The Irish started a new win streak on Saturday night against a solid Arizona State team. After close losses to Michigan and Oklahoma (the Oklahoma game was much closer than the score would indicate); Brian Kelly and his team needed a big win to close out the first half. I thought the Irish looked good, especially after coming off an emotional loss at home the week before.
While this looked like a pretty clean win, there are still a couple of things the Irish need to clean up that could plague them in the second half of the season.
Tommy Rees managed a solid game and thanks to an incredible game from the offensive line, had time to throw the ball. However, once again Rees turned in a poor performance in pass efficiency; completing just seventeen passes on thirty-eight attempts for a 44% completion percentage. Kelly has deflected some of the blame on inexperienced route running of a fairly young receiving corps, but Rees’ main targets are DaVaris Daniels and TJ Jones, both upperclassmen. Kelly called an incredibly balanced game and seems to have a renewed focus on running the ball, which should help Rees as the season goes on. With the running game back in gear, Tommy Rees has must be more efficient and smarter with the ball. Taylor Kelly was thirty-three for forty-seven with a 70% completion percentage; and Tommy Rees has better weapons to throw to.
While the Irish didn’t give up a ton of yards through penalties, they still were flagged nine times for sixty-four yards which mean they gave Arizona State and average of seven yards, one way or the other, nine times. The Irish need to win out to have a chance of making it to a BCS Bowl game and they are not playing well enough to give yards away like that.
The Limitations of Andrew Hendrix:
Irish fans, including myself were screaming for some more Andrew Hendrix to help diversify the offense; but sadly I think that experiment is over. Hendrix is even more limited than Rees through the air, and he’s not making the right reads when he has a chance to carry the football. It seems like Brian Kelly is all over Hendrix every time he comes to the sideline, and for good reason. It’s too obvious that Hendrix won’t be throwing the ball and he isn’t dynamic enough to beat a stacked box when he’s got the ball.
Tommy Rees has provided Irish fans with a roller-coaster of emotions through his time under center and he certainly has his place in Irish history and deserves some credit. With Hendrix proving he can’t bring the change of pace most were hoping for, Tommy must be better with his decisions in the passing game. If Rees can get to a fifty-five percent completion percentage, I think the Irish are in good shape; especially with the emergence of the running game most Irish fans were hoping for, preseason. The penalties are what they are, and while they have been higher than normal the last few weeks, the defense has been better and the team looks more aggressive overall; which is good. Hopefully the penalties don’t become a major issue.
Overall, I think the Irish are heading in the right direction and have a nice stretch of games after the bye week to build some confidence and consistency. I love the running game and applaud Kelly for making the right adjustments. The week off is much-needed and will provide a great chance for some coaching for the younger guys and which will help them make a consistent impact in the second half