by Mike Coffey
The Fighting Irish sit at 3-1 after escaping West Lafayette with a win, and now have three in a row at home. What must they continue to do, and what corrections are required, if they’re going to build on a two-game win streak going into the bye?
The biggest continuation is the use of the running game. It bore fruit in the second quarter on Saturday, used to great effect with Dayne Crist in the game. If ND is looking to take the pressure off Clausen, having the backs share the load is one way to do it. Fewer passes means fewer plays where Clausen is pushing off on his bad wheel and fewer plays where he’s opening his body up to potentially damaging contact. According to the latest press conference, Armando Allen will have “no limitations” starting in practice Tuesday, so that’s heartening news.
Other smaller continuations would be…
- Expanding Theo Riddick’s role. Ankle sprains are tricky things and can linger, so Allen has a risk factor associated with him now. The more reps we can get Riddick, the better
- Keeping Jonas Gray’s confidence up. He certainly came through for ND on Saturday, showing a sure-handedness he seemed to be missing before
The biggest correction is the defensive line play. Although better at times versus the Boilermakers, Huskies QB Jake Locker represents perhaps the most dangerous threat at his position ND will see all year. While he doesn’t have Clausen’s accuracy, his mobility adds a degree of difficulty in defending him. If the down linemen can’t keep Locker contained, it’ll put much more pressure on the rest of the unit. The last thing ND needs on Saturday is a shootout.
Other smaller corrections would be…
- Getting Duval Kamara’s head in the game. The illegal formation penalties were inexcusable, and with Floyd out of action, WR productivity must be kept high
- Consistency in punting. Giving Locker any field position benefits just makes him more dangerous