Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct 9, 2021

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

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Page 17 of 55

18 OCT. 9, 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY TODD D. BURLAGE N otre Dame graduate student Josh Lugg was blunt and obviously irritated a couple of weeks ago when he was asked about his per- sonal struggles at right offensive tackle and the underwhelming performance of the Irish offensive line as a whole. "We don't need someone to tell us to play better," Lugg said, before the Wisconsin game … and, apparently it wouldn't have mattered if anyone did. In a defensively dominated 41-13 Irish win over the Badgers, Notre Dame al- lowed six sacks and managed three net rushing yards. The rushing output — admittedly against the nation's No. 1 rushing defense — marked the lowest single-game total in Brian Kelly's 12 seasons as Irish head coach, and a robust 29 yards fewer than his previ- ous low of 32 yards against Alabama in the 2012 BCS National Championship Game. For more futility figures, the three rushing yards were only 15 more than Notre Dame's all-time low-end rush- ing record of minus-12 yards set against Michigan State in 1965. A veteran right side duo that was ex- pected to be fortified when 2020 sec- ond-team All-American Cain Madden transferred from Marshall to start at guard alongside Lugg at tackle (11 ap- pearances and three starts in 2020) has self-admittedly underperformed. This, while left tackle continuity is dis- rupted by injuries and inexperience at the same time junior Zeke Correll is making a rough transition from playing center last season to starting at left guard in 2021. In what feels like an ongoing audition, three players — freshman Blake Fisher, sophomores Michael Carmody and Tosh Baker — have all made their first career starts this season at the all-important left tackle position, and even freshman Joe Alt has spent time playing there. The tackle shuffle was necessitated after Fisher, the opening-day starter, needed surgery to repair the meniscus injury he suffered against Florida State in his first career game. Fisher was ex- pected to be sidelined for six to eight weeks, but head coach Brian Kelly noted prior to the matchup against Cincinnati that the injury could keep him sidelined for the remainder of the season. Kelly conceded that patience with these four young linemen should remain a virtue within a fan base that perenni- ally has no time to wait. "We are transitioning on the offensive line," Kelly said, "but we are so excited about the young players and the veter- A WORK IN PROGRESS Early season struggles along the Irish offensive line remain a concern and a point of emphasis for improvement

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