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  • “You can’t W.I.N. unless you run”

    by SEE

    (The Rock Report | Notre Dame Football News) – W.I.N. (What’s Important Now) was Holtz’s mantra when he came to Notre Dame. Holtz didn’t play for the future, he played to win immediately. What’s frustrating is that the Irish could be looking at a BCS game this year, but for a seeming mismatch between Kelly’s stated objectives about the run game and game day execution.

    To be fair, Kelly’s sitting in a good historical position at 3-3 with the hardest part of the schedule in the rear view mirror.   Almost every successful coach struggles in his first year including the benchmarks of Saban, Carroll, Meyer, Tressell, Stoops and Brown. Ohio State fans noted that the sentiment was very negative in Tressell’s first year.   And while frustrating to watch, the first half of a first season with a new coach has shown little correlation with ultimate success simply because everything is new and being put on its feet for the first time. Immediate success doesn’t correlate with ultimate success. As noted, Willingham and Weis both started out strong.

    And, so far, there aren’t any major red flags that point to Kelly’s inability to win long-term, but  there are a few areas of concern:  the run-pass mix and time/game management.

    I’ve never bought into criticism over specific play-calls or time management.  You could parse any coach’s performance in these areas to death (as Bama fans are doing now with Saban, btw.) Good coaches tend to develop a feel for what works and don’t always play the percentages.  It’s what separates them from a computer calling plays.  Win and all of that suddenly looks good. Still not sure what to make of Kelly’s clock management, but if you’re winning games by two touchdowns the point is moot. It’s certainly a concern at this point, but I’ve yet to see any coach at any level escape criticism for specific play calls or time management.

    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.  Here were Kelly’s quotes preseason:

    “You can’t win unless you run the ball,” Kelly said, according to a story in the Chicago Sun-Times. ”If you just throw it, you’re not going to win all your games. We’re here to win all our games. I don’t know if anybody knew that. We’re here to win them all. And to win your games, you have to run the ball.”

    “We’re going to be able to run the football,” Kelly said. “That’s pretty clear after a week, that we’ve got really solid backs.”

    But Kelly’s recent quotes are all centered around Crist’s ability to run the passing offense and the run-pass mix has declined to even below his low numbers at Cincinnati.  Despite Kelly’s quotes about running the ball, only nine teams in football bowl subdivision have run the ball less than Notre Dame this season.

    That the offense is sputtering sans an effective run game and putting inordinate pressure on the defense is no surprise, what is surprising (or disappointing) is Kelly’s failure to adjust.  As Coach Molnar said, when this offense goes three and out, it’s ugly to watch.  Fits and starts on offense are the norm in year one of a new system with a new quarterback and Notre Dame has better options.

    Against Pittsburgh, the offense looked very good while mixing the pass and the run.  Not Holtzian, but certainly good enough to beat the teams on our schedule save Stanford. The mystery is why Kelly defaulted back to the pass when the play mix was working so well.  Notre Dame performed well when not put in obvious passing downs and poorly when forced into  passing situations.  The difference was stark in terms of yards per play and points.

    Looking back, pass heavy coaches with new quarterbacks seem to always underperform in their first year versus their ultimate ceiling. Norm Chow and Bobby Petrino both went through significant growing pains in their first years at USC/UCLA and Arkansas respectively, at times looking like inept high school coaches. Stoops lost his starting QB last year and struggled to his worst record since he came to Oklahoma.  Texas and Florida are out of the top 20 with new starters and somewhat new offenses.  That the passing offense couldn’t be relied on at this point was obvious.

    What’s frustrating is that Notre Dame could be looking at a BCS game if Kelly had followed through on his plan.  When Crist went down against Michigan, Kelly put in Rees who promptly threw an interception.  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 (which is also a backhanded compliment, btw.)

    Kelly will be able to get the offense going eventually, and it will likely happen in this three game stretch, though it will look more like Texas than Alabama.  Long-term, there is reason for optimism on two fronts: improvement on defense (see El Capitan’s post) and recruiting. Just “green shoots” if you will at this point, but promising and those will be far more important to the long-term success of the program under Kelly. Defense wins championships and while this defense has a long, long way to go, Diaco’s proved solid to date despite being put on the spot time and time again by a struggling offense.  Recruiting (in particular recruiting along the defensive line) has been a surprising bright spot.  If Kelly can hold on to Tuitt and Lynch to pair with Nix, Notre Dame can finally start thinking about putting a defense on the field that has the ability to win a national championship.

