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Irish not overly worried about shorthanded roster heading into Bowling Green game

| Friday, October 4, 2019

Fresh off of a bye week, Bowling Green head coach Scot Loeffler and his team are ready to throw everything they have at No. 9 Notre Dame come Saturday.

Allison Thornton | The Observer

Irish senior wide receiver Chase Claypool evades defenders during Notre Dames 35-20 victory over No. 23 Virginia on Sept. 18 at Notre Dame Stadium.

“This week’s all about us,” Loeffler said. “It’s about becoming more competitive. It’s about becoming a master of our trades and playing with more enthusiasm and juice. It’s all about us right now. We just have to worry about what we can control and go from there.”

Loeffler believes the key to snapping his team’s three-game skid lies in the details.

“Everything matters, every play matters,” he said. “We’ve done a great job of trying to improve on our energy, our juice and how we approach our daily grind. … We’re excited to get going this week.”

Bowling Green has been outscored by an average of 19.8 points across its first four games, amassing one victory prior to its three latest losses. Traveling to South Bend will be the highlight of the Falcon’s season in terms of opponent strength but in spite of that, Loeffler said that this week is “business as usual.”

“Regardless of what situation you’re in, you have to have that same approach to create some type of consistency,” he added.

Loeffler opted for a slightly different practice environment than usual during the bye week, working to cultivate that approach and remedy his team’s collective underperformance with competitive intensity.

“It’s all 1v1s right now,” he said. “Everything’s charted right now. There’s a winner and loser to everything. It’s been good. It’s created energy. … It’s very different than what we typically do during the season, but that’s where we are right now. We’re practicing totally differently than what we’ve practiced during game week but that’s okay — that’s where we are right now.”

Loeffler attributed those struggles to inconsistency across the board, emphasizing the importance of each player embracing his role in the best way he can, especially after struggling in that sphere during last week’s 62-20 loss to Kent State

“What we learned on that film is how critical every single position is,” he said. “Whenever you’re inconsistent the way we are, you’ll watch the tape and you’ll see nine guys do exactly what they’re supposed to do, and two that don’t. Or there will be 10 that do and one that doesn’t. … Getting those 11 guys on the field to do their job all simultaneously? That’s hard to do. Right now, we’re at the point where all 11 guys have to do their job.”

And when not all 11 guys do their jobs?

“There’s too many missed opportunities,” Loeffer said. “We’re just trying to become a little bit more efficient at execution.”

The importance of each player performing in his role is further reinforced by the personnel problems Loeffler and his team face.

“We’re short on numbers at many positions and we’re trying to play as many guys as we can play,” Loeffler said. “All positions, think about it — we’re talking about a situation where we have two quarterbacks on scholarship and three running backs on scholarship; you’re supposed to have four to five quarterbacks and five running backs on scholarship. Those two positions hit me immediately, but there’s depth problems in a lot of areas, and we have to improve that.”

Loeffler noted that those personnel problems are certainly not something Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has to struggle with, pointing to Notre Dame’s strength across the board.

“They’re different than what they’ve been in the past,” he said. “They’ve always been good, they’ve always had great tradition, but their front four guys are unique. There’s not a guy in on their defense that can’t run. They run, they hit, they play with enthusiasm. There’s a reason that they’re in the top 10 right now — and they might be in the top five right now. They’re outstanding.”

Loeffler further elaborated that a lot of that strength comes from their secondary.

“Their recovery speed right now is off the charts,” he said. “When they make a mistake, they’re so fast that they can recover in those plays that a typical team that would go for 15-20 yards. … They’re playing against some really good competition — you watch that Georgia film and you watch the speed at which they recover and it’s quite impressive because Georgia has some real dudes.”

Despite the gross mismatch between the teams on paper, the Falcons still anxiously await the arrival of Saturday’s game in South Bend.

“It’s a great place. It’s a storybook place. It’s one of the greatest traditions in college football. The people over there are first class, I’ve always thought playing at that stadium — the way that you’re treated, the way that the fans treat you, it’s outstanding,” Loeffer said. “Brian Kelly, I know has done a fantastic job. I think this is a really, really good Notre Dame team that’s as good and as athletic as I’ve seen in a long time.”

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