No one likes to lose to Michigan. Ever. But I don’t think the end of the world is any closer either. While the defense still has much work to do, the offense actually looks pretty good … and will only get better from here in my humble opinion.
Lets take a look at how the offense produced on Saturday.
Tommy Rees – Rees completed twenty-nine of fifty-one passes for 314 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. This was also the first time in his career that he had back-to-back games where he passed for more than 300 yards (346 yards against Temple on August 31). The two touchdowns that he threw against Michigan bring his career totals to 39 and his season totals to five. Rees also moved passed Jarious Jackson (’99, 4,820 yards) into sixth place all-time in career passing yardage at Notre Dame with a new total of 5,073 yards.
Yes, I know, two interceptions, but Tommy’s offense scored 30 points. How many points does this offense need to score to win games?
TJ Jones – Jones caught his first touchdown of the season, the 11th of his career, and snagged nine catches for 94 yards in the match-up against Michigan. Jones’ punt return for 18 yards in the first quarter was the longest of his career, and the longest punt return by a Notre Dame player since Michael Floyd returned a punt for 41 yards in 2011 against Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl. (We can all hope that Jones follows in Floyd’s footsteps and goes on to make one-handed grabs like Floyd was making Sunday against the Rams.) And tell me again why we stopped running back punts? Anyways, I digress.
Troy Niklas – Niklas caught six passes for 76 yards, one being for a score and the longest being 21 yards. We seem to be holding strong in our reputation as Tight End U. I am very much looking forward to watching this kid play.
DaVaris Daniels – Daniels caught six passes for 63 yards, the longest being 22 yards. (I’m not saying that Eifert will not be missed this year, but with Jones, Niklas and Daniels catching passes Notre Dame’s passing game is bright to say the least.)
Chris Brown – Sophomore receiver, Brown, had three catches for 28 yards, his longest grab being for 11 yards.
Our receiving core looks tremendous and will only get better from here. We cannot, however, rely on our offense putting up huge numbers every game to make up for our defense not being able to hold or tackle anything.
Our running game, however, gave me fits of worry seeing as it was practically non-existent. This absence was not because we are lacking talent … we’ve all seen what Carlisle, Atkinson and McDaniels can do. Carlisle had 12 carries for 65 yards, Atkinson had five carries for 39 yards and a 50 yard kickoff return in the third quarter (this was his longest since a 96-yard touchdown run back at Notre Dame Stadium against USC on Oct. 22, 2011), and McDaniel had a mere one carry for four yards. Why Kelly is not utilizing this running core more effectively I have no idea. Our offense has got to be much more diversified in its attack for us to be successful moving forward.
Hopefully after they review game film and begin preparing for Purdue they realize that all passing and no rushing is not going to win games. I truly am not overly worried about this offense. Rees has a stellar surrounding cast and the more experience he gets under his belt the less mistakes he is going to make. Purdue should be a good chance for us to tune things up before we return home to face Michigan State.