    But to keep them, he needs to win now and counting on what has been an unreliable passing attack seems imprudent.  Kelly needs to string together wins against poor competition and then defeat USC and/or Utah. Wins are the only way to erase the losing stench that has permeated the program and to secure the talent needed for an eventual title run.

    56 Responses to ““You can’t W.I.N. unless you run””

    1. Kelly is a system coach. He is hard headed and will force his pass first system on the program.
      Short term, that means more losses that we should have as you point out. Long term, it’s a roadmap to the kind of success he’s had everywhere else.

      Kelly is impatient w/ a short fuse. He doesn’t have the patience for a Holtz style running game. He wants the big play.

      Even w/ that, he’ll probably finish 8-4 and next year step it up to 10-2. A nat. championship is in the
      future if he keeps recruiting as he has been, especially on the D.

    2. This statement:

      What’s frustrating is that the Irish should be looking at a BCS game this year

      frames the rest of the article poorly for me. Nowhere, except in the minds of the most ardent fanboys, were the Irish predicted to go to a BCS bowl this year. This sites own probability poll didn’t even predict that. If they split the USC/Utah games and win the rest of them, I would consider Kelly and Co. to have met or exceeded expectations for the first year.

      You guys usually provide pretty spot on analysis, imo, but I see no correlation to committing to the run and winning for this team. This team has only been able to run thanks to the threat of the run option and pass in the spread. The few times we’ve “lined ’em up and ran at ’em” I haven’t been impressed. Saying that we would’ve succeeded in obvious run situations,against MSU and Michigan, if only we would have chosen to do so, is just conjecture with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight.

      If you want to criticize something in the run department, look to the future. I’m not happy with recruiting the smaller more mobile lineman for the spread that can’t execute the “3 yards and a cloud of dust” type plays. Historically, we’ve been successful recruiting the pro-style offensive lineman, and I wish we would continue to do so.

      • “Historically, we’ve been successful recruiting the pro-style offensive lineman, and I wish we would continue to do so.”

        Steve, how do pro-style offensive lineman help a spread offensive attack? They are two completely different offensive strategies, with different techniques, different goals, different plays. To give an example, look at Robert Hughes. Arguably, he would fit into a pro-style offense well (and did to some extent with Weis). How about now, in a spread offense? He does not fit. His playing time and carries support that.

        There are a lot of players on the offensive side of the ball that do not fit the spread. Yet, as a coach, you have to make them work in the short-term.

        I do not mean to single you out, but it is short-sighted and stubborn to throw a statement out there like you did. Historically, Notre Dame has not run the spread, so your assertion has no backing. If we go back to the Holtz offense, sure I’d agree with you. If we’re talking about Weis, I agree again.

        But when there is a fundamental change in offensive and defensive strategies, historical recruiting types will not fit.

    3. Ray Serafin says:

      It’s ironic that you seem to contrast Kelly with Holtz when in fact Lou began 2-4 in his first season. Three of those early-season losses were by a total of seven points, and I’m sure someone in 1986 pointed out that the team “could have been sitting at 5-1.” But it wasn’t, and this team isn’t, because teams really do need to learn how to win. Changing culture is the hardest thing, and this squad — like 1986 — has a culture of losing. I say give it time.

      • El Kabong says:

        It should also be noted that during that 1986 season when Holtz’s team started 1-4, the only questionable loss was to Pitt 10-9. In addition, they played a top-five Michigan team down to the wire, never punting during the entire game. Contrast that with the questionable opponents to whom Kelly’s team has lost and the fact that they were completely and totally dominated in all facets of the game against the one top-10 team they faced, and it’s clear there are at least a couple differences.

        • El K – it’s sort of disingenuous to suggest Holtz’s first four losses were better than Kelly’s start. Both MSU and Pitt ended the 1986 season unranked. Yes, the 86 ND team may have played UM down to the wire, but the 2010 team played this year’s MSU team down to the wire and they are currently 6-0 and just outside the Top 10 – to me that’s a wash. ND was “dominated” by Stanford this year, but was it really worse than losing to Alabama 28-10? Stanford will probably finish the season around the same ranking as Alabama did in 1986, and the game was in doubt until the 3rd quarter. I think this year’s loss to UM is better than the 1986 loss to Pitt, so what else is there?

