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The Journal Gazette

Monday, September 11, 2017 1:00 am

Irish O-line isn't finished product

CHRIS GOFF | The Journal Gazette

SOUTH BEND – A day after Notre Dame's loss to Georgia, when he had more time to consider the play of his offensive line, Irish coach Brian Kelly assessed their performance as mixed.

“I mean, they did some things well,” Kelly said Sunday. “There's some things we have to do better. As a group, we put up 19 points. We gave ourselves the chance to win that football game. What we have to do better is we have to sustain blocks and be more consistent in pass protection.”

The aspect of Saturday night's 20-19 setback to No. 13 Georgia (2-0) that stood out most was Notre Dame's inability to run the ball effectively. After rushing for 422 yards and 9.6 yards per carry in a season-opening win over Temple the previous week, the Irish slumped to 55 yards and 1.5 yards per carry against the more talented Bulldogs.

Left tackle Mike McGlinchey chalked up it up to Georgia's insistence on taking it away.

“They definitely did their job to make sure that we didn't have that run game,” McGlinchey said. “They loaded the box a lot. They played hard. They had guys filling in quick, so they made sure we weren't going to try to run the ball on them, and they did a pretty good job with that.”

Running back Josh Adams, held to 53 yards on 19 carries, didn't have a run longer than 7 yards. He placed some of the blame on himself, saying he must “do a better job.”

“Certainly I have a lot of things I can learn from this game,” Adams said. “They brought their game plan, a lot of blitz off the edge, and a lot of it was on me making one guy miss. There were a lot of times I was one-on-one against a defender, and I need to make that play. Like I said, a lot of that was on me.”

One unexplained personnel decision might have contributed to the struggles. Second-string back Dexter Williams, who had six carries for 124 yards and a touchdown against Temple, did not get a carry despite playing on special teams.

When asked whether Williams would receive some chances to run the ball this week at Boston College, Kelly said “it depends.”

“He's a fine back, but we really have high regard for Josh Adams,” Kelly said. “We'll try to get (Williams) in. They're all really fine backs, but it's hard to get them all in the game. We love Dexter, too. It's just really difficult to get them all in the game. It goes week to week.”

Regardless of who takes handoffs, Notre Dame's offense is supposedly built around strong blocking up front from preseason All-Americans McGlinchey and left guard Quenton Nelson and experienced starters at center (Sam Mustipher) and right guard (Alex Bars).

As the Bulldogs defensive line and linebackers pushed the Irish offensive linemen around, Kelly realized they are not a finished product.

“What we learned is we've got to go back and be better coaching the fundamentals, and we've got to be better at our techniques,” Kelly said. “I'd like to sit here and tell you that we've arrived, but we haven't. We've just got to keep working.”

cgoff@jg.net