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Losing is Hard but Opportunity Awaits


Photo Credit: @ndfootball on Instagram

Most Irish fans find themselves disappointed with last Saturday’s loss to Marshall, but we must look ahead. Because Irish fans have grown accustomed to winning these types of games, a loss to a Sun Belt team is extra frustrating and unacceptable. Marshall played with more energy, passion, and competitiveness than Notre Dame last Saturday, so they came away with a win. As the losing team, we must give the appropriate accolades to Marshall that they deserve, because they executed their game plan to perfection and came away with a well-deserved win.


So what is going on with the Irish? Most analysts are left dumbfounded by what Notre Dame is trying to do on offense. There seems to be no identity, rhythm, or flow to what they are trying to accomplish. On Saturday, you could see the offense begin to find a groove with Tyler Buchner running, but the offense would go away from it on the next drive. To the average viewer, it appears as though Tommy Rees does not know what to call or how to establish an identity with this team. With Marcus Freeman’s self-admitted lack of offensive knowledge, it is uncertain if he can set Tommy on the right path with this team.


To top it off, Notre Dame will be without quarterback Tyler Buchner for the reminder of the season. He suffered a shoulder sprain during last Saturday’s game that will require surgery. Freeman had this to say about his team during Monday’s press conference:


“The last 36 hours has been a reality check for all of us, from the head coach to assistant coach to players in a deep evaluation of everything we’re doing to really try to figure out what our issues are.”


It is time for Notre Dame to self-evaluate and make the changes necessary to becoming a competitive football team again. Recruiting will help in the future, but this team should be better than the product they are putting on the field. Notre Dame must improve and they must do so quickly.

 

5 Questions for the Offense Moving Forward


1. Why is Chris Tyree not seeing the field more?

Many Irish fans were probably thinking the same thing on Saturday: “Tyree looks like the hardest working running back on the field, so why is he not playing more?” Coach Freeman had this to say when asked about Tyree getting more playing time:


“We have to try to find ways to get the ball in his hands. With Chris, it’s unique because he played more plays than the other running backs, but you’re using him at so many different positions – at wideout, at slot, at running back. He’s a guy we know has to be on the field. We have to find ways to get the ball in his hands, because he’s a playmaker.”


We know there is an injury history with Tyree, but it still does not make any sense why he is not seeing more playing time. He possesses the type of speed, athleticism, and experience that could provide this team with the offensive spark they have been desperately missing. Chris Tyree needs to become a major part of the game plan immediately.



2. Why is the offensive line playing so poorly?

Outside of Joe Alt and Blake Fisher, this offensive line has been pretty bad to watch. They appear to be set on playing Patterson, Correll, and Lugg, but this is part of the problem. These multi-year players are not communicating very well and are giving up a lot of pressure from the defense. In particular, Correll and Lugg stop moving their feet on the majority of snaps and do not appear to be able to move the defensive line back. On top of that, they do not recognize blitz packages from the defense very easily. The answer may be as simple as moving Patterson back to center and developing younger players for the future. Either way, this is the one area that could allow the Notre Dame offense to find a rhythm that they are desperately missing. Coach Freeman had this to say about his offensive line:


“You have to look at the big picture of, ‘What’s the best five?’ That’s something we’ve looked at, we’ve talked about and we feel really strongly about the five we have out there. The offensive line position, you have to understand exactly what you’re supposed to do, but it’s the true fundamentals of where your hat placement goes, your footwork. That’s where we have to get better, the consistency of doing those fundamentals. But it’s a process to get to that point.”



3. Why are more wide receivers not playing?

Before the start of the season, it was implied that we would see more of a rotation at wide receiver, but this has yet to be the case. Styles, Lenzy, Thomas, and Salerno appear to be taking most of the snaps, with guys like Merriweather and Colzie on the sideline. There were numerous times during last Saturday’s game where outside fade throws were being utilized, but the personnel was not ideal for that play call. It would appear that two receivers standing at 6’4 and 6’5 would be better suited for those play calls. So, why are they not seeing the field? Is the playbook too complicated? Are they truly not ready? At this point, you have nothing to lose in getting these two players more playing time and developing them for future seasons.



4. Why do many of the players appear to not be playing with more urgency?

One of the biggest complaints heard under former coach Brian Kelly, was that his team often played with a lack of urgency. It is possible that this mindset is so ingrained in this program that it will take future recruiting classes to change this, but Marcus Freeman needs to address this problem right away. The offense does not play with any type of enthusiasm or energy and it appears lackluster at best. If Coach Freeman can figure out how to ignite a fire in these players on Saturday, fans will not see another embarrassing loss like they witnessed against Marshall.



5. Will Drew Pyne be able to lead this offense?

Up to this point, Drew Pyne has been underwhelming with his performances, but this could change very quickly. Drew Pyne has the leadership characteristics every coach wants in the quarterback position, but he lacks many of the natural abilities to make him your ideal quarterback. Yet, this team appears to respect Pyne and many believe he will be able to lead this team. Can he do it? We do not know yet, but this Saturday will be Drew’s first opportunity to show why he can lead the Fighting Irish to victory.


Final Take

If Notre Dame continues to play like it did last Saturday, then this will be a very long year for Notre Dame fans. However, if Notre Dame can find answers to many of the problems listed above, this team will begin turning the corner and finishing out the season on a high note. Drew Pyne must become the leader that this team needs and lead them to their first victory of the season. If Notre Dame can establish an offensive identity, dominate on the offensive line, and get the ball into their playmakers’ hands, then Irish fans will be more encouraged about what this season should look like moving forward. Coach Freeman said this about his players:


“Nobody around the football program is going to be extremely happy about losing a game. You have a bunch of guys who are angry but also motivated to fix the issues.”


We shall see if this anger turns into better play this Saturday, but it is past time to show the nation the fight that makes them the Fighting Irish once again.


Go Irish!


Photo Credit: @ndfootball on Instagram



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