Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 16, 2015 Issue

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

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IN THE TRENCHES ANDREW OWENS a 57.6-percent rate of scoring touch- downs in the red zone and left with a 62.2-percent mark. It's still not an overall strength for the Irish, but it won't matter how the first eight games went if Notre Dame has found its groove near the end zone. "We put a little more emphasis in practice on getting down there and making sure we're coming out with some points," sophomore quarterback DeShone Kizer said. "I made sure I was going to make some better deci- sions down there, unlike Temple. "We had ourselves in the right pro- tections and the right line calls when we needed them. When you get down there and put up points, it allows you to have a sense of confidence for the next time you're down there. Our game plan was perfect, and we were able to execute." In four trips to the red zone against Pittsburgh, Notre Dame ran 12 plays for a total of 63 yards. Two scores came through the air, and two on the ground. Even without senior running back C.J. Prosise, the Irish managed balance to ensure that those posses- sions ended with six points. "It's not necessarily that we wanted to improve anything down there, it's just executing what was called," Kizer said. "We had a great game plan against Temple. I made some bad deci- sions, and we had two turnovers in the red zone. It's not like the game plan was bad. We didn't have to adjust how we went about it. It's just executing what we have called. "We put a little more emphasis on it in practice to make sure when we're down there that we're going to be on our P's and Q's, and executing our as- signments the best we can and making good decisions." If Notre Dame has fixed its red zone issues — and one game doesn't prove it has solved them for the rest of the season — it becomes that much more dangerous of an offense and an even tougher draw for opponents the rest of the way. It's sometimes difficult to find flaws in a team ranked No. 5 in the College Football Playoff selection committee's first rankings, but the Irish fell short of complete performances in seven consecutive games, with the 38-3 win against Texas in the opener and the Pittsburgh win serving as the bookends. "We went 1-0 this week," said Kizer, cautious to praise his squad too much. "We know if we continue to go 1-0, there's something that could end up happening. Until then, we're going to go out and try to get these seniors a win in their last home game and prepare for another good team and continue to play out this great sched- ule we have at Notre Dame." Irish fans will discuss all kinds of playoff scenarios these next few weeks, but the top priority should be for Notre Dame to soundly beat a pair of three-win teams in Wake Forest and Boston College before traveling west to Stanford. To do so, it will need to continue producing in the red zone. ✦ Andrew Owens has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since August 2013. He can be reached at

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