Irish Blogger Gathering: Sparty No!

Welcome to the Irish Blogger Gathering on Subway Domer. Friends, the Irish were on the brink of disaster early against Purdue, but finally they broke through in the second half to take the lead and then the victory.

This week, Notre Dame finishes up their Big Ten portion of the schedule as Michigan State comes to South Bend.

I drew Mike Coffey from to answer some of my questions. You can follow along with the rest if the IBG here:

Her Loyal Sons
Strong & True
Inside The Irish

Here we go…

We might as well start with the running game here… With all of the issues surrounding Notre Dame's running game, can we narrow the focus to one major issue, or does this problem have multiple failure's? Can these things be fixed heading into the fourth game of the season?

I believe the main issue with ND’s running game is an unwillingness on the part of Chuck Martin and Brian Kelly to make it any kind of focus. They can talk about how they’re not concerned with balance all they want, but the fact of the matter is if ND’s opponents know they’re going to pass and Tommy Rees isn’t a threat to beat them with his feet, they’re going to throw guys back in coverage and make life very difficult for the offense. There’s a reason ND’s red zone percentage is so low, and that reason is the predilection to pass even on a short field that’s easier to defend.

I think it’s telling ND had relative success on the ground yesterday when they went to a two-TE set – a formation they hadn’t used a lot this year – and ran plays on the ground out of it. Purdue seemed a lot less confident when they saw that formation, maybe because it reduced the likelihood of spotting tendencies they could exploit.

I believe the issues can be fixed, but it will require the staff to closely review what they’ve been doing so far this season (and last) and resolve to throw some change-ups in there to exploit what the defenses think they’re seeing.

The defense this year has been far more aggressive in terms of blitzes and man coverage. It was said that Diaco did some things last year to help protect a young secondary, and generally the defense played "straight up" for most of the season. Why do you think that the scheme is so different this year? Is it because of the personnel changes, and do you think the Irish defense gets a little more conservative with a better focus on fundamentals for the rest of the season?

At the beginning of the Temple game, we didn’t see a whole lot of risk-taking on defense, but as a result, the Owls were moving the ball. Once ND started putting pressure on them, they were able to get things going.

I think Diaco is being more aggressive on defense because he’s not sure he can get the same level of four-man pressure the D provided last year, and he’ll need to make things happen with bringing extra guys. Trouble is, those extra guys aren’t getting to the quarterback in time, and the opponents are completing passes in the gaps or running where the defender was. Unless and until Tuitt, Nix and Day can provide more pressure, Diaco may have to stay with the aggressive plan as the lesser of two evils. I’m hoping they can make the necessary adjustments.

If you are setting the gameplan against Sparty this week, what single thing do you focus on this Saturday for both sides of the ball?

MSU hasn’t shown much on offense prior to last week against FCS opponent Youngstown State, so I’m hesitant to declare their problems on offense solved. This will be their first game away from home this season, and they may be susceptible to nerves, so the last thing ND will want to do is allow them to get any confidence. My focus would be on keeping their defense on the field as long as humanly possible with time-consuming drives rather than going for quick strikes. The longer sophomore Connor Cook has to cool his heels and think about what he’s gotten himself into – particularly if he makes a mistake – the better the chance he’ll get into his own head.

About The Subway Domer

Warlord and Emperor of the Subway Alumni... also, I do this "dad" thing pretty damn well.