Things for Notre Dame Football to Work On During The Bye Week

At the halfway point of the 2021 regular season, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have compiled a 5-1 record as they head into their badly-needed bye week. While the record looks impressive, three of those wins came either in overtime or with furious fourth-quarter rallies that very easily could instead have saddled the Irish with a 2-4 record.

To be fair, there have been some standouts on both sides of the ball, including tight end Michael Mayer and defensive end Isaiah Foskey. Yet, the precarious nature of the majority of Notre Dame’s wins this season show that there are plenty of kinks that need to be smoothed out over the final six regular-season matchups

Below are five things that the Irish need to work on during their brief time off:

Getting Things Started Earlier

For whatever reason, Notre Dame has struggled during the opening quarter this season. That might seem odd when recalling that the opening drive of the season witnessed the Irish waltzing down the field in five plays to take an early 7-0 lead over Florida State. Six days later, a six-play drive to start the game against Toledo also resulted in a touchdown.

However, since then, Notre Dame has been kept scoreless during the opening 15 minutes. In those contests, a trio of three-and-outs and a goal-line interception have marked the opening drive of the game. Gaining the early momentum would likely help avoid the nerve-wracking need to mount the fourth-quarter comebacks that were required against Toledo and Virginia Tech.

Ending the Quarterback Inconsistency

The revolving door of Notre Dame quarterbacks during the first six games is not a good look for a team looking to challenge for a national championship. Jack Coan was in charge in his debut against Florida State but has struggled enough at times since then to be replaced by either Tyler Buchner or Drew Pyne.

The two times that an Irish quarterback has been replaced because of injury, the team has rallied to pick up wins against Wisconsin and Virginia Tech. Continually trying to shake a team from the doldrums with a new quarterback is hardly a strategy for success, so getting consistent play behind center is a key issue moving forward.

Making the Offensive Line Less Offensive

Over the past two games, the Notre Dame offensive line has shown improvement when it comes to giving up sacks, though any uptick would have been noteworthy. That’s because Irish quarterbacks were sacked an average of five times per game in the first four contests, largely due to a rebuilt line that was still in the development phase.

Besides not giving the team’s signal-callers enough time to throw, Notre Dame’s line struggles have also had an impact on the limited success of the running game. Injuries have caused some of the issues, but finding the most effective five-man unit over the next few weeks needs to be a priority,

Continuing to Limit Opposing Red Zone Success

While Notre Dame’s opponents are putting points on the board at an 83 percent clip once they reach the red zone, the Irish defenders are having better success when it comes to keeping them out of the end zone. At the midway juncture, Notre Dame’s foes have only scored touchdowns 42 percent of the time after reaching the Notre Dame 20. That’s after those teams broke the 50 percent threshold in each of the past three seasons.

Of course, stopping those foes from getting to the red zone would be the ideal situation. That could happen, though a more likely scenario that would benefit Notre Dame would simply be to hold their opponents to a field goal, if possible. That’s giving the Irish offense a four-point cushion that could come in handy, especially if Brian Kelly’s squad continues to flirt with danger in close games.

Developing a Broader Running Game

The Irish running game saw its biggest output of the season against Virginia Tech, gaining 173 yards on the night. Whether that’s finally the wake-up call this unit needed or simply another aberration is still an open question. However, this is an area that needs to establish some consistency in the second half, especially with the weather inevitably getting more sketchy as the season goes on.

Kyren Williams has yet to deliver the type of eye-popping performance he did last year. Some of that might be attributed to the early chaos on the offensive line, but the Irish ground game as a whole has struggled to give Williams help. Tyler Buchner is the team’s second-leading rusher, but Notre Dame shouldn’t have to rely on a reserve quarterback to pick up yardage. More production from Chris Tyree and more touches for players like Logan Diggs could make this happen.

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  1. Actually David, defer or not should be related to wind direction, and also potential matches between our O and their D, and vice versa. Kicking off to a team then shutting them down and receiving their punt on the 40 yl and hardly “for losers”.
    BTW: the 8-4boys are wrong again as they have been EVERY year since the 2016 outlier year. Well, at least you guys are consistent!
    Cincinattii not only knocked us out of the Playoffs…they also took a spot from
    some Conference champ. Please expand the number of slots to 8. Thank you.
    BGC 77 82

  2. Very true. Kelly needs to get rid of Quinn and Del. Too many hit and misses in recruiting and not developing players. Also Kelly wont do what Ogeron and James Franklin did. He wont bring in a great coordinator and pair him up with Tommy. As a Notredame fan its disappointing watching Alabamas, Ohio States,Oklahomas,Georgia’s offenses score at will every week and Notredames offense look so inept with supposed 4 and 5 star talent

  3. Its sure not rocket science. Oklahoma’s offense struggles against Texas, Lincoln Riley inserts 5 star freshman Caleb William’s and now their offense can score every time they get the ball. It’s very simple for Notredame, recruit and develop a true 5 star quarterback or Noyredame will continue to lose against the big boysAlabama,Ohio Syate,Georgia,Clemson,etc. As fans we have to hope Buchner is that guy. It’s hard to know for sure about these high school quarterbacks.Some live up to the hype, some dont, some 3 stars are great, Mac Jones,Baker Mayfield,etc.. Some 5 stars are busts Ron Powlus, Blake Barnett, etc

    1. …and Steston Bennett is a walk-on at Georgia.
      Good programs coach kids up.
      Riley and Smart run really good programs.

      Brian Kelly destroys ND QBs. For 12 years. On a day-to-day basis.

  4. Just watched Purdue, with three QBs, blow Iowa out @ Iowa today.
    Great run D’ forced IOwa to be one-dimensional, forced to pass, and led to 4 INTs,
    showing ND you can win with using more than one QB, but like Purdue, whomever the QB. cannot lead to predictability (Buchner is in, so ND is going to run unless it’s third down . . . if Coan is in, he’ll either hand-off or throw, eliminating any RPO unpredictability). To be fair, last week vs. VaTech, the O’ scheme finally opened it up more when Buchner played. But with an OL struggling, unpredictability must become your O’ scheme’s best friend. Versus SC, NC, and @ VA up next, ND will need to score earlier and more often, and greater unpredictability in their O’ game planning will go a long way toward making that kind of scoring happen.

  5. 1) red zone efficiency
    2) clock management
    3) delay of game situations, wasting timeouts
    4) introduce some modest creativity into the offense; eg. a screen pass, any sort.
    5) On the coin toss….defer.

    Chronic issues Brian Kelly has been bungling for 10 years.

      1. Sure. 3-and-out, baby! Deferring is for losers!

        But fine….replace it with:
        5a) chasing 2 points with more than 25 minutes left…
        5b) …..often by running the ball out of the shotgun.

  6. Lots of commentary on things that we already know, waste of time writing it and reading it. How about some investigative reporting? Start with why BK appears to just dismiss Drew Pyne as an option at QB. Start Buchner, gets dinged or starts throwing to the wrong team, put Pyne in. Down a FG, TD, with little time on clock, use Coan. Coan cannot stay in pocket over 3 secs w/o getting sacked, however he is way more accurate than other two. Quick hits on crossing and out routes. Proven he can do that.

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