This isn’t aimed at the defense — who have by far been the most consistent aspect of this football team since Week One. The call for consistency is aimed at the offense and special teams — two areas that have struggled to maintain the level of play they are capable of throughout the season.
We’ll start with the offense, who a week ago struggled with penalties, another fumble on the opening drive, bad play-calling and no run game. There was no question that the Irish had better athletes all over the field, and yet that wasn’t truly taken advantage of until the third quarter.
When Chip Long goes up-tempo and lets Ian Book air it out, the offense hits a completely different level. Obviously this week, the gameplan will have to be adjusted to Wimbush’s strengths. Allowing Wimbush to get out of the pocket and let routes develop is where he thrives. It gives him the option to make a play with his legs or find one of his receivers on an intermediate or deep route. Keeping him in the pocket, throwing running back and wide receiver screens, or relying on the short passing game is just setting him and this offense up for failure.
The predictable play calling on third and short and continuous handoffs straight into the teeth of the defense put the offense behind the chains and in bad spots. This weekend, the offensive line and running backs need to carry the bulk of this offense and rebound after last week. Staying ahead of the chains and keeping the offense in manageable situations will help Wimbush out tremendously.
Now for the special teams, for which I could’ve made an entirely separate article. Once again last weekend, poor special teams play shifted momentum and let a team stick around when the game should’ve been out of reach.
Aside from a missed Justin Yoon field goal and another kickoff that went out of bounds, late in the game Northwestern was able to come up with their first blocked punt since 2014 that set up a touchdown to pull them within three.
The special teams unit has struggled this season in terms of allowing big plays. Kickoff returns for touchdowns against Michigan and Pittsburgh and now the blocked punt by Northwestern have all kept these teams in the game. These big mistakes along with the little mistakes such as kickoffs going out of bounds all add up, and they can be the difference between winning and losing.
The Irish might be able to get away with these mistakes against teams like Pittsburgh and Northwestern, but that won’t be the case when playing Alabama or Clemson. The special teams needs to improve and become more consistent as the season continues.