Overall, Notre Dame football fans should feel better at the effort the Irish put forth on Saturday. However, there still is on glaring issue the Irish must tackle.
Notre Dame football has followed a similar script in all three games this season: The Irish are aggressive in attacking the opposition early in the game and then they rely on stellar defensive play to hang on at the end. It’s a formula that has worked well for Brian Kelly’s offense, but perhaps could be improved upon, to say the least.
The Irish have yet to trail at any point this season. That’s the good news. The bad news is that despite double-digit leads at different stages in each of their games, the Irish haven’t managed to hold on to those leads. Notre Dame hasn’t won any of their games by double digits.
The bottom line is this: Notre Dame’s offense has held them back from reaching their true ceiling. While the defense continues to play lights-out, the offense fails to do the Irish any favors by expanding on leads.
And while there has been strong play and visible improvement from the offensive line and the running backs, it seems that the Notre Dame passing attack is what holds them back. Some may cite the play-calling, some may cite the the receivers, and some may cite the decision-making and accuracy of the quarterback, Brandon Wimbush.
It’s safe to say that Notre Dame’s passing struggles are a combination of all three of those. It’s also safe to say that each of those aspects of the Notre Dame offense feeds off the struggles of the others. Suffice it to say, though, that the Irish have a passing problem. In Saturday’s game, an inability to move the ball through the air stalled the Irish offense and allowed Vanderbilt to stick around.
The answers for the passing attack aren’t immediately available, though. While the easy “fix” would be to give backup Ian Book a chance–at least as a change-of-pace quarterback for when the offense sputters–it seems clear that not having Wimbush at quarterback would detract from the offense in other areas.
Whatever the case, Notre Dame’s defense has been stellar. Similar play will keep the Irish in every game they play this season. If the Irish offense can improve–even just a little–they’re going to be difficult to beat. For more on this and other Notre Dame analysis, listen to the latest episode of the Under the Dome Podcast: