The Norman Transcript

October 23, 2012

Offense is Fighting Irish’s burden no matter who has the ball

By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Notre Dame has the history. Of that, there is no doubt. And I’m not even sure it’s as meaningless as Bob Stoops wants to believe it is, for there is comfort in past success, no matter how long ago it occurred.

Yet, even that being the case, what happened in 1957, ‘61, ‘62, ‘66, ‘68 and ‘99 remains less important than what happened three days ago, when Oklahoma took care of Kansas 52-7 and Notre Dame squeaked by BYU 17-14.

Lately, it’s not uncommon for any college football discussion to remain incomplete until the talking heads have commiserated upon the Irish’s BCS possibilities.

You know, should Notre Dame go unbeaten, will it reach the promised land of the national championship game?

But when I hear it, I wonder if everybody is like me, wondering why a program that beat Purdue 20-17, Michigan 13-6, Stanford in overtime and BYU by a field goal is worth so much air.

If you’re going to peel the onion on that question, why not do it for Rutgers, Louisville and Ohio. They, too, haven’t done a whole lot the last 20 years and they, too, are unbeaten.

Part of it is those programs haven’t played anybody terrific, whether they’ve looked good winning or not. The other part of it is the Irish will always receive a free pass. They are like the Yankees, relevant even when they stink.

Everybody else must play themselves into the discussion. Only Notre Dame must play itself out.

About that, if you’re looking for a good reason why the Irish have no business winning Saturday night at Owen Field, and maybe no business staying on the field with the Sooners, simply familiarize yourself with each team’s offense.

The Irish are running and throwing the ball for almost 200 yards per outing and enter with a total offense number of 387.9 yards per outing.

It is good but not great.

It is efficient enough, yet Notre Dame has only run away from two opponents this season: Navy (50-10) and Miami (41-3). The Midshipmen turned it over four times and Miami is a team with a firm grasp on the concept of quitting when things become difficult.

It is a nuts and bolts story, too.

The Irish play two quarterbacks, which can mean a lot of things, yet never offensive dominance.

Cierre Wood is averaging 6 yards per carry, but he’s not an every-down back, and their leading receiver, T.J. Jones, is averaging exactly three catches per game.

The Irish may strike fear, for their long history is daunting. Unbeaten, however, they have not earned the right this season.

OU has.

The yards-per-carry averages among Damien Williams, Dom Whaley, Brennan Clay and Trey Millard range between 6.2 (Williams) and 7.8 (Millard). And that kicks out Roy Finch’s six carries for 61 yards.

Through the air, though Landry Jones has thrown for 300 yards only once, against Texas, he’s still been terrific ever since the Kansas State loss, and he’s been terrific to a buffet line of threats.

Six different Sooners have caught at least 11 passes, including Millard and Williams out of the backfield, and six Sooners have caught touchdown passes.

Only three Irish receivers have caught touchdown passes. Irish quarterbacks have only thrown six touchdown passes, half as many as OU.

Perhaps Notre Dame is like Alabama or LSU Midwest; the team that plays old-time football but with a defense capable of gutting a 21st Century offense, even one playing as well as it’s played in a long time like Oklahoma’s.

More likely, Notre Dame is a Big 10 program in independent’s clothing. Three of its seven opponents have been from the league time forgot, its offense is often stuck in the mud like so many Big 10 offenses and one might surmise that Saturday night will look a lot like it often looks when the Big 10 ventures out of conference to meet a very good foe.

Good luck to the Irish.

They’ll need it just to keep up.

Clay HorningFollow me @clayhorningcfhorning@normantranscript.com

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