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Irish going to focus on scoring

Andrew Soukup | Thursday, November 6, 2003

For as bad as Notre Dame played against Florida State last Saturday, the Irish still could have made the game competitive.

Four times the Irish were inside the Seminoles 20-yard line. Four times the Notre Dame offense came away empty-handed.

“We just haven’t been getting it done,” Irish running back Julius Jones said. “That’s basically what it comes down to.

If we’re going to win we have to get the ball in the end zone.”

Lack of production in the red zone has been a reoccurring theme for the Irish offense. The unit has scored touchdowns in only four of 23 chances inside the 20-yard line this season.

“As coaches, you have to see if you can get the best call possible,” Irish coach Tyrone Willingham said.

“I think in some cases we have not helped ourselves as well as we need to. I think in many cases, our execution has not been there.”

Willingham did not say youth has been a factor in the inefficiencies of the offense in the red zone this season.

“I won’t call to that as an out for us, no,” he said

On Saturday, Notre Dame had the ball on Florida State’s nine-yard line following a Vontez Duff interception and the Seminoles up 10-0.

But all the Irish could do was move the ball two yards in three plays, pick up two penalties and then have D.J. Fitzpatrick’s field goal blocked, resulting in zero points and a momentum shift to Florida State.

The Irish moved the football inside the Seminoles 20-yard line three more times in the second half and could manage only one touchdown – when Florida State defensive back Leroy Smith intercepted quarterback Brady Quinn and returned the ball 90 yards for a Seminole score.

“[The missing piece] is putting the ball in the end zone,” Irish running back Ryan Grant said.

“We need to start making teams catch up instead of playing catch-up.

We’ve showed we can do good things at times, but we need to put everything together.”

Notre Dame went for it on fourth down on its two other red zone opportunities in the second half, and Quinn missed receivers Rhema McKnight and Omar Jenkins on respective drives.

Had the Irish scored on its four trips to the end zone, the outcome of Saturday’s game would have been very different.

Instead of a 37-0 loss, the Irish could have made it a respectable 37-21 or 37-28 game.

“We always look forward to scoring, but it really has gone that way for us this year,” Jones said. “We’re just going to stay focused and keep going at it.”