After Notre Dame followed up a rousing win over Michigan with a slog past Ball State, ND’s ceiling remains unclear. But the issues are coming into focus.
Here are three things we learned about the Irish in Week 2.
1, It's not clear that Wimbush will hold up against future marquee opponents.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
Quarterback Brandon Wimbush threw for a career-high 297 yards against Ball State, but also threw a career-high three interceptions.
It’s reasonable that coach Brian Kelly would want his quarterback to learn in a low-risk environment against Ball State. It’s troubling that Wimbush did not fare better.
In two games, he has completed 54.7 percent of his passes and thrown one TD with four interceptions. Sacked four times by Ball State, Wimbush finished with 11 carries for minus-7 yards.
Nothing wrong with the 2-0 record. That’s all-important. And the win against Michigan is stellar.
But Wimbush needs to be better. Everyone knows that. Including him.
2, The running game needs work
Notre Dame is averaging 2.8 yards per carry. It is 104th in the nation in rushing offense, with 124.5 yards.
Those numbers are not going to take the Irish where they want to go.
Some of it is understandable. No offensive line loses exceptional blockers like top-10 draft picks Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey without feeling a dropoff.
In additon, the return of lead running back Dexter Williams, who’s serving a four-game suspension, in Game 5 will help.
The line, which has talent, will get better. And if Wimbush becomes more of a passing threat, that should help open some running room.
But teams that aspire to the lofty goals Notre Dame has excel in the trenches. On both sides of the ball.
3, If Ball State can hang around, Vanderbilt certainly can
Let’s not read too much into the bumpy win over Ball State, a 34½-point underdog. College football is an emotional game. And the Irish can’t be faulted for not being stoked coming off of their Michigan win.
Vanderbilt, a 14½-point underdog, doesn’t look all that dangerous. But ND will need to step up its game this week.
The Commodores, who have bulldozed Middle Tennessee 35-7 and Nevada 41-10 in their first two games, can do some things on offense.
They are directed by senior quarterback Kyle Shurmur, a 6-4, 225-pound a third-year starter who has thrown four touchdowns this year after throwing 26 TDs last year. The son of New York Giants coach Pat Shurmur, an accomplished offensive coordinator, a kid who grew up around NFL teams isn’t likely to be rattled. More likely, he’ll be pumped up by the opportunity to play Notre Dame.
That’s basically what ND gets every week. The Irish will need to play better on Saturday. And after that desultory performance against Ball State, that’s what the Irish are likely to deliver.[/membership]