Blue and Gold Illustrated

January 2015

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

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Page 113 of 115

THE FIFTH QUARTER LOU SOMOGYI shuffle its line three games into the sea‑ son was a red flag that something was amiss, but four elements specifically prompt Kelly's disappointment: Turnovers — Among 125 Football Bowl Subdivision teams, Notre Dame was tied for 107th in the nation for the most turnovers committed with 26. It isn't the most in the Kelly era with one more game to go (that mark is 29 during the 8‑5 campaign in 2011), but the Irish had only 17 last year and 15 during the 12‑1 run in 2012. Playoff participant Oregon commit‑ ted the fewest this past regular season with eight in 13 games. That provides some insight on how quarterback Mar‑ cus Mariota won the Heisman Trophy. Sacks — Last year's pass protection was the best I had ever seen in 43 years of watching the program, and some of it could be attributed to quarterback Tommy Rees calling the right protec‑ tions in pre‑snap reads. The Irish al‑ lowed only eight sacks to finish second nationally in that category. This year, the rank plummeted to 84th with 28 sacks permitted (2.33 per game), some on the line and some on Golson for holding on to the ball too long. Red-Zone Scoring — This has been a consistent bane for Kelly and Co., rank‑ ing generally in the 70s, including 77th last season and 78th this year. The touch‑ down percentage did increase from 48.3 percent last year to a much better 64.1 percent in 2014, but coming away with zero points 11 times inside the oppo‑ nent's 20‑yard line often can contribute to two or three defeats — and did. Playoff participant Florida State ac‑ tually committed more turnovers (27) than Notre Dame, but it compensated by finishing sixth nationally in red‑zone offense. Rushing Offense — Generally, we like to use the 200‑yard mark as a base line, and even in today's pass‑oriented attacks, seven of the final top eight teams (FSU the exception) ranked by the playoff committee averaged more than 200 rushing yards. Screen passes in Kelly's offense can be viewed as "ex‑ tended handoffs," though it won't show up that way on the stat sheet. Since 2002, the Irish have been la‑ beled — fairly or unfairly — as more of a finesse team, averaging 141.3 yards rushing under head coach Tyrone Will‑ ingham from 2002‑04, 117.2 with Charlie Weis from 2005‑09, and 151 under Kelly, including 151.3 last year with Rees and 150.8 this season (81st nationally) with Golson. During the 12‑0 regular season in 2012, Notre Dame did average 202 rush‑ ing yards, and was protected by a su‑ perb defense. It's not a coincidence the two were connected. This remains the most polarizing aspect of the Kelly era in the way of achieving what is emphasized on of‑ fense. Notre Dame has a limited selec‑ tion of running plays because the bread and butter is the pass. In a year when dubious data over‑ flowed on defense, Kelly took more offense to the other side on the line of scrimmage. ✦ Senior Editor Lou Somogyi has been at Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 1985. He can be reached at

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