Sunday, October 22, 2017 5:10 am
Irish run, run, running to success
CHRIS GOFF | The Journal Gazette
SOUTH BEND — Does Notre Dame even need to throw the football?
It might sound like an ill-conceived question in an era of passing, but the 13th-ranked Irish (6-1) are such a devastating rushing team that it seems they barely need to do anything through the air.
Yes, Notre Dame's ground attack was shut down by Georgia, but that remains the Irish's only loss. In every win, they've run all over the opposition with tailbacks Josh Adams, Dexter Williams, Tony Jones Jr. and Deon McIntosh and a mauling offensive line.
Saturday night's 49-14 win over Southern California offered more evidence. The Irish ran for 377 yards, their most against USC since at least 1950.
So, we repeat. Does it matter if quarterback Brandon Wimbush, himself a great runner, ever makes another throw?
"We still have to pass it," center Sam Mustipher said with a smile. "It's part of the game, but when we run the ball like we have been, it's nice. It honestly makes the passing game a little bit easier because we know what defenses are going to do to try to stop the run."
Notre Dame began the day ranked sixth in the 130-team FBS in rushing at 308 yards a game. Although the NCAA foolishly includes sacks in rushing statistics, we can still glean a pretty good idea from them, and Notre Dame ranked even better (third) in yards per attempt (6.9).
That number will go up after the Irish averaged 8.0 yards per rush in the rout of USC.
As good as the run blocking has been, offensive line coach Harry Hiestand won't let his troops grow content. Left tackle Mike McGlinchey wasn't prepared to entertain an old-school scenario in which the passing game is irrelevant to offensive success.
"I don't think it's challenging to improve at all," McGlinchey said. "We've just got to continue to be honest with ourselves. There's things that happened out there we're not happy with."
Much has been made of Wimbush's completion percentage, and he wasn't all that accurate Saturday, either, finishing 9 for 19, but he knows the running game is something to behold.
"Up front, (Notre Dame's offensive linemen) were so physical and dominant," Wimbush said. "I think throwing the ball down the field kind of backed (USC) off a little bit, took a couple of guys out of the box. Still have to be way more effective when it comes to the passing game, and I think that will come in these next couple of weeks here."