Offense still lacking
By KATIE McVOY
Associate Sports Editor
Following the Maryland game, the question was how to get the Irish offense to produce in the red zone. Following this week's football game, the question is how to get the Irish offense to produce — period.
In four quarters of play against Purdue, the Irish put three offensive points on the board. Notre Dame had 50 passing yards and averaged just a little more than three yards per carry. The Irish were inside the Purdue 20-yard line just once. Joey Hildbold had to punt eight times.
So what, exactly, went wrong?
"There probably wasn't a factor that didn't contribute to it,"said Irish coach Tyrone Willingham. "We just couldn't get ourselves going."
There may have been several factors that contributed to the poor offensive production, but there was one key that was missing from this week's game — a successful pass offense.
Willingham's fabled "West Coast Offense"was referred to as a "Great Lakes Offense"by NBC commentators on Saturday after Holiday didn't complete a pass until there were only seven minutes remaining in the first half. That's quite a turnaround for a quarterback who, just the week before, had a career-best 226 yards and completions to eight different receivers.
"It's frustrating,"Holiday said after the game. "Myself and a couple of guys on the team feel very embarrassed. I guess we shouldn't feel like that, but we felt like that towards the end of the game."
Holiday's passing woes were not solely his fault. Purdue's defense was a far cry from the weak Maryland defense Notre Dame faced last week. Joe Tiller's team blitzed – a lot. The Boilermakers sacked the Irish signal caller four times and Holiday spent a lot of time scrambling while he looked for an open receiver. Several of the 15-of-22 passes that were incomplete came in an attempt to prevent another sack. It was a group effort that allowed that to happen.
"What we were doing with our protection up there, it may not have all been on the offensive line,"said offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick.
The offensive line and the running backs were missing their blocks and Purdue was hitting hard.
"I thought Purdue did a good job with their blitz packages,"Willingham said. "Especially coming in and out of it … sometimes it put us in protections that worked against us."
The Irish receivers have some work to do as well. Only two receivers caught the ball — Carlos Campbell and Omar Jenkins. Tight end Gary Godsey had the most receptions for the Irish. Although Arnaz Battle was Holiday's target several times, he couldn't keep his hands on the ball once.
"For a pass game to work you have to have great routes, you have to have great protection and you have to have your backs integrated into all of it,"Willingham said.
Notre Dame's run game wasn't stellar either. The running backs showed some promise, but Ryan Grant found himself going up the middle several times to no avail.
"I'm trying a lot,"Grant said. "Don't think that because I didn't look good that we didn't play."
Despite the offensive woes, the coaching staff still remains confident that the Irish can get the job done. The offense has yet to score a touchdown, but that hasn't hampered the belief that this team will get the job done.
"We're going to break out,"Holiday said. "It's going to happen."
All Sports Stories for Tuesday, September 10, 2002