Notre Dame football scored more points than Ball State. That might be the only positive for this offense after Saturday’s lackluster performance.
Let me be clear: The offense of the Notre Dame Football Irish was not good on Saturday. That said, the blame can be spread pretty evenly among Irish position groups (and also the game plan, but I’m getting ahead of myself).
If you would have told me that Notre Dame would score the same amount of points against Ball State as they did Michigan, I would have told you that you were nuts.
First of all, it’s worth noting that it seems as if Brian Kelly viewed Saturday as an opportunity for the offense to improve on its weaknesses. It seemed as if there was a deliberate emphasis on Brandon Wimbush throwing from the pocket. That emphasis derailed the Irish offense in a big way.
Ultimately, the Irish were able to score enough points and hold on to win against the Cardinals. Let’s take a look at how each position group fared.
The offensive line was an issue for the Irish. It was easy to expect the Irish to dominate the line of scrimmage against an undersized Ball State defensive line, but the Cardinals were able to use their quickness to give the Irish fits. There were bright spots, certainly, but on the whole, the Irish running game didn’t have many creases against the Cardinal defense.
Outside of two big runs (Jafar Armstrong’s big run on the second play of the game and Tony Jones, Jr.’s 31-yard touchdown run in the 2nd quarter), the Irish were pretty stymied up front.
In pass protection, the Irish struggled early, but certainly improved as the game went on. Ball State registered four sacks on Brandon Wimbush, but a couple of those sacks were a result of Wimbush holding the ball too long.
It’s easy to point to the Irish offensive line as a place to cast blame, but it’s also difficult to assess how much of their struggles come from a lack of identification of the defense by the quarterback.
I’m not ready to write off the offensive line just yet. For this week, the line gets a solid C-.
From a scoring perspective, the running backs scored all of Notre Dame’s touchdowns–two of which came from Jones and one of which came from Armstrong.
At this point, the best assessment of the running back play is this: They’re not a glaring issue, but they’re not exactly wowing anyone with their spectacular play. Without much wiggle room, it’s hard to give a definitive grade to this group. For now, the jury is definitely still out and the Irish running backs get a B.
If there was one relative bright spot for the Irish, it was the play of the wide receivers. On this day, it was Miles Boykin who lead the way for the group with 6 catches for 119 yards. Chase Claypool registered 3 catches for 36 yards and Chris Finke had 2 catches for 40 yards.
But it wasn’t a perfect day by any means. Boykin himself dropped a crucial slant pass on a 3rd down in the 2nd quarter.
Much like the running backs, the receivers are also a difficult group to assess, given the poor offensive line play, but for now, the Irish receivers get a B+.
Many might disagree, but Brandon Wimbush didn’t play poorly. From a passing standpoint, Wimbush hit on some really nice throws. It says something (I’m not completely sure what) that Wimbush thrives in the scripted situations. Notre Dame scored on the opening drive of both halves.
But where Wimbush struggled wasn’t passing and accuracy–it was decision-making.
Wimbush threw the ball into tight coverage a few times, resulting in two interceptions. His third interception was tipped by a linebacker and can be written off as a good play by the defense.
In all, Wimbush threw for nearly 300 yards, but couldn’t string enough throws together to get the Irish any touchdowns through the air. For now, he gets a C.
Overall, this offense left much to be desired. As mentioned earlier, this game felt like a mental letdown and a lack of consistency as opposed Ball State having a talent advantage. Whatever the case, the Irish have to get their offense humming before too long or they’ll ruin the efforts of a potentially special defense.