          • ND also nearly defeated eventual national champion Penn State, losing 21-19 and almost pulling off the upset late in the 4th qtr. Think ND this year could do that to OSU, Oregon or Alabama? Anything’s possible but I highly doubt it.

        • Ray Serafin says:

          I guess there are different ways to look at it. The ’86 team lost 28-10 to Alabama, a beatdown quite similar to this year’s Stanford game. For the ’86 team, like the 2010 squad, losses to UM and MSU came down to a single play’s difference (which was my point — they didn’t yet know how to win). I will forever believe we would have won the Michigan game this year had Crist not missed so much time — and I suspect Lou’s offesne would have run less smoothly had Beurlein gotten hurt. Also, MSU was not a questionable opponent this year — they have strangled UM and Wisconsin, are ranked No. 11 (not so far from where UM finished in ’86, No. 8). So if your point is that the ’86 team at 2-4 was demonstrably better than this team at 3-3, I respectfully disagree.

          • El Kabong says:

            UM and MSU were better teams in 1986 than this years’ versions. MSU this year has yet to play anyone of substance, so we’ll see where they end up. UM’s defense is truly horrific and they’ll lose at least three more games this year.

            • MSU finished 1986 with a 6-5 record. How is that possibly better than this year’s version?

            • El Kabong says:

              The Big10 they played in that season was a lot stronger than this year’s version

            • Maybe so, but this year’s team has only played UM and Wisconsin so far, and soundly beat both. It’s not like they’ve feasted on the Big Ten dregs (yet) to get to where they are. El K, they finished the season unranked – regardless of how good the Big Ten was, that has to account for something. They just weren’t that good. In retrospect, it was probably a bad loss for ND, just like the Pitt game.

            • Regardless, small nit to an otherwise spot-on article. I really do enjoy reading these, keep up the good work.

            • The Piper says:

              Can’t believe we’re even discussing a team 24yrs ago, but there is no way that MSU was better in ’86 than they are now. The ’86 MSU team lost to a bad Northwestern team and an almost as bad Indiana team. The team with the fewest losses that they beat that year? 5-6 Notre Dame. They weren’t very good. The Big10 mightve been better then (debatable) but MSU definitely wasn’t better.

              Just like ’86 weve lost a tight one to a decent team – MSU. Just like that year we lost a blowout early to a better team – Stanford. Just like that year we lost a game to a team that was poor. What’s amazing about the constant comparisons to ’86 is that everyone says that the USC game told us how good we could be. Well I remember that game, and all it showed was that our kids weren’t giving up. Otherwise, they beat a mediocre USC team that had lost 11 games over 2 yrs.

              The only 2 lessons we can learn from ’86 are that:
              a) You can’t predict anything after YEAR 1.

              b) What made ’86 notable was when they played a weaker opponent, they didnt play down to an opponent…they stepped on em. Well we’re gonna start playing the weaker teams now. Time to show we don’t play down to our opponent.

        • How about the five wins in ’86? Every team had at least five losses: Purdue (3-8), Air Force (5-6), Navy (3-8), SMU (6-5) and USC (7-5). Two of the losses were to 6-5 MSU and 5-5-1 Pitt. Sometimes the nostalgia doesn’t match the reality. Sweet Bobby-D started out 1-4/2-5, and that is the other side of the coin I hope they avoid. Even with the slow starty, heading into the ’98 USC game, Davie had won 14 out of 16 games. Through his ups and downs, Davie never struck me as a good leader, but Holtz seemed like a great leader from the start.

    4. I agree, this articles comes off as whiny and with unrealistic expectations of team that went 3-9, 6-6, 6-6 prior… .. CW went to a BCS bowl year one, and we all know the rest of the story… Also, think folks are unfair to the run/pass mix… if you are really going to make this argument, think in the spread you have to factor in the little shovel passes, quick forward laterals etc… they go in the pass column but are essentially a running play. The o-line is young and have had strength and conditioning for 6 months… give them some time, it will come.
      Let’s go win the Gator Bowl or something equivalent… glad we won’t hit the BCS this year. Championships take some time.
      Armando Allen has done a tremendous job this year… not even mentioned in this article either.. come on, give the boys some due.

      • El Kabong says:

        For the last three years, the team underachieved relative to its record due to poor coaching. That 3-9 team could have won at least three more games with fewer blowouts, and the 6-6 teams could have been 8-4 or better. How is it “unrealistic expectations”, now that the coaching problems reportedly have been corrected, to expect the team to perform better?

