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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame Offense Looking for Answers Ahead of Rose Bowl

December 21, 2020

No. 4 Notre Dame will meet No. 1 Alabama in the Rose Bowl and the Irish have a few kinks to iron out before the trip to Dallas. 

Clemson got the best of the Notre Dame offense and held the Irish to just 263 yards of total offense. 

Ian Book was sacked six times and Kyren Williams managed 50 yards on 15 carries. 

"We have a really good football team," Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly said on Sunday. "We didn't play up to our capabilities (Saturday). Clemson played very, very well. We didn't play with the same edge. We didn't play the same kind of tenacity necessary in a championship game. That's on me. I've got to get our team to play better in that moment. 

"There wasn't this gap of physicality that had been there in the past. We've got to play with a higher level of urgency. We've got to have guys step up and make plays. Playmakers have to make plays. Clemson stepped up and made plays. We just didn't make enough plays." 

18 touches for Williams sounds about right. Tommy Rees could likely do a little more with him in the passing game, but it's also fair to say Williams is needed for pass pro at times, especially when the offense is breaking in a new center. 

Michael Mayer had five catches on six targets. Ben Skowronek caught four passes on four targets. Javon McKinley had three receptions on six targets. Tommy Tremble caught two balls on four targets and Avery Davis had two receptions on three targets. 

All in all, it's probably a good ratio, but the explosive plays weren't there. The deep shots to McKinley were eliminated, as were the classic crossing routes Notre Dame has hit over the last few years. 

Now, Notre Dame could probably help itself by getting some of its explosive players on the field. 

Speedsters Lawrence Keys III and Braden Lenzy, along with Joe Wilkins Jr., did not take a snap on Saturday. As I mentioned yesterday in Sunday Reflections, they don't need to play 20 snaps, but the threat of speed can open the field for other players. 

The power sets have worked all year and that's going to be Notre Dame's bread and butter. However, Notre Dame still needs to get speed on the field at times. If that means going four-wide at times, so be it. Tommy Tremble or Michael Mayer could even be flexed out if that makes the tight end crowd feel better. 

Chris Tyree showed off what speed can do as his only rush went for a 21-yard touchdown. 

Rees doesn't have to change the offense, but playing more than three receivers and getting the ball in Tyree’s hands a few more times seems like a start. 

The next step for Notre Dame is to figure out the center position. Josh Lugg isn't a center by trade, so it's not his fault and he deserves credit for stepping into a tough spot. Zeke Correll is a center and his health will be crucial over the next 10 days. He was dressed and looked to be moving well during warmups, but that's also not blocking a 300-pounder in front of him. 

"Moving forward, we'll continue to make that a competitive situation," stated Kelly. "I would not say right now after watching the film that Josh had a subpar game at all. There were a number of different breakdowns from the running back position to any singular player on the offensive line. 

"Josh would not be the guy that we would single out and say we were ineffective because Josh Lugg did not play well. Having said that, they'll be competitive reps for him and Zeke (Correll) at the center position."

Alabama's defense is big, athletic, fast and undisciplined. There will be chances to move the ball and run the ball. The center position playing well can make all the difference.

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