SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has heard the grumblings from the outside that his offense needs more balance.
But the fourth-year Irish coach points out that the offense has to take what is available to be successful.
I want balance just like everybody else in America wants balance, Kelly said. But look, we have to throw the ball effectively when we are called upon to throw the ball, and we have to run the ball effectively when we are called upon to run effectively.
You know, balance is this panacea that everyone looks for, but you need to win football games and whatever it takes to win football games, we’d better be good at it. We’d better be good at scoring points running the ball, and we’d better be good at throwing the ball when the situations call for it.
The No. 21 Irish (1-1) had the balance so many clamor for in a 28-6 victory over Temple as they had 35 rushing attempts for 188 yards and quarterback Tommy Rees completed 16 of 23 passes for 346 yards.
But in Notre Dame’s 41-30 loss last week, the Irish had to rely on Rees more as they trailed Michigan for most of the game and the Wolverines stacked the box with defenders. Notre Dame threw on 53 of 72 plays, gaining 314 yards, while picking up 96 yards on 19 carries.
If the box is plus-one and plus-two, there’s not much of a running game, Kelly said. When we had two-shell and we had the ability to run the ball, we ran the ball effectively. And then we got behind. We were down two scores. We had to speed the game up and throw the football.
Purdue (1-1), which plays host to Notre Dame on Saturday night, will likely take a page from Michigan’s defensive plan and try to force the Irish to win through its passing game by loading up to defend the run.
It is a look Notre Dame receiver TJ Jones said the team will continue to see until the receiving corps establishes itself as more of a threat.
I think it might take a couple of more games of doing what we are doing, getting better every game, showing that we have playmakers at every receiver spot on the field for teams to take notice and maybe game plan a little differently than how they have been, Jones said.
Notre Dame has gained 669 yards in its passing game with Jones leading the way with 15 receptions for 232 yards. Receiver DaVaris Daniels has nine catches for 132 yards, and tight end Troy Niklas had seven catches for 142 yards.
The Irish, with 54 rushing attempts to their 80 passing plays, have been efficient when the ball has stayed on the ground.
Notre Dame averages 5.3 yards a carry. Amir Carlise has run for 132 yards on 19 carries for 6.9 yards a carry, and George Atkinson III has gained 71 yards on 13 carries for a 5.5-yard average.
The running backs are not lobbying to be used more and just want to make the most of their chances to carry the ball.
That’s not up to me. That’s the coaches upstairs who make the calls and determine where the ball will go, said Carlise, who also has four receptions for 14 yards. I’ve always been a guy when my number is called, I’m going to give 110 percent, glorify God and try to make a play on every opportunity I get. That’s my attitude going into this week.
Whenever my number is called, I’m going to go out there and give it my all.