        • any middle of the road team can tell itself that it could have won a few more games “if only____”. the 3-9 team was truly pitiful in historic terms for various reasons including the utter lack of depth and experience. everyone wants the team to perform better, and i think they will get better, but mentioning the BCS in any sense suggests the program ought to be right at the top, and it just isn’t there yet.

    5. “I have little doubt that with a commitment to running the ball, Notre Dame would be sitting at 5-1.”

      I assume the one loss you refer to is Stanford. What makes you so sure that we would have had more success than the 461 total yards and 28 points that we had at Michigan St (currently 6-0 and ranked #11 and #13 in the polls). How do you know that we wouldn’t have lost that game 28-17 had we tried harder to establish the run? Shoot, Wisconsin only had 292 yards and Michigan only had 377 yards. Do you really think we would have had more than 28 points that night if we ran more? That was a good defense we played and the strategy that Kelly concocted that night worked very well, all things considered.

      It’s so easy to cherry pick one or two or five plays and say “He should have called a run” but we take for granted all the passing plays that did work successfully. The change in philosophy that you’re calling for wouldn’t have just changed those unsuccessful plays, it would have affected the successful ones as well.

    6. PJ (Michigan) says:

      Does anyone truly believe there is anything meaningful in a comparison of this year’s team to the one that played 24 years ago? Why not Ara’s team of ’64? Seems rather silly.

      Nonetheless, I must admit that in ’86, I had a “feeling” the future was going to be much better. Somehow one could sense the energy and determination in the program.

      Three things bother me this year:

      1. the absence of a reliable, consistent running game, given a stable of talented backs and an improved offensiveline;
      2. the propensity of the defense to give up the big play in every game;
      3. Kelly’s failure to adjust to Stanford’s dropping into 8-man coverage. This should have been corrected at halftime.

      • PJ, forget the 1964 team, I want to go back to 1922 and compare Carnegie Melon to this year’s MSU team. Striking similarities if you ask me. And if you input Carnegie’s final poll ranking into the BCS formula, you’ll arrive at a striking conclusion: NONE OF THIS MATTERS.

        Comparing 1986 to 2010 is worthless, irrelevant and actually boring. Just because something was similar a quarter century ago does not mean it repeats itself. And likewise, just because something is different, does not mean it cannot turn out well.

        All these people grabbing for straws and calculating strength of schedule for MSU in 1986 are funny.

        Just turn the TV to NBC on Saturday and watch the games. Draw your conclusions from there.

        • Ray Serafin says:

          “Holtz didn’t play for the future, he played to win immediately.” It’s the second sentence of the main article. That is a fundamental premise that implies the current coach is not playing to win immediately. Patrick, I’m sorry you are bored by a discussion of 1986, but the original writer invited the comparison. I just think it is way, way too early to draw any firm conclusions about how successful Kelly will be here, just as it would have been absurd to draw conclusions about Holtz after six games.

    7. I don’t agree that this team would have a better record had we run the ball more. I do like and respect Armando Allen and his tough running, but he is just average. He has yet to even break off a big run in his career. This team is where it is due to an inexperienced quarterback in a new system. Add to the fact that this new system is the “spread” as opposed to “pro-style”, which is what Crist had been used to his whole football career.

    8. The one time I was really disappointed we didn’t run the ball was that last offensive drive against Pitt when we crossed mid field, had a 2nd and short and Armando was running really well at the time. Of course it wasn’t Kelly’s fault that Ragone dropped a gimme, but even by Kelly’s own admission Ragone hadn’t played lately and it showed, so if you must throw there why not draw it up for Riddick, Floyd or someone else? But I’m thinking if we’d run the ball just a couple more times there then Pitt has to burn their final timeouts, we get the 1st down and the game is over. Luckily the D stepped up and got us the win anyway but I think Kelly needs to realize that there’s some times when even a spread offense needs to slow down, run the ball a bit more and kill the clock. Having said that I still think we’re knit picking here and by in large Kelly’s done a really good job of playing the hand he’s dealt. On to Western Michigan, go Irish!

      • You make a good point about throwing to someone else in that situation during the Pitt game. On the other hand, if the coach is trying to instill a “next man in” mindset, it means the next man in has to be able to do the job, no excuses. They are all on scholarship. Sometimes, players have to make plays. To me, dropping that pass was all too symbolic of a team that hopes to win instead of believing it will win.

