In order for Notre Dame to have a successful season, the team will need to put Tommy Rees in a better position to succeed on a constant basis.
The senior quarterback has had an up-and-down career with the Fighting Irish, showcasing a lot of talent but little consistency. This has already been on display in the short season.
Notre Dame split its first two games with a dominant win over Temple followed by a loss to Michigan. Rees' play had a lot to do with each of the results.
In the first game, the quarterback went 16-of-23 for 346 yards and three touchdowns. More importantly, he did not have a single interception and the offense went turnover free.
This was not the case against Michigan, as two costly interceptions gave the team little chance of victory. However, it was not all his fault, as he was forced to throw the ball 51 times in the game.
Head coach Brian Kelly cannot allow this to happen in future games. He needs the offense to be a run-heavy attack that uses the throw to keep teams honest or get big plays with a play action.
After falling behind the Wolverines early, however, Notre Dame virtually abandoned the run despite it being extremely effective early on. Not counting sacks, the team rushed for 105 yards on 18 attempts for an average of 5.8 yards per carry.
This put too much pressure on Rees to succeed against a quality defense, and he came out flat and made mistakes.
In the win over Purdue, the Irish had a lot of trouble running the ball, and that led to a bunch of problems offensively early on. The team trailed 10-3 at halftime and 17-10 after three quarters.
However, the offense kept trying to develop the run, and it eventually paid off with a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter to take the lead—one of which was a beautifully thrown ball by Rees in what became an 82-yard touchdown pass to DaVaris Daniels.
Even with the struggles on the ground, the team still had 37 attempts against the Boilermakers, compared to only 19 attempts against Michigan. Although a bunch came on the final drive, there was still a better attempt to get things going on the ground.
Unsurprisingly, this led to a better overall performance from Rees, who finished 20-of-33 with 309 passing yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
This is the type of strategy that the squad must use in games going forward.
Despite what was shown last week, this team still has a quality defense with experienced players and top talent. Additionally, it has a number of solid running backs between Cam McDaniel, Amir Carlisle and George Atkinson III.
The team needs to use these strengths to get the most out of the team. That is what happened last season, and the squad went all the way to the BCS National Championship Game.
Last year, freshman quarterback Everett Golson was not given much of a green light and only topped 32 pass attempts in a game twice all season. Those instances came in a triple-overtime game and the loss to Alabama in the title game.
While Rees is a senior, he deserves the same support and should be kept to low passing totals. Notre Dame has to keep running the football and allowing the defense to help lead the team to victory.
Otherwise, it will put too much pressure on the inconsistent passer and will lead to more losses during the year.
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