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Meet the Notre Dame offense, now with elite rushing attack

This is a ground game as scary as they come.

NCAA Football: Southern California at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

While I am loath to give Brian Kelly any credit for anything, there is no denying that he has done an excellent job revamping the Notre Dame offense to play effectively to its strengths. A lot of coaches are stubborn, and plenty would be unwilling to make significant schematic changes in their specific area of expertise, but Kelly is not among them this year, and the Irish offense is thriving.

Notre Dame pumped the brakes on Kelly’s passing scheme in the absence of DeShone Kizer, who went on to become a second round NFL Draft pick last spring. Kizer’s exit to the pros and Malik Zaire’s decision to transfer left the Irish offense in the hands of junior Brandon Wimbush, who didn’t even attempt a pass last season.

But the Irish had the bonus of a strong offensive line returning, led by tackle Mike McGlinchey, who is a likely top-10 draft pick in the spring. The Irish start four seniors up front. Kelly replaced both of his coordinators in the offseason, and the fresh perspective is paying off rather incredibly well, especially on this side of things. (The super-talented offensive line does help though.)

Meet the new Notre Dame, ground hogs from hell. The Irish rank sixth nationally in rushing yardage per game—behind four triple-option teams that run the ball far more often—and second in yards per attempt. This is just a bit of a contrast from 2016.


ND Offense RushAtt/G RushYd/G YPC Rush TD Std. Down Run% Passing Down Run%
ND Offense RushAtt/G RushYd/G YPC Rush TD Std. Down Run% Passing Down Run%
2016 36.5 163.3 4.5 18 55.7 33.8
2017 45 317.9 7.1 28 64.9 42

The remodeled Irish offense helps limit Wimbush’s exposure by putting him in more comfortable passing situations and takes advantage of what he does do well—namely, run. He’s second on the team with 508 rushing yards. Still, Kelly was never going to abandon the passing game entirely, and the Irish still throw it fairly often. Wimbush is averaging about 26 pass attempts per game.

Could the Irish stand to run the ball even more frequently than they are currently? Sure seems that way considering Wimbush is completing only 52% of his throws for 6.0 yards per attempt.

Those numbers do help you appreciate just how tremendous Notre Dame has been up front. As far as S&P+ is concerned, there is not a better running game in the country. Only Georgia and Michigan State—to a significantly lesser extent—have been up to the challenge this season. How about you, NC State?