    9. What’s funny are the number of people who believe there is nothing to be learned from a “ancient” football teams that won their big games against big opponents on a suprisingly reliable basis.

      Perhaps there is nothing in those old playbooks that has any value today, but there is a lot to be learned about how coaches add value to win close football games. The clock does not tick differently than it did 20-25 years ago, nor is the field a different length. Touchdowns and field goals still count for 6 and 3 points, respectively.

      Great game-day coaches are masters of using time, field position and situational decision making to make the difference between winning and losing a close game. That has not changed.

      Kelly has added value from Monday through Friday and may indeed get his teams to play at a championship level, but he has made calls that belie a commitment to stylistic tactics over situational strategy.

      As long as the players execute well enough to overcome tough opponents AND tough situations, Kelly will be fine. But he is vulnerable to strong teams with a coach who knows how to avoid difficult situations and create difficult situations for the opponent .

      • A point was made about the “culture of losing”. I did not see the Pitt game, but have watched the others. There needs to be a “culture of winning” that needs to be present even when losing. I do not think we have turned that corner yet.

        It is a great parallel with the 1986 team and the Faust/Holtz transition (which was my sophomore year). I still see sluggish behavior on the field and I cannot understand how that is tolerate. It was not tolerated under Holtz and I am surprised it is tolerated under Kelly. Part of me believes it is not and that, behind the scenes, Kelly is addressing that, but poor play is still visible, even last week. Quick onto the field. Quick into the huddle. Quick after the play. In one sense, this team (and many of Charlie’s, Ty’s and Davie’s teams) seems to be playing at the speed of the 1986 team when the rest of the world is moving in 2010 time.

        To return to the glory days when a National Championship was expected (or at least possible) requires play that exceeds that of other teams and we are definitely not “acting” like champions. There is too much “me” on the field. It reminds me of Florida this year; they are expecting it to just happen, not recognizing that hey are the ones who make it happen. (By the way, I am glad Urban did not come to ND…his arrogance is his own worst enemy…and I say while receiving a paycheck every week from UF). Talent is not a problem. Right now, we need to keep moving forward and not let up. Over the next three weeks, we need to play to a level (against lesser opponents) that makes people take notice. Each win should be bigger than the next, enabling the players to think that winning out is possible. By the time Utah comes around, we should be a much improved team and Kelly needs to make that happen. No penalties. No confusion about formations or coverage. None of the stuff that separates the wheat from the chaff. Discipline and team play. Then we can look at Kelly’s first year (arguable the weakest ND schedule in my lifetime) as a 9-3 (or maybe 8-4) as the turnaround.

        • Check that – I missed the BC game, not the Pitt game.

        • Agreed. Good points all around. Over the next three weeks, we need to play like a team that wants to be champions. Sure, we’ve had two close losses and we could, theoretically, have had a shot at a BCS, but this team isn’t even close to a BCS-looking squad. Boise plays like a team. So do Stanford and Ohio State. Quick on the field, quick in the huddle, quick after the play. We need to stop lollygaggin’ it — and we need to stop with the “me” on the field.

          Football is the ultimate team sport. There’s no room for “me’s” on the field.

    10. “…could be looking at a BCS game if…” I don’t disagree with a lot of what is in this article, but half the teams in the country (or at least those in BCS conferences) can scratch their heads midway through the season and go over a long list of coulda, shoulda, wouldas. ND hasn’t put it all together to compete with the big boys. They have good but not great running backs, and a lot of inexperience on the offensive line and at quarterback. They got smacked in the mouth by a very good Stanford team mostly because Stanford could convert on 3rd down and ND could not. They are a second tier team that play a lot of other second tier teams in close games right now. I think they are headed in the right direction, however.

    11. Perhaps a Pro-Kelly/Anti-Kelly division will be necessary on the football boards (ala the Political/Backroom split). I enjoyed El K’s post regarding biblical interpretations and the discourse many miss because of the separation. I read the Backroom more after the division.

      The swings are so polarized and the discussion of football … often times absent. Personal attacks on posters by poseurs abound with little relevance to substance.

      Maybe I’m too old and reminisce another era of discourse as well, that I can’t compare too.

