Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 17, 2016

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

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6 OCT. 17, 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY MATT JONES N otre Dame's offensive imbalance is not a cause for concern to head coach Brian Kelly. The points speak for themselves, and so does the yardage. And with a possible future first-round NFL Draft pick at quarterback, there were bigger items to worry about during Notre Dame's 2-3 start to the season. "We're averaging 500 yards a game and 40 points a game," Kelly said. "I don't know how to answer the ques- tion other than it's a give and take for our offense based upon how teams are playing us. "If I was to stand here in front of you at the start of the season and say, 'Hey, we're going into the sixth game and averaging 40 points a game,' I probably would take it and 500 yards in offense." Through five weeks, Notre Dame ranked 30th nationally in scoring of- fense (39.8 points per game), 15th in passing offense (327.8 yards per game) and 74th in rushing offense (167.6 yards a contest). In total of- fense, the Irish ranked 23rd at 495.4 yards per game. But it's how the Irish are racking up those yards — even at a record clip — that has some concerned about the sustainability of those numbers. During his previous six seasons in South Bend, Kelly's teams have accumulated about 60.1 percent of their yards through the air. The only season under Kelly in which the Irish threw the ball more was 2010 — his first with the team — when Notre Dame had 66.6 percent of its yardage come via the pass. At 327.8 passing yards per game, the Irish are on track to throw for 4,261 yards this season, which would easily eclipse the previous season high of 3,711 under Kelly set in 2014. The all-time Notre Dame single- season passing yardage record is 3,963, set in 2005 with All-American Brady Quinn at quarterback. "I've always wanted to throw it equally as well as running, but if you let us throw the football all over the field we're going to throw it and we won't run it as much," Kelly said. The opportunity was there against Syracuse to throw for even more yardage. Kizer nearly found fresh- man wide receiver Kevin Stepherson and sophomore wide receiver Equa- nimeous St. Brown for what would have been two other touchdowns of greater than 50 yards. That performance led to Kizer be- ing critical of himself afterwards, stating that there were many more opportunities left out on the field, even after torching the Syracuse de- fense for a career-high 471 yards and four touchdowns. "This is the sloppiest 50 points I've ever been a part of," said Kizer, who tallied the third-highest single-game total in school history. "The sloppiest 400-plus pass game I've even been a part of. We're having fun and a good time, but there's still so much room for improvement." The Irish have also seen teams put more defenders near the line of scrimmage to stop the run, forcing Kizer and his young receivers to win battles on the outside. Instead of let- UNDER THE DOME STRIKING A BALANCE? Brian Kelly is simply focused on putting up points Junior quarterback DeShone Kizer and the Notre Dame offense torched opposing defenses through the air (327.8 yards per game) in the first five games, while relying less on the ground attack (167.6 yards per contest). PHOTO BY RICK KIMBALL

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