Irish coach gets more involved in planning plays
By ANDREW SOUKUP
Associate Sports Editor
Tired of seeing mistakes, missed opportunities and missed plays, Bob Davie announced that he would be more involved with offensive planning sessions in order to jump-start Notre Dame's ineffective offense.
"It's not going to be anything dramatic that you see or all of a sudden I'm calling the plays," he said after practice Monday. "I don't think I need to do that, but I do think I need to be more involved from a leadership standpoint."
Notre Dame is statistically among the worst offensive teams in the nation. The Irish are 113th out of 115 Division I-A teams in total offensive yards and dead last in scoring, averaging only 7.66 points per game. On Notre Dame's two touchdowns, the offense has driven a combined 10 yards.
"There's way too many plays where it looks like a Chinese fire drill," Davie said Sunday afternoon.
Davie insisted that offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers' position would not be affected. Rogers will still be calling all the offensive plays during the games — in part so Davie can stay focused on his defensive responsibilities.
"I'm going to be more involved with the day-to-day stuff, the meetings with our offensive coaches just so they can bounce some ideas off me," he said. "I'm just going to be there in a little more of a support role. I'm just trying to help Kevin, help our team, help in any way I can to solve this problem."
Notre Dame's offense is conservative — something coaches feel may have developed after Notre Dame's 27-10 loss at Nebraska — which is fine with Davie.
But what is hurting the Irish the most is their offensive mistakes.
Three games into the season, the Irish already have nine turnovers — one more than all last season — and have only converted 12 of 46 third down attempts.
"If you are going to be as conservative as we are, then you'd better execute at a very high, high level," Davie said. "We are not doing that."
But what the Irish are lacking is the capability to make big plays. Their longest passing play this season has only been 19 yards long and Tony Fisher's 35-yard scamper against Nebraska remains the longest rushing play the Irish have pulled off.
It's not that opposing defenses are throwing complicated schemes at the Irish. Texas A&M only blitzed twice during Saturday's game. Instead, the Aggies seemed content to let the Irish beat them with a big play — something they haven't been able to do this season — a strategy Davie said he would use if he were coaching against the Irish.
"I'd sit back and then beat you with offense," he said. "Don't give up a big play because it doesn't like right now we are going to generate a big play on our own. There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of explosiveness."
Holiday started at quarterback against Texas A&M and will start again this week against Pittsburgh because Davie hoped he could provide that explosiveness. Although Holiday carried 12 times for 23 yards and was 6-for-13 passing with two interceptions before leaving with a sprained neck at the end of the first half, Davie felt Holiday showed flashes of what the coaching staff believed he was capable of.
But Holiday made several key mistakes that hurt the Irish. On Notre Dame's first offensive drive Saturday, with the ball deep in Aggie territory, Holiday missed a wide-open tight end John Owens in the corner of the end zone.
The next play, his pass that was intended for David Givens was intercepted in the end zone. And late in the second quarter Holiday underthrew Givens again, resulting in another Aggie interception.
And it wasn't just Holiday. LoVecchio was ineffective at quarterback in the second half. The offensive line gave up six sacks. Receivers dropped balls.
"The bottom line is it's not what you do — it's how you do it," Davie said. "The best laid plans in a game sometimes get discombobulated. There's much more premium on how you do things, not what you call. There's no magic scheme. The bottom line is to play hard and execute and be mistake free and not make the big dramatic mistake."
"The plays themselves are just fine," said Holiday. "We just haven't been able to execute at certain times, and we have to do that in order to win."
Davie doesn't know exactly what is wrong with the offense. But by getting more involved with the offensive planning, he hopes to get the Irish back on track.
"We all feel the same way," Davie said. "You keep waiting. You keep waiting, but it's just not happening. You certainly feel like the energy and the emotion and the `want to' is there, and the chance to do it is there. But it just hasn't come."
All Sports Stories for Tuesday, October 2, 2001