    12. Am I the only one that sees the spread offense is not suited to the type athletes ND recruits/can get?? Holtz won because he ran it down people’s throats. The Irish haven’t consistently won battles in the trenches – where their players are mostly suited – SINCE the Holtz era. Today, athletes are arguably faster and stronger – and mostly playing in the SEC. Though I had high hopes for Kelly, no matter what he does, the spread works best for the lean and fast. Prepare for more sobering reminders of where college football/society is today. The elite athletes rarely, not never, but rarely, are looking for anything other than what gets them to the NFL. Unfortunately, a Masters Degree now represents an obstacle – not a pathway.

    13. One thing that has not been mentioned was the flip on the o-line moving Martin to RT and putting Romine at LT for the Pitt game. I suspect that while Martin is a stud, he doesn’t know all of the assignments for the the running plays at RT. Therefore for Pitt and pass-blocking at RT he was still effective. Short passes and screens are sort of running plays anyway. What is important are the wins!
      Kelly’s going to pass more than run. Two more catches and better officiating, Pitt would have been a blow out and we would not have to listen to the blowhards. Go Irish! Beat those Cowboys!

    14. I concur with the authors sentiments. Here are my two (big) issues:
      1. as noted, Kelly has stated that you have to run the ball to be successful and has stated that (he believes) they have the tools to do so. Who was the last BCS champ that couldn’t run the ball?
      2. if your qb has a lot to learn in regards to the offense and you are therefore limiting your offense, then a) why do you leave so much of your offense up to the qb and b) by purposely limiting your offense you are, in theory, limiting your ability to win the game.

      Point being, develop a running game. That simple. And, imo, they have shown an ability to gain some yards, keep the defense on its heels, and churn out first downs when they mix the playcalling abit.

      Is it cold in here? Or am I just flipping crazy?

    15. I am in my 70″s and have been a ND FAN since I was little HOWEVER I was very upset at the way ND treated LOU HOLTZ and feel these 13-14 years of ‘bad luck’ the IRISH have had with the new coaches they hired is exactly what ND deserves. Sorry for the students and teams but they also deserve every lost they have experienced for the LOUSY way they treated LOU. They need to get on their knees and repent to him and to us fans and ask the good LORD for MERCY which they didn’t show LOU.

      • Bless you sir. I mingled in the stands with a crowd that felt ol’ Holtz had gone stale and let the game pass him by. But enough is enough. The Hebrews wandered the Sinai for 40 years; surely we’ve had our fill o’ bad cess.

        I want to see more Armando Allen. Hughes should have transferred.

    16. Cutty Sark says:

      I don’t know about others, but I would not want to be in a BCS bowl game with this team unless they look a whole lot better in November. Next time ND is in a BCS game, I want them to be able to win it. It’s not important for Kelly to make a BCS game this year, he just needs to show convincing progress and promise. He is working with players recruited for a different offense. When he gets his own players, then he has to get to a BCS game. I’m confident he will if he is able to get the kids he needs.

      • I’d take competitive CS. Next time we’re in the BCS (or any bowl game), I just want the kids to be competitive. Don’t get me wrong, I want a national championship. But, this squad isn’t quick enough to stay with a BCS team in a BCS setting. They were tight with MSU, who looks good, and they were pretty close to Stanford for awhile, but in the BCS things are different. Pressure is higher. Mistakes are more pronounced. It takes a much better team to win at that level.

    17. ND’s hard part of the schedule is over? Utah, SC and Navy still to play. I predicted 7-5 and will stick with that. Not impressed at all with Kelly so far. We seem to be more of a finesse team than under Charlie. BK’s play calling and clock management are very suspect.

    18. Fenain Fox says:

      What seems omitted by both the article and the bulk of the comments is this: what is the defense doing? The spread offense forces you to make decisions – press the box or drop in coverage. The question is whether we have responded appropriately to what the defense has done. Our passing game has not forced a coverage approach and opened up the box. When we get in 3rd and long, we allow the defense to make us one dimensional and have trouble. Stanford did an excellent job of masking whether they were packing the box or dropping so that we were consistently rolling the dice and inadvertently throwing into stacked coverage. It would be a lot more hard headed in a spread offense to focus only on the run pass percentages than to respond appropriately to the defense and keep them off balance.

