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No pro-style progress

Pat Leonard | Thursday, September 9, 2004

The pro-style offense proclaims balance. Against Brigham Young Saturday, the balance of offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick’s game plan never showed itself.The Irish rushed for just 11 yards on 21 carries and threw for 265 yards in a 20-17 loss. The term “pro-style” incorporates concepts from NFL West Coast offenses – throwing high percentage passes and running the ball.”It’s an offense pretty much like the pros run as far as trying to throw the ball and run it [the same amount],” running backs coach Buzz Preston said. “We’ve still got to find more consistency doing that. Once we become consistent, it’s going to be a pleasure to watch.”To achieve consistency, coaches know the offense starts on the ground.”I think the biggest overall disappointment coming from there [was] … we did not run the football effectively,” Diedrick said. “And anytime a team can make you one-dimensional, you’re going to struggle.”Despite being in the third year of learning the offense and playing together last season, the offensive line could not open holes against the Cougar defense.Running back Ryan Grant did not play Saturday due to a hamstring injury, but Grant was as upset about the lack of production as any other player.”You are never going to be able to win games if you can’t run the ball,” he said. “The run game is imperative to the offense in the sense that if you can’t run the ball … that makes it easier on a defense and [then they] send any blitzes they want. No matter what protection we run, it’s not the right one.”The lack of a running game affected the passing game. The line struggled to pick up blitz packages, as well. Quinn completed 26-of-47 passes, but many of the completions were check-off throws that did not get the Irish to the necessary spot to move the chains.Quinn said he had many receivers open downfield.”We found open receivers, but there was a lot of different factors as to why wedidn’t get the ball down the field more,” he said. “Individually, I didn’t make plays. I think at times I tried to force things when we needed a big spark or big play.”Diedrick thought Quinn threw of many of the passes he did because of defensive pressure.”When you look at the possibilities of what was developing downfield, that’s one thing,” Diedrick said. “But then you come back and look at the pressure [Quinn] is avoiding … you don’t have as good a shot. I think sometimes when you got a guy screaming in your face you might miss something … and I think there were a number of those times. He had the opportunity to go downfield, but because someone got beat or we missed an assignment up front, it didn’t allow us to execute or get to that part of the play.”In 2002, head coach Tyrone Willingham brought an offense from his previous job at Stanford to revamp a Notre Dame attack that had amassed 289.7 yards the previous season.On Saturday in Provo, Notre Dame gained 276 yards, and everyone – players and coaches – is searching for answers.Grant believes the line and the running backs have to step up.”Absolutely everybody on this team knows the offense,” Grant said. “It’s not a matter of terminology, we have to execute and get the job done. We need as a backfield to run harder, recognize things faster and as a line get more push. It’s just a will to get the job done. Things we’ve done in the fall and spring, [we need to] do it during the game.”The team consistently says that the way the offense played against BYU does not show the true mettle of their off-season progress.”Just watching the [other teams’] games before our game, the offenses … are able to execute,” wide receiver Carlyle Holiday said. “We have playmakers on this team and [we] have talent. When we aren’t executing and putting up the points we expect to, that hurts. Sometimes there’s no reason or no excuse.”Despite players’ claiming they all understand the pro-style offense, the question remains whether the personnel has not fully grasped the offensive system. With Michigan two days away, and an offense that has shown no improvement, answers will come sooner than later.”I think the question … is with the kids inside,” Diedrick said. “Do they have that concern [of not understanding the offense]? Do they have that question mark? If they do, we’re in trouble.”