As the regular season and conference championship games conclude this weekend, the overall statistics of Notre Dame still might be a little hard to swallow for several Fighting Irish fans.
Although this year's numbers are better than last season's 3-9 squad, it still didn't pan out the way Charlie Weis and the Irish had hoped for.
Rushing: 98th (113 ypg)
Passing: 46th (231.4 ypg)
Total Off.: 74th (344 ypg)
Scoring: 85th (22.6)
With some incredible skill position players, specifically at wide receiver and tight end, I'm a little disappointed in the overall numbers, especially the scoring average. This football team, inside their opponents 30-yard line, did not finish at the rate you wanted to see them finish off drives. In the second half of the season they did not get the ball into the endzone. There were too many field goal attempts for one's liking. So I'm very disappointed in the scoring average being 85th in the country. Just too much talent there to be scoring that low.
Total offense, I have to say is very disappointing at 74th among the Football Bowl Subdivision teams. That passing offense at 46th is livable, but everything in the world about the Irish offense gets better if they could run the football than 98th in the nation. Passing should have been better, especially the way things heated up from the second half of the Michigan State game through the third quarter of North Carolina. Top 25 easily with the receiving corps of Golden Tate and Michael Floyd.
Defensively, this was an area of concern many Irish fans alike had coming into the start of the 2008 campaign. Luckily, they improved drastically from last season.
Rushing: 96th (195 ypg)
Passing: 2nd (161.5 ypg)
Pass Eff.: 22nd (111.78)
Total: 39th (327 ypg)
Notre Dame's pass defense, statistically, ended up very, very solid. You would have to say that is was a decent number when they couldn't get to the opposing quarterback frequently. It could have been a lot worse, as I understand sacks don't take away from the pass defense numbers. But at the same time you're asking a lot from your secondary to cover pretty well when you don't get pressure on the quarterback.
The Irish didn't see many great QB's this season until last week when Southern Cal's Mark Sanchez popped up on the their schedule. I wouldn't qualify Sanchez as a great QB, but a very good one. The defense was indeed shredded at times during the season because they didn't get to the quarterback. And that has to be a point of emphasis next season, as well as, getting a defensive line that can push people around. That will only make it a whole lot easier for the Irish to excel in 2009.
And what happened to this defense that wanted to attack? They blitzed a lot in the early going, but if you noticed they called off the dogs a lot during the second half of the season. Well if you're not going to get there, why take the gamble?
Two other statistics that were glaring was the turnover margin and tackles for losses. The Irish were 84th (-.42) and 112th (4.3 tfl avg.), respectively. That definitely has to change or we'll see some wholesale changes in the football offices.
Speaking of changes, here are the "for certain" candidates that will be seeing pink slips in the near future for the Notre Dame staff:
John Latina (Offensive Line Coach)
Ron Powlus (Quarterback Coach)
Mike Haywood (Offensive Coordinator)
Reuben Mendoza (Strength and Conditioning Coach)
Once these changes will be made with suitable, proven replacements, the Irish tread into the spring with hopes of a better 2009.
For now, there's still some unfinished business to attend to in Houston!