    19. I personally think it is far too early in Kelly’s ND coaching career to start sniping, nit-picking and criticizing. Ever game there is growth and improvement on both sides of the ball and that is what I am looking for. Willingham started 8-0 and Weis got off to a great run his first two years but neither really built a program. TW couldn’t or wouldn’t recruit after his first year and Weis didn’t develop a team attitude. “I’ll show you how to get to the NFL,” does not help build a successful college program. No, I would rather this develop at the pace Kelly is moving, not baby steps but incrementally as the attitude is changed and player learn the offense, defense and expectations.
      I have been a ND fan and follower since 1965 and also ling for a return to national prominence but I realize that the last three (four if you count O’Leary) have caused our proud program to struggle. Those years of mediocrity will not be erased overnight so let’s try to be patient and give Kelly at least a full season or two before dissecting his performance. Shoot, we gave Weis a pass for almost two years, (his 3rd and 4th) blaming losses on TW’s horrible recruiting.

    20. I would rather score, than run only and not score. In today’s game you have to do both to win. If you think we’ll be able to line up and just run over everyone you’re wrong. We can probably do that to a lot of the teams on the schedule but not the good teams.

      Who were the toughest teams we’ve played this year? Teams that could do both?????

    21. In this system the QB must be able to run. God bless Dane but I think I could beat him in a 50 yard dash.

    22. BCS game this year??? Not with this scheme. The play-calling and offensive scheme might produce victories against inferior opponents but certainly not against the likes of the BCS-caliber teams. Strong running games is what made ND so successful under Holtz. Kelly can’t give-up on the running attack so quickly. Those quick series due to three incompletions are taking a toll on the ND defense, exhausting their energy and giving opponents more opportunities to score.

      Also question the 3-4 defense. Against Michigan, MS and Stanford, the line was getting manhandled.

    23. For the most part, I agree with the article. I think we need to be running the ball more especially with Allen running better than I’ve ever seen him. The HB option draw (where Crist can either hand to Allen running one way, or take it himself the other) seems to net solid yardage every time and seems like a very well designed bit of misdirection.

      On the other hand, I thoroughly disagree that running more against MSU was the difference between winning and losing. My roommate is an MSU grad and I watched MSU beat Wisconsin soundly. UW has a solid power rushing offense and their offense was worse than ours in almost every way. I’ll enumerate.
      1. Wisc had half a yard less yard per play than ND, 5.7 to 5.2
      2. despite rush/pass of 31/25 (which seems to be the ND nation preference), managed to lose TOP 23:30/36:30 vs ND going 25:30/34:30 with rush/pass 26/55
      3. We shot ourselves in the foot with 30 yards more penalties and 3 TO vs Wisc 0 TO.

      At the end of the game, Wisc had no chance. Their receivers couldn’t hang onto the ball and their fairly successful running game couldn’t cut it. They lost by 10 and weren’t within a score with the ball once in the second half. At the end of our game, we got beat when MSU pulled the equivalent of a gutshot straight on the river. Should we have put them away before that? I wish, but still, on the last play of the game, the house money was on us to win.

    24. I think you’re overlooking the importance of the quarterback to the running game. After Crist got injured against Michigan he has all but been eliminated from the running game. In Kelly’s spread the quarterback has to be a read option running threat for the running game to operate at a high level. Remove this from the equation and the coach hasn’t much choice except to throw more.

    25. Let’s talk about that running game. Seriously, when was the last time you saw a ND running back take a hand off or a pitch and run 60-90 yards for a TD. I ‘m really curious as to who/when it was. On another note, I think ND is better than their record shows. I know they didn’t but they could’ve easily won against Michigan and MSU. Stanford was clearly better, at least on that game day. I wish they would’ve had 4-6 weeks to prepare for Denard Robinson like some of these other teams. He was the difference in that game. They have the ability to be a GOOD, not GREAT team. The pieces aren’t all there yet. More team speed is needed particularly on defense. It never hurts to have a “gamebreaker” on the offense either.

      • The answer is Julius Jones, 2003. He had one of the top rushing seasons ever by an ND running back that season. And look where that got us.

    26. Before they can run, they have to have some good backs. Allen and Gray are banged up – Wood was fumbling the ball and tentative – up to the W. Michigan game. The coach knows they need to run, but they need to have healthy backs to do it. They get healthy, things will change !!

    27. Cardinal John Newman says:

      Good article. I woould love to see us establish a system that is centered upon the run. Im not a big fan of the spread. That said, I know the current staff has a very opposite approach, which is fine. I believe in Coach Kelly, and we definitely have to give the guy some time to establish his system with his players before drawing any up/down conclusions. That all said, personally I love to watch a grind it out, beat the crap out of you with power running and long sustained drives (like Holtz did). Most may say the concept is outdated in today’s game, but look at a team like Wisconsin…or Stanford. I have no love for either program but I find myself saying, “I wish that’s how we would do it.”

