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Notre Dame coach: Bad defense, not innovation, aids offense

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For more on college football, follow Tom Davis via Twitter at www.twitter.com/Tom101010.

Irish offense has failed to meet Kelly's prior levels

Thursday, October 24, 2013 - 1:27 am

There's an old saying in Texas that some guys are backwater enough to think a seven-course meal is a opossum and a six-pack. To Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly, perhaps that description applies to Baylor coach Art Briles and his ebullient Bears offense.

Kelly was asked recently as to why his Fighting Irish offense (85th in total offense this season) has never in his three-plus seasons in South Bend reached the level of his programs at Cincinnati (ranked sixth in total offense in 2009), Central Michigan (19th-best passing attack in 2006) and Grand Valley State (set all-time NCAA Division II scoring record at 58.4 points per game), and he was hesitant to discuss the matter.

“Do I have to?” Kelly returned the question. “You're going to make me answer the question? Because I'm not going to answer the question.”

And then he did in a surprising manner.

“Look around college football, the teams that are scoring a gazillion points, it's not innovative gurus on offense," Kelly said.

There you go, Coach Briles.

Briles' Bears are averaging more than 714 yards of offense each week and scoring nearly 65 points per game. But according to Kelly, who played a quarterback (senior Andrew Hendrix) last Saturday who couldn't complete a pass, it's due to bad defenses, not “innovative gurus.”

“It's pretty clear why they're scoring a gazillion points,” Kelly continued, “if you guys can figure that out. I mean, you've got to play great defense, there's no question. There's no question about what you have to do if you want to win a national championship. You've got to have a defense in place.

“The rest is I think if you guys watch college football, you guys can figure out what you have to do from there.”

What Notre Dame fans can “figure out” is that Hendrix isn't a viable option at quarterback if indeed starting quarterback Tommy Rees goes down with another injury (he is expected to start in Saturday's game at Air Force after being knocked out of last week's game with USC).

Despite having been in the program four years, Hendrix entered the game and not only couldn't complete a pass, but he also had difficulty getting the snap count down. But Kelly is standing by Hendrix through thin and thinner.

“I think Andrew and I and (offensive coordinator Chuck Martin) expected him to play better,” Kelly said. “He did not and that's behind us. So we're going to go back to practice (Tuesday) with the expectations to learn from it, build on it, and have the expectations that if we're called upon to be out on that field again, to improve on it. I'm confident that he can do that.”

It's highly questionable as to how confident the Irish fan base is, however. Since Kelly was hired nearly four years ago, the quarterback position has never proved to be stable.

Dayne Crist spent eight months earning the starting position and lost it initially due to injury, then later to poor play.

Tommy Rees lost the job in training camp in each of his first three seasons and won it by default this year when returning starter Everett Golson was expelled.

Even Golson was benched several times last season in favor of Rees for different reasons.

Kelly has had four years to develop a quarterback to guide this program from start to finish and he's never done so.

“Yeah, this has not been the easiest run in four years here at Notre Dame with quarterbacks,” Kelly said.

It must be those darned defenses.