(The Rock Report) – Consider Bob Stoops’ past the ghost of Kelly’s football future.
Stoops reiterated that OU should have tried to establish the run a bit more. The Sooners had 24 run plays compared to 52 pass attempts (against Notre Dame.) “You do need to run the football,” Stoops said. “Probably in hindsight we should have run it a little more. In the end it sets up play-action passes that we were very successful at and got a lot of yards.”
And let’s be clear, Oklahoma had a Heisman contender at QB, not Rees. It was that passing mentality that led Oklahoma center Gabe Ikard to seemingly fight with himself after the game trying to say what he couldn’t but wanted to:
“We’re very physical, but we throw it around a lot, so we have to be physical in pass pro as well,” Ikard said. “It just comes with the offense we run. We spread it out. I’m not gonna say we don’t have the schemes to be physical. We were put in situations to run the football and we didn’t execute well on Saturday.”
Oklahoma fans didn’t hold back:
Bob has changed and fell in love with the high powered all pass offenses and the spread. That creates soft football players on both sides to me. We would be better if it was a 7 on 7 league, but we will have trouble with teams that are physical and like to hit – K State was more physical than OU and that is all tied back to coaching and the style of play we have chosen!
This year Oklahoma has switched back to a run oriented offense (and so has BYU.) Of course Notre Dame doesn’t need Oklahoma for lessons, it has its own in Kelly’s first two years as I argued in 2010 in “You Can’t W.I.N. Unless You Run”
More troubling is Kelly’s dogged adherence to pass the ball with a team that can’t execute the passing game yet at the level needed to succeed. If the purpose is to develop the offense at the expense of winning games, that’s a mistake. Kelly seems to be force feeding the passing spread despite his own rhetoric about the importance of a run game. Against Michigan State Notre Dame threw the ball 55 times to 26 runs (32%). You rarely win like that. I have little doubt that with a commitment to running the ball, Notre Dame would be sitting at 5-1 or at worst 4-2.
Notre Dame left wins on the table that year, but finally had success at the end of 2010 when it limited the passing and led with the run. The result? A four game win streak. Results from 2011 and 2012 validated the point. But damn the history and full pass ahead, Kelly’s focused on a throwing offense as noted a few weeks back.
‘We did not score enough points…we were not effective enough in the red zone. Those two things are pretty clear. And we did not throw the ball effectively enough on first- and second-down situations…. A bigger piece falls on the offense this year than it does the defense.’’
Here’s the problem. You need a very high success rate passing the ball to make this work as well as an ancillary threat (running QB, high YAC), ANY dropoff in execution and it’s not worth the tradeoff. We don’t have big play ability, we don’t have a QB who can run and we don’t have a QB who can, with a high level of certainty, carry the team on 51 passes a game. But Kelly seems deaf to the obvious. The reality is that until you can be assured that the tradeoff is in your favor, you’re better off getting the yards with the run and relying on a play action passing game. If you fail, it’s not just an offensive failure.
Notre Dame struggles when it relies on the pass to open up the run and this year, if it continues, that strategy could result in a particularly pernicious situation where the offense stresses the defense and can’t make up the difference. Kelly only has to look back to his 2009 season at Cincinnati where his defense fell apart the latter half of the year after being forced to stay on the field due to extremely low TOP.
Here’s the toilet bowl problem:
1. We’re passing more so we’re holding the ball for less time and putting the defense under more pressure. TOP was 34-26 in Michigan’s favor.
2. We’re playing more man with the intention that man would allow us to make more big plays on defense. It’s not working. Our DL struggles to get pressure without blitzing which makes us more vulnerable. More vulnerable + more time on the field playing defense = 41 points.
> The result is that we’re bleeding yards more on defense (80th or so in the country), the offense doesn’t hold the ball for long and even when we get into the red zone we can’t score touchdowns.
It seems that Kelly made three assumptions that, so far, are dead wrong.
