One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

ANN ARBOR, MI ( – The Notre Dame offense has been on the field for 176 plays this season and so far those plays have produced just 345 yards of offense and zero touchdowns. The young Irish offense has shown glimpses, albeit very brief, of moving the ball, but with each step forward this offense takes, they follow it with two steps back due in large part to a complete lack of offensive identity.

The past two years Charlie Weis has run a traditional pro-style offense at Notre Dame, but so far this year his offense has been a grab bag of gimmick plays and borrowed offensive philosophies and Saturday was a perfect example.

The past two weeks teams have had success with the direct snap out of the shot gun against the Irish and Wolverines so Weis tried to implement this in the Notre Dame offense and opened the game with the same play. The result was a snap over the head of Armando Allen which pushed the Irish back to the one yard line.

One could argue that a 5th year senior should not make such a mistake, but the root of the problem is that Weis is simply trying to do too much with a young and inexperienced offense. Instead of focusing on what this unit can do well, he’s been trying to scheme around his opponents weaknesses while ignoring his own team’s shortcomings.

When the Irish ran some of the traditional plays we are used to seeing under Weis, the offense showed signs of a pulse, but as has been the case all season, any modicum of success was followed up by an array of mental errors, poor fundamentals, and terrible execution – all of which were simply eaten up by a Michigan defense hungry to prove its worth.

Notre Dame’s opening drive of the second half is a prime example of this. After converting a 3rd and 5 with a seven yard pass to John Carlson, the Irish faced another makeable third down from five yards out. On the play, Eric Olsen and Sam Young both went to block the same Michigan defender and Clausen ended up eating dirt before he could even get set.

Or how about the first time Notre Dame reached Michigan territory? Down 10-0 at this point, a six yard completion to John Carlson gave the Irish a first down at the Michigan 46. Another errant snap out of the shotgun was recovered by Allen back at the Notre Dame 40 for a loss of 16 yards. The Irish didn’t reach Michigan territory again until late in the 3rd quarter.

In his post game remarks Weis announced the Irish would be going back to training camp Sunday instead of having a film study and admitted that right now he’s trying to do too much with an offense that isn’t doing anything right.

“I think what I really need to do is start going about finding a way to fix the problem, rather than try to just try x’s and o’s, and technique, and do something different each week. I think the only way I know is by going back to work and that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” Weis told the media after the loss.

Doing something different each week is exactly what the Irish have done and the result has been a confused offensive line and an offensive unit that has been stuck in reverse.

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