Starting with the debacle against the Miami-Florida Hurricanes in 2017, through the most recent game against the Ball State Cardinals, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish running backs are averaging 23 carries per game and 92 yards. This is a far cry from the “33 Trucking” hysteria earlier last season, where the entire convoy of “true” running backs were getting 30 carries per game for an average of 223 yards per game.
Additionally, Notre Dame has seen its rushing TDs per game drop from 3.77 in the first nine contests of 2017, down to 1.0 per game over the last 6 games. This is a decrease of nearly 20 points per game in offensive production, and the lack of run game efficacy appears to have Brian Kelly reaching back into the grab-bag for answers.
The decreases above are striking, and its possible that we are observing the beginning of Brian Kelly’s abandonment of 2017’s #RTDB (run the damn ball) offensive identity that produced some of the best football in Kelly’s tenure at Notre Dame. Subsequently, the strategy in the Ball State game seemed to be force Brandon Wimbush to magically become a polished pocket-passer, which he is not.
A bright spot of the Ball State game was the defense holding up. But as the point production of the offense becomes seemingly more anemic with each passing week, one wonders how long Clark Lea can keep opponents in check. Certainly Dexter Williams will be a welcome shot in the arm for the run game, and this might be Brandon Wimbush’s best hope to remain on the field as the field general of a run-first offense.
Alternatively, Ian Book may come in as the starter in the coming weeks and while the possibility exists that he will quarterback a competent running team with Williams, the fear is that Brian Kelly 1.0 emerges with the pass-happy offenses that have yielded numerous 8-5 seasons.