards lost to four sacks of Wimbush, Notre Dame did not average two yards on the other rushes.
“When we evaluate our running game, we’re really looking for the technical soundness of it,” Kelly said. “We were fundamentally in the positions we needed to be. We just didn’t finish plays.”
Inability to run effectively is one cause for the Irish losing 18-point leads against Michigan and Ball State. Notre Dame is 116th in tackles for loss allowed, for instance.
Wimbush is perhaps Notre Dame’s top runner, but he had a net minus-7 yards against Ball State.
Notre Dame won the Joe Moore Award last season as the nation’s top offensive line. The five the Irish are starting – center Sam Mustipher, guards Alex Bars and Tommy Kraemer, tackles Liam Eichenberg and Robert Hainsey – is not changing, Kelly said. The coach acknowledged they need to be more physical and consistent.
“We weren’t assignment sound and technically sound. That’s all it was,” Mustipher said Saturday.
Kelly reiterated he is sticking with Wimbush, saying the quarterback threw “with a sense of purpose.” The coach said is looking for better footwork, reads and decisions from his quarterback.
Notre Dame has scored touchdowns on its first possession in three of four halves.The 21 other possessions have produced just three TDs. That is the inconsistency to which Kelly alluded.
“We sometimes hold onto the last play too long, whether it’s a good play or a bad play,” he said. “We have to move on to the next play.”
Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush breaks down the team’s win over Notre Dame.
David Woods, [email protected]
Defense remains elite
Notre Dame ranks among national leaders in meaningful defensive statistics.
The Irish are 13th in yards allowed per play (3.95) and 16th in opponents’ passer rating. They have allowed just four plays of 20 or more yards to rank 14th.
Linebacker Te’von Coney is seventh individually with 16 solo tackles.
“He’s playing at a pretty high level for us,” Kelly said.
Notre Dame remained No. 8 in Associated Press and coaches’ polls. … TE Cole Kmet (ankle) is the only player who might miss practice this week because of injury, Kelly said. … Notre Dame opened as a 14-point favorite over Vanderbilt for next Saturday (2:30 p.m., WTHR-13). The Commodores have beaten Middle Tennessee 35-7 and Nevada 41-10.
Contact IndyStar reporter David Woods at [email protected] or call 317-444-6195. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidWoods007.