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2,000 Rushing Yards This Year?

Once upon a time I wondered if Notre Dame could rush for 2,000 yards in a season.

I thought when Brian Kelly took over that it was a legitimate goal for the 2010 season. Turns out, the Irish fell about 350 yards short.

This year I brushed off the goal as unattainable, citing a lack of running back depth and without a mobile quarterback under center.

However, Notre Dame is currently on pace to break the 2,000 yard barrier for the first time since the 2001 season. 

Here are all of the 2,000 rushing yard seasons for Notre Dame since the start of the Lou Holtz era:

YEAR---YARDS---ATTEMPTS---AVERAGE

2001---2,160---526---4.10

2000---2,386---528---4.51

1996---2,244---427---5.25

1995---2,381---521---4.57

1994---2,257---485---4.65

1993---2,860---558---5.12

1992---3,227---548---5.88

1991---3,312---601---5.51

1990---2,884---582---4.95

1989---3,074---583---5.27

1988---2,579---510---5.05

1987---2,544---533---4.77

 

  • Anytime you average over 5.0 yards per carry as a team over a full season, you are pretty much being dominant on the ground. 
  • In 2010, a full 21 teams finished with over 5.0 yards per carry: Northern Illinois, Nevada, Auburn, Oregon, Georgia Tech, Michigan, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Baylor, Boise State, TCU, Navy, Air Force, Tulsa, Ohio State, Stanford, Illinois, USC, Alabama, Oklahoma State, and Ole Miss.
  • Obviously, Notre Dame's 1988, 1989, 1993, and 1996 rushing seasons were very, very good.
  • But 1991 and 1992 are really the gold standard for modern Notre Dame rushing: That's a whole lot of carries at a very dominant clip.
  • In case you needed to be reminded, the 1991 season featured rushing attempts from: Jerome Bettis, Tony Brooks, Rodney Culver, Rick Mirer, Reggie Brooks, Willie Clarke and Lee Becton. Even Ray Zellers (a freshman at the time and someone who would have two very productive rushing seasons in 1993 & 1994) could barely see the field in Holtz' muti-dimensional attack.
  • The 1992 season featured Reggie Brooks ridiculous 1,343 yard season (a strong candidate as the best ever in Notre Dame Football history), PLUS another season with Jerome Bettis. 
  • Reggie Brooks gained those 1,300+ yards on just 167 carries for an insane 8.04 yards per carry. To put that in perspective, he only ran the ball 54 more times than Cierre Wood has already this entire season.
  • Jonas Gray won't put up the sheer production that Reggie Brooks did in 1992, but Gray is probably going to be around 100 carries on the season and is currently averaging 8.4 yards per rush----this is really outstanding.

 

So, back to the team rushing again.

Take a look at those seasons again. 

Do you realize this 2011 Irish team has the highest yards per carry than any of those seasons?

Through six games if you double the current numbers this season will look like this:

2011---2,328---390---5.97

Clearly 2,328 yards isn't all together historically great, not when there's a couple 3,000+ yard seasons starting us in the face from the 1990's and 2,000 yards was an annual right for Notre Dame.

However, 5.97 yards per carry is just retarded good.

This pace would have been fourth best in the entire country last year, and is currently 7th best in the nation in 2011.

The thing that is really scary to think about is how this kind of productivity on the ground can be combined with a lethal passing game. As such, Notre Dame is on pace for a 3,282 yard season through the air----combined that with the ground game and you have a likely top 5 offense, if not top 3 among BCS teams.

We've seen some devastating offenses in recent memory around the country too.

Last year, there were five non-option BCS teams that ran the ball extremely well and tried to throw it just as efficiently too. 

Auburn ran for 3,987 and passed for 3,002.

Oregon ran for 3,739 and passed for 3,160.

Michigan ran for 3,101 and passed for 3,252.

Nebraska ran for 3,466 and passed for 2,108.

Wisconsin ran for 3,194 and passed for 2,593.

Personally, in this day and age I think you need to be able to move the ball through the air when it matters. So even though Nebraska and Wisconsin had a crap ton of yards, their passing game leaves a lot to be desired. Michigan has the DenardFactor, while Oregon has two incredible playmakers and a great offensive system. Auburn, despite the help of Chizik, is probably more of an anomaly due to Cammy Cam.

My point is this....

Notre Dame is likely entering a 3-5 year window where 3,500 passing yard+2,300 rushing yard seasons are going to be the norm. In other words, the Irish are looking to be an elite offensive team in the near future. Some things could derail these projections (loss of Floyd next year, O-line losses, etc.) but the future looks very bright from a fundamentals, talent, and system stand point.

Brian Kelly took over a team that really struggled to run the ball, and has them among the most productive in the country after less than 20 games. And this is with having played zero cupcakes on the schedule so far this year. 

Notre Dame has a very good chance to rush for 200+ yards (which has happened in back-to-back games, and nearly two other times already through six games) against Navy, Wake Forest, Maryland, and Boston College. I wouldn't even count out a 300+ yard game against Wake Forest or perhaps Navy either. 

Right now, it looks like that 2,000 yard season is an achievable goal. Just imagine what could happen if the Irish starting QB runs the ball on a consistent basis.

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