Pete DiPrimio, sports columnist and college beat writer for The News-Sentinel of Fort Wayne, Ind., takes his best shots on the world of Notre Dame football.

Friday, September 22

First Down Woes

If you’re looking for reasons for Notre Dame’s sluggish offensive start, blame first down.

The Irish have consistently put themselves in a hole and against the good defenses they’ve faced in Georgia Tech, Penn State and Michigan, that won’t work.

For instance, Notre Dame averaged second-and-8.2 yards against Georgia Tech, 9.2 against Penn State and 8.1 against Michigan. In fact, in almost half of its 78 second-down snaps, it’s needed to get at least 10 yards for a first down. On 48 percent of its third downs it’s needed at least 10 yards.

As a result, the Irish are converting third downs at a 31.8 percent clip, well off the 49 percent of a year ago. They rank 96th in third-down conversion among the 119 Division I-A teams.

What’s a coach to do? Start with fundamentals and drills and back-to-basics intensity. You cut down the play book and run the plays more to produce, you hope, the desired consistency. And then you tell the line and running backs that they have to do better than average 2.7 yards a rush.

Will it work? It had better, starting with Saturday night’s game at Michigan State. The Irish can’t afford to lose that game. They need a long winning streak, say about eight straight, to position themselves for a BCS bowl.

And it all starts with first down.

For more on the Irish, check out my column.


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