- That Rees, in a passing offense will lead to more total points and that passing will be effective in the red zone. FALSE
- Rees will be able to complete passes at a high enough level to move the chains consistently on offense. FALSE
- Our ability to play man will allow us to be more aggressive leading to more negative plays for our defense. FALSE
In theory, if those assumptions were correct, this strategy could lead to a higher margin of victory.
The reality is that we’re not able to deliver on the offensive side of the ball and we’ve put the defense at a disadvantage while increasing its vulnerability. Attributing sacks to the pass, Notre Dame threw the ball on first down (by one poster’s account) 26 times for an average of 5.4 yards per attempt and ran the ball 6 times for 8.5 YPC. Half the time we went backward or no where and used up little clock.
This is not some obscure, uknown tradeoff, Michigan fans (just like Oklahoma fans) noted it as well the last three years:
The Michigan defense has suffered as a result of the Wolverines’ use of the spread offense. In 2010, the defense gave up an average of 451 yards per game. The 2011 squad surrendered 322 yards. In 2012, the unit allowed an average of 320 yards.
Even worse, our defense will be practicing against a passing spread and will be vulnerable when Oklahoma comes knocking (having learnt their lesson) in three weeks. We’ll likely cede the very advantage that both teams noted was the difference in Notre Dame’s win in Norman, controlling the trenches. And it will get worse when we go to Stanford. Note that Stanford had Andrew Luck and still ran the ball more than it threw the ball.
Meanwhile, Kelly seems content to let Rees “grow” into his strategy and “execute better”. That’s a low probability low payoff bet. I like Rees, but he’s no Luck and betting on Rees to carry the team more than Stanford bet on Luck to carry the Cardinal will only lead to bad luck. Willingham talked about “being three plays away”. Weis always lamented that “the plays were there, we just didn’t execute.” That’s horseshit. If, as a coach, you call plays the team can’t execute, that’s simply lousy coaching.
If we continue down this route, the result will likely be a soft team, an offense that gives the ball back far too quickly and a defense that will be more porous and, in the end, less able to win in the trenches as it did so nobly last year. All that risk in return for the low probability bet that Rees will turn out better than Luck or Jason White of Oklahoma
The numbers from Saturday are startling and stark.
When Notre Dame was in the Pistol, the offense averaged 6.75 yards per rush, 10.89 yards per pass attempt and 14 yards per completion(if my math is correct.) The run pass ratio = 60/40. Rees was 7 of 9 (77%). 1 TD. No Ints. No sacks. Passing Efficiency rating: 205. Pretty sure you’re going win a lot of games with that kind of math.
The empty set netted 4.4 yards per pass attempt until the numbers were driven up by the last drive (math caveat.) The run pass ratio=0/100. Rees was 7 of 16 (44%). 1 Int. (and he added one later.) Passing Efficiency Rating: 66. Pretty sure you’re going to lose every game with that kind of math.
The numbers might not be perfectly correct, but I’m not getting paid to chart plays and point out the obvious, which is this: Kelly should be shocked with a dog collar any time Notre Dame goes into an empty set backfield outside of a 2 minute drill.
It’s a high risk, low reward bet that isn’t needed. Kelly has what is known as an anchoring bias… his thinking is anchored in the idea that he needs to spread out the game to win. Coach, you’re at Notre Dame, you have two stud offensive linemen, one of whom, Chris Watt, is a nasty road grader stop making him dance. Ironically, Kelly stressed that Notre Dame needed toughness this year, yet he’s breeding softness.
ND is as or more talented than every team on the schedule. The smart bet would be to reorient around the gifted freshmen backs who can both run the ball inside, both break it outside and both catch the ball out of the backfield, give Rees a break by giving him more play action and give the defense a break by keeping the ball a bit longer.
Notre Dame can win every game on the schedule, gambling the season on a trifecta bet that includes a 20-1 long shot is simply reckless.