Davie in Reverse; Offense in Neutral

It wasn't that long ago that Notre Dame was beating Rutgers 62-0. Today the Irish are in the same crummy neighborhood as the Scarlet Knights, at the bottom of the NCAA offensive rankings. There was no fire and brimstone at practice Monday, just a lot of back-pedaling by Bob Davie as he pledged his loyalty to offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers. IrishEyes research indicates this is the worst Notre Dame offensive team since Joe Kuharich. Read it all here.

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October 1, 2001

Davie Reverses Field;
Offense Stuck in Neutral

The IrishEyes.Com News Service

NOTRE DAME, Ind. (IE) – Statistically, Notre Dame is the least productive team in major college football. The 0-3 Irish have only scored two touchdowns all season, ranking them 115th out of 115 teams in that category.

The Irish are 113th in total offense, only slightly better than Arkansas and Rutgers. They are 112th in turnover margin, 100th in rushing offense, 112th in passing. Neither Matt LoVecchio nor Carlyle Holiday is ranked among the top 100 quarterbacks in the country in terms of passing efficiency.

But, Monday afternoon at Cartier Field, it was business as usual. Barely 24 hours after saying he would take a more active role in the offense in Saturday's game against Pittsburgh, Bob Davie announced that the offensive controls for his anemic team remain in the hands of Kevin Rogers.

"I was probably a little dramatic about that (taking over the offense)," said Davie. "I'm not going to call the plays on offense, I'm not going to spend all my times in the offensive meetings. Kevin Rogers is our offensive coordinator and he's going to call every play Saturday."

Davie went on to say he had "Tremendous confidence in our offensive staff."

Whatever confidence Davie may have in his staff, it has to be purely on a personal level. The offensive braintrust has done nothing to earn loyalty from the boss on game day.

Consider this, Notre Dame's 23 points this season is its lowest three-game output since the 1985 Gerry Faust squad compiled just 20 in consecutive losses to Penn State, LSU and Miami. Those were the last three games of Faust's South Bend career.

Going back to the Fiesta Bowl, ND has tallied just 32 points in four games. You have to go all the way back to Joe Kuharich in 1962 to find a more futile stretch – 27 points in four consecutive losses.

Since September 1999, Notre Dame -- with Rogers calling the plays  -- is a putrid 14-13 overall, 14-15 counting the final two games of 1998. By IrishEyes' research, it is the worst 29-game stretch under the Dome since a 12-17 Kuharich run between 1961-63.

"I think it's a conglomeration of things," said Davie. "Certainly turnovers is the number one disappointment. The second thing is that we've been unable to convert whether it's third-and-short or converting in the red zone. And the biggest thing is that we're a mistake-prone football team right now."

A pretty nasty conglomeration, indeed.

Hand it to South Bend Tribune beat writer Al Lesar who had the line of the year in print last week. "Who knew two guards and a tight end meant so much?"

The players, predictably, are rallying around Davie.

"He's always been positive," said Holiday. "He takes a lot of the blame, but it's not his fault. The players have to play."

Tailback Tony Fisher doesn't sound particularly anxious to run through the tunnel Saturday.

"I'm really worried how we get received on Saturday," he said. "If (the fans) boo the coach they're booing the players too, because he's our leader."

Rogers acknowledged after practice that Notre Dame's "Psyche is really delicate. But we have problems that need to be fixed. We're having problems at the wide receiver position. The breakdowns are rampant. It's not just one thing."

Davie didn't allude to any particular personnel changes on the offensive side for Saturday. Holiday is the likely starter.

There was little fire and brimstone at Cartier Monday. One is reminded of a Lou Holtz indoor practice at Loftus following a 1992 home loss to Stanford. As recounted in Stephen Singular's "Notre Dame's Greatest Coaches," the legendary Moose Krause sat in the metal bleachers watching in glee as an annoyed Holtz knocked the snot out of his players from a solid 90 minutes. The Irish did not lose again for 17 games.

Instead, we heard this from the kinder, gentler Davie on Monday.

"It's not the easiest thing to go through, but anything that is worth learning, anything that you learn from, it makes you a better person," said Davie. "I'm just so proud of these players. I'm not particularly proud with the way we're playing, that's obvious, but I am proud of these kids.

"We're not going to roll over and die," Davie continued. "We've got a football team right now that played in Lincoln, where (Nebraska's) record is 86-3. And we just came out of College Station, and R.C. (Slocum) hasn't lost a non-conference game there at home in 13 years. And we had Michigan State 10-10 in the fourth quarter."

Maybe it was that kind of rationalization that led to Davie's overnight switch in thinking when it came to Rogers running the offense.

Maybe it's that kind of rationalization that has the Irish in the predicament they are in. At the bottom looking up…at Rutgers.


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