      • See my earlier post about how Wisconsin’s power rushing offense performed against MSU. The grass is always greener…

    28. What I don’t comprehend from this article is the premise that weighting the playcalling in favor of the passing game means he’s not trying to win now. Really? I feel that trying to win now is exactly what he’s doing. Kelly inherited arguably the best pass catching WR in Michael Floyd. He inherited arguably the best pass catching TE in Kyle Rudolph. He inherited a 5-star quarterback in his 3rd year in the program. He inherited an offensive line that apparently has been trained to be more proficient in pass blocking than run blocking – or at least that’s where they’ve had more success the previous 2 years.

      I can see someone making the argument that he’s trying too hard to win now – trying to max out the first year results a la Ty or Weis at the expense of putting together the building blocks for longer term success. I don’t think that’s what he’s doing, but I could take that argument seriously. No disrespect intended, but I just can’t take seriously an argument that a pass-heavy offense indicates he’s not trying to win now. Or maybe it just needs to be explained to me more clearly.


    30. Joe Schulz says:

      The spread, the pass, is the NOW of football. You see it in high school, college and the pros. The reasons are obvious:
      1. Aggressive defenses, defenses that stop you for a loss, sometimes a big loss, mean that “3 yards and a cloud of dust” won’t get you a first down and certainly won’t lead to long drives that regularly leads to touchdowns. The standard for success has changed from 3 1/3 yards a play to 5 or more yards a play. Most offenses won’t get you that running. The game has become touch football where quick receivers and a quick release get you scores and wins.
      2. The rules have changed to allow blockers to use their hands. This “new” technique works because it can stop the pass rush. But blocking with your hands doesn’t drive linebackers out of the hole. The spread has a running attack because it requires more pass defenders (fewer run defenders) and it spreads out those defenders. Like in a punt return the quick, strong runner can pick his way to big gains.
      3. Recruiting has changed. Commitment to the run requires that you have both better, bigger, stronger and tougher, linemen than your opponents and virtually no passing attack. Recruiting to meet those requirements, in today’s world, is an impossibility. Notre Dame and Michigan no longer have dominance over the recruiting process. When the NFL went pass happy, to appease its new, less knowledgable fans, it doomed colleges that did not change with them. The top athletes, those that see the NFL in their future, are NOT looking for a pound it out team. The only teams that still have big run stats are the triple option ones.
      Personally, I love the running game. I love pound it out football. But, unfortunately, it is long past our time. The single wing is gone. The power sweep is gone. If you don’t like touch/flag football in helmets and shoulder pads, you are out of luck. Kelly is clearly one of the very best of the new breed. Let the memory of the crunch of a blocker’s shoulder pads fade. You will hear it only on the defensive side of the game. Kelly’s methods will make Notre Dame into a winner again. It won’t be the the thrill of total dominance that an unstoppable running attack provides. But, it will lead to wins and wins and wins. Nothing succeeds like success.

    31. Last year Ian Williams after the Navy loss said, “We were outcoached.” The team subsequently quit losing the rest of their games. Did Notre Dame get outcoached today against Navy?

      I believe Brian Kelly is a system coach and NOT a game day college coach. I’ll give you a few glaring examples. The first was that decision to go for it from the 2 yard line after Montana completed the play in the last few seconds of the 1st half against Michigan. Kick the field goal! Not because of later events, but because you want momentum going into halftime. Today (against Navy) forcing a late drive from inside the 5-yard line and ultimately leading to an interception and a subsequently leading to a 21-10 halftime deficit and a huge change of momentum. I won’t even discuss the wisdom of going for a 4th and 1 on your own 42 yard (or so) line with 6 minutes to go in the 4th quarter of a tie game against Michigan State.

      A head football coach has to make sure he manages situations in the best interests of his football team putting them into the best possible position to win games. This is not about not having your type of guys here yet; this is about giving the guys you got a chance to win.

    32. DentiteUSN says:

      BK is a good coach at the smaller level. What everyone forgets is that at Cincy he had Dantonio’s kids running his plays. Kelly is not a stone to which you build a program, unless it’s a FCS or small time FBS, he’s just not ready for the bigtime. He wanted the Minny job for goodness sake!! We need a bigtime coach who has shown an ability to build something from nothing. MSU had a great hire in Dantonio, we need someone who has built something from nothing. With the talent & resources of ND it should work.