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Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 6 of 55 OCT. 7, 2019 7 UNDER THE DOME what Kelly described as a sprained toe that became labeled "turf toe." Smith, who scored two touchdowns at Louis- ville, was listed as "probable" for the Virginia game played Sept. 28. How- ever, like with hamstring injuries, there can sometimes be lingering effects. • Former running back recruits Deon McIntosh (2016) and C.J. Holmes (2017) found themselves in- volved in off-the-field matters that resulted in their transfers to Washing- ton State and Penn State, respectively. • Revered rightfully so as one of Notre Dame's all-time greats and the school's all-time leading rusher, former Fighting Irish running backs coach Autry Denson (2015-18) — now the head coach at Charleston Southern — was not renowned as a strong recruiter for his position group. The two Irish running backs currently in the NFL, Josh Adams and Dexter Williams, were recruited by predecessor Tony Alford. That is part of why receiver recruit Armstrong and quarterback recruit Avery Davis, switched back to run- ning back after playing cornerback this spring, have had to move to the position. Freshman Kyren Williams and sophomore C'Bo Flemister also are attempting to work their way into the rotation. Senior Tony Jones Jr. (nine carries for 21 yards at Georgia) is the team's most complete back, but is consid- ered more of a complementary figure than a primary one. • Speed toward the edge is not a current strength, so to compensate the Irish have run jet sweeps/shovel passes with receivers such as fifth- year senior Chris Finke, sophomore Lawrence Keys III and sophomore Braden Lenzy, as well as Davis ver- sus New Mexico. Consequently, the running game was more about damage control much of September before Arm- strong and Smith return. However, it was quite laudable that Notre Dame did not yield a quarterback sack at Georgia while quarterback Ian Book went back to pass 47 times. "When you put that much pres- sure on your offensive line and [op- ponents] know you're throwing the football, that's a pretty good job with the group up front in sorting things out," Kelly said. The 2019 Notre Dame offense wasn't going to be the 2017 version that finished seventh nationally with 269.5 rushing yards per game. That unit had three factors going for it to have a running identity. One was that two of the offensive linemen — left guard Quenton Nel- son and left tackle Mike McGlinchey — were the No. 6 and No. 9 selec- tions in the NFL Draft the following spring. Two was that both Adams and Wil- liams were in the backfield. Third was that the quarterback, Brandon Wimbush, also was quite often more of a running threat than a passer. He finished with 804 rush- ing yards (5.7 yards per carry) and a single-season quarterback school- record 14 touchdowns. Yet even that year Notre Dame managed only 55 rushing yards (37 carries) in another close loss to Georgia (20-19) before finishing 10-3. Be that as it may, Notre Dame can- not continue to be a rushing team in the double digits (less than 100 yards) while aspiring toward achiev- ing championship level performance. Four of the top five teams in the Sept. 22 Associated Press poll aver- aged between 247 to 324 rushing yards per game, while the Irish were No. 85 at 144.3 and 4.61 yards per carry. "We're going to have to keep people honest," Kelly said. "I don't know that we're always going to run it 50 times, but we're going to have to display a running game that keeps a defense honest. That's the most im- portant thing right now as we con- tinue to work toward getting guys some help here. "Jahmir will definitely help, and then trying to get these younger guys up to a point where we can keep them in the game for a more extended period of time along with, of course, Tony. "We know where we need to be in terms of what the running game needs to look like, but it's going to take some time until we get all of the assets back into place." ✦ The Silent Treatment Running game woes aside, the greatest disappointment on offense in Notre Dame's hard-fought 23-17 defeat at No. 3 Georgia was getting whistled for six false start penal- ties on offense. In excessively loud conditions at an op- posing stadium, which Notre Dame faced at Georgia, a "silent count" is employed by the offense at the line of scrimmage. A silent count revolves on snapping the ball based on a movement from one of the inte- rior linemen, such as a head bob or a tap on the center's knee from a guard. So rather than the quarterback vocalizing the count that might not be heard in loud conditions, the ca- dence and the snap will be based on visuals. Most of the time, senior quarterback Ian Book uses a clapping motion to cue the rest of the offense. When he went back to clapping his hands against Georgia, it created confu- sion numerous times among the linemen or tight end Cole Kmet. "We used silent count all week," head coach Brian Kelly said of preparing for the noise at Georgia. "We had our Saturday walk through and we went 15 minutes of silent cadence. "Unfortunately, in the moment of the game, [Book] just went back to muscle memory and what he had done so much [with clap signals]. … We'll have to work on it and clean it up." The numerous false-start calls on offense hindered momentum and rhythm. "I'm sick about it," Kelly said. "I have been a head coach for 29 years. I know better to be quite honest with you. We didn't spend enough time, obviously. I thought I did. I made a terrible miscalculation in that I felt like our quarterback was prepared, but he wasn't. "… That falls on my shoulders. I have to do a better job. We'll make sure that never happens again. — Lou Somogyi Head coach Brian Kelly said that he miscalculated on the team's preparations to use a silent count to deal with the crowd noise at Georgia. "We didn't spend enough time, obviously," he said. "… That falls on my shoulders." PHOTO BY KEN WARD/WPG

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