Much very deserved blame has been laid at the feet of the feeble Notre Dame offensive line over the last 2 years for the Irish’s pathetic running game. Coming in at #100 in rushing offense in 2008, it’s not hard to see why. At the same time, some grumblings have been heard regarding the Irish RB stable’s ability to break a big play. After all, teams that are patient with the run aren’t really seeking to only gain 3 or 4 yards on each carry. The entire reason for being patient with the running game is that it should eventually pay dividends in a big play here or there on top of consistent gains. In 2008, any patience the Irish displayed with the running game (and that amount is debatable) was never rewarded. The longest rush by any Irish RB in 2008 was 21 yards by Armando Allen against Purdue. And if you’ll recall, that run was against a defense that had essentially run out of linebackers to put on the field. Meanwhile, the best Aldridge or Hughes could scrounge up on a single play in 2008 was 19 and 18 yards respectively.
That’s pretty obviously pathetic. But just how pathetic, really? Here’s a list of players on the rosters of 2009 Irish opponents who all managed to gain a better season-high mark in 2008. Note: This is just something I was able to clap together with a quick scan. I probably missed some.
That’s 26 players that ND will face this year who’ve all shown a better ability to break a big running play in the last year than any Irish RB did in the same time. Hell, Washington and WSU each have multiple guys on their roster who accomplished the feat, and those two programs had to play one another just so one of them could have a win in ’08. Nevada has 2 guys who’ve got ’08-bests that triple the best of Armando Allen. And Nevada joins SoCal as teams that have 5 guys on the ’09 roster with better ’08-bests than any Irish runner. The only team on ND’s schedule that doesn’t have a runner with a better ’08-best than any Irish runner is, somewhat surprisingly, Pitt. But that team lost their 3 best runners after last season, and all of those guys would have been on this list if they were on the ’09 roster. Even without any representation from Pitt, there are 14 guys on that list who had a 2008 best that is at least twice as long as Allen’s best.
So much has been made of the outright talent advantage ND should have over just about everyone on the ’09 schedule, but, frankly, until I see a little more running to daylight and a little less of this…
…I’m not likely to buy into it.