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Notre Dame is finding balance, success

It isn’t a difficult task to assess whether or not the Notre Dame football team is improved this season from a year ago.

It is. By a wide margin.

However, what is difficult – even for veteran Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly – is to figure out which players deserve the credit for such growth.

“I don’t think you can look at this team and say ‘Well, it’s a dominating defense,'” Kelly said following his team’s most recent rout, “or God, it’s a dominating offense, or it’s special teams. We don’t hurt each other.”

No, but the Fighting Irish are certainly hurting their opposition with solid play all over the field, and that was never more evident than in Saturday’s 52-17 win over Miami (Ohio).

On Notre Dame’s second offensive play, junior runner Josh Adams bolted through the RedHawk defense for a 73 yard score.

On the third defensive play by Kelly’s guys, linebacker Greer Martini picked off a Miami pass, which the Irish later turned into a quick 14-0 lead.

Placed in between those two occurrences was a touchback kickoff by Jonathan Doerer. All three aspects of play were clicking from the outset.

“We complement each other,” Kelly said. “Our defense takes it away and we go and score.”

And it wasn’t just against Saturday’s overmatched performance that this balance of play has shown. Aside from the lone loss (a 20-19 loss to Georgia), the Irish have been productive on both sides of the ball all season.

As of today, Notre Dame is ranked 22nd in scoring defense and 14th in scoring offense. And when it comes to turnovers, the Fighting Irish defense is creating them and the Notre Dame offense is curbing them.

“Our offense doesn’t put our defense in a bad position,” Kelly said. “I think we really complement each other. We take care of the football.”

That balance isn’t just limited to productivity with this year’s group; Kelly is seeking better balance in what his offensive unit is doing schematically.

In earlier years, the Notre Dame coaches would assess what they were doing offensively perhaps midway through each season to measure any tendencies and see what worked and what didn’t. However, similar to every other aspect of the Notre Dame football program, Kelly did a reassessment this off-season of how the staff analyzed themselves and he altered it.

Instead of performing a “self-scout” midway through the season, Kelly is having senior offensive analyst Jeff Quinn breakdown the information on a weekly basis.

“We went to a different mode this year,” Kelly explained. “I wanted to self-scout each week. We’ve got great balance in a lot of things that we’re doing. We’re self-scouting weekly and I think we have got some pretty good balance in what we’re trying to do offensively.”

Notre Dame scored on seven of its initial eight offensive series against Miami, but its defense was just as impressive. The Fighting Irish have routed three consecutive opponents and still haven’t allowed more than 20 points thus far this season.

“It’s just a good group,” Kelly said of his 2017 squad. “It’s working well together. We’ll continue to do that if we want to continue to win.”

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