Turnovers plague Irish offensive line
Notre Dame's football team had a difficult time handling the last three losses, but it has also had some trouble handling the ball.
"Stop the turnovers, that's the biggest thing right now," senior quarterback Jarious Jackson said. "I've had a few turnovers myself and so have some other people, but at the same time I'm concerned about mine. I need to stop turnovers myself because I'm the quarterback and hopefully that will help us out as well."
Jackson had difficulty pitching the ball against Michigan and Purdue, but showed some improvement in last Saturday's game against Michigan State.
He does, however, have six interceptions, equaling his total all last season.
"We have to make some better decisions," offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers said. "We had some underthrown balls that resulted in interceptions the other day. A lot of [turnovers] have been due to interceptions and fumbles by the quarterback, but obviously we are trying to rectify the situation."
With nearly a 2-1 turnover ratio in favor of Irish opponents, the team begins to question how aggressive it can be.
The Irish didn't run the option as much against Michigan State and was tentative throwing the ball deep down the field.
"Sure you get a little bit gun shy when you turn the ball over," Rogers said. "You tend to get a little more conservative and not try things as much."
Rogers and the rest of the coaching staff stressed protecting the ball in practice.
"We're trying to make more of an emphasis on ball security everyday with all the skill players," Rogers said. "[You work on] blatant ball security, just making sure you isolate the football and take care of it. I'm not sure we've had one fumble this year that was the result of a big hit or anything like that, but fumbles you can't excuse anyway. We're trying to make a concerted effort to cut back."
So far, the Irish are showing signs of improvement.
"The ball is on the ground less in practice, but you really can't say you are making progress until you do it in the game," Rogers said. "It's inexcusable what we've been doing."
The real test for Notre Dame will come against Oklahoma. After four games, the Irish haven't come close to playing error-free football and if they hope to turn the season around, they will have to start against the Sooners. For now, the Irish have an extra week to work on taking care of the ball.
"You like to think [the bye week will help]," Rogers said. "I think with a young group of guys, you afford the extra opportunity to prepare and practice and go through assignments. Hopefully, we'll be a little more mistake free. We're sitting here at 1-3 but I think we're getting better."
All Sports Stories for Thursday, September 23, 1999