By Any Means Necessary

Notre Dame's offense has exhibited domination, efficiency, big play capability, and timely execution, respectively. over the first four games of 2012. The issue? None of the above has made weekly appearances to date.

Two opening contests that included third-down conversions in 18 of 26 (meaningful attempts). Two thereafter that saw the same rate regress to an alarming 4 of 23.

Back-to-back contests that included 12 separate plays from scrimmage in excess of 20 yards; a game one week later that yielded just two such offerings.

An offense that rushed for 293 yards one week and just 52 the next. One that likewise fired for 324 passing yards in a single game, then managed just 323 total through the air over the next two outings.

A unit that scored six touchdowns to open the season but five in three games since.

In each instance, Notre Dame prevailed, and thus, an indefinable early season offense has been allowed leeway from its hungry-for-hype fan base.

Which Irish offense will show up Saturday night vs. Miami and a Hurricanes defense that's far more vulnerable than any of the previous three Notre Dame has encountered since returning from the Emerald Isle?

"We're not searching for an identity, we're still searching for consistent execution in the run and the pass game," said offensive coordinator Chuck Martin. "Our run game has been better in the first four games than some things we've done in the pass game.

"We're still trying to be consistent in both areas. When we've executed we've been pretty good in both areas. When we haven't -- we've been playing pretty good teams and if you don't execute vs. the teams we're playing you're not going to have a lot of success. That's more the identity of getting prepared every week and every snap."

Martin noted that the offense is close, but its margin for error is less than that of their defensive counterparts, a group blessed with outstanding developed individual talents.

"Stephon Tuitt on defense can beat their tackle and go sack the quarterback. You might have had holes in your coverage or a blown coverage but he sacked the quarterback," Martin explained. "On offense, we run the ball and it all looks good, then the Z receiver doesn't get his block and (the defender) makes a play. Or the tight end doesn't climb the Mike (middle linebacker) and everybody else does a good job but the Mike makes the play."

With so many still developing pieces, so many players who're solid for two to three snaps but fail on the fourth, and with the knowledge that the defense is one not likely to give up many points in a given contest, it seems that the offense has a built-in crutch.

"We need to score more points, no question about that," said head coach Brian Kelly. "We're not scoring enough points. But as you can see, and it's been the theme, we're going to be careful with the football. We're not going to be careless with it. 

"We're going to make sure that our defense is on a long field," he noted."Because if they're on a long field, they've got a chance to take it away, give us better field position, or turn it back to us. It makes an impact in how you manage and call the game."

What it might not impact is the offense's mindset.

"We're going to be able to run and throw the ball," said Martin. "If (you're looking for an identity) our identity is going to be we're going to run when we need to run the ball and throw when we need to throw the ball." Top Stories