Some of the media, including Irish Eyes, have not always been complimentary toward offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick and his offense. We (Irish Eyes) felt justified in our criticisms at the time, but we're wearing the egg on our faces this week, and the previous two, as it appears that Diedrick has his players not only buying into his system, but also executing his system at a very high level recently.
The Notre Dame offense scored 31 points in the first half against Washington on Saturday. Nobody needs me to tell them that the Irish offense was efficient. But, we must give credit where credit is due, and the Irish offense looks just a few tweaks away from really taking off this season—something very few thought possible after the BYU loss.
Diedrick, who is in his third year as Notre Dame's offensive coordinator, has been masterful with his hands at the controls recently, setting up opposing defenses with some creative playing calling and taking advantage of what defenses give him on a weekly basis.
What has been the most impressive, however, is the coaching from all the coaches on offensive side of the ball the last two weeks, not just Diedrick. We've seen marked improvement in all positions on offense recently and it shouldn't go unnoticed.
While we've been impressed with the Irish offense recently, we will also be giving a tremendous amount of credit to Kent Baer and his defensive staff, who have put together one fantastic defense, giving the Irish offense the time to click.
Let's take a look at what went right on Saturday and why. After an in-depth viewing of the tape, here is what we saw.
We must give credit first to Diedrick on the end-around play early in the first quarter. While the running play to speedster Matt Shelton probably netted just one yard, it did tell the Washington defense that they better stay home on their assignments or they were going to get burned by a very fast player.
This call set the tone because it highlighted a player who recently burned two opposing defenses on a number of occasions in a misdirection play, slowing an aggressive defense.
The first of many great play calls by Diedrick on the day!
The next impressive play call might've been the most creative of the day, and resulted in the first Irish touchdown.
Irish Eyes fans will remember in a previous installment of "expert analysis" where our expert said the Irish used the middle screen too much, and teams were expecting it. He also suggested that so many possibilities existed from that play, and if the Irish expanded on that play, they might have more success.
On Matt Shelton's first touchdown, Diedrick focused on his previous tendency with the middle screen, as Brady Quinn faked the middle screen to Rhema McKnight and hooked up with Shelton for the touchdown. The Washington defense bit on that tendency. Second great play call by Diedrick.
We also saw a number of different running plays from the stretch play to numerous pulling and trap plays designed to keep the defense off balance. We also saw the draw play used a number of times to with great success.
Diedrick also tried to use the flats on a number of occasions to keep the Washington defense from just defending the middle of the field, but Quinn and his backs couldn't hook up for whatever reason, but we certainly loved the idea and hope to see it a lot more in the future.
Another great sight seen the last two weeks has been outstanding pass protection. The Irish offensive line has done an outstanding job in pass protection the last few weeks, and yes, the Irish backs have done an excellent job of picking up blitzes.
Two great examples of picking up the blitz can be found right before Matt Shelton's second touchdown.
On a third down play right before the touchdown, and the actual play of Shelton's second touchdown, were both great examples of how the Irish backs have progressed in picking up the blitz. Irish backs stoned blitzers on both plays allowing Quinn time to find Shelton.
Seen any wide receivers dropping easy balls recently? Just another example of how all positions are starting to play at a high level.
Another great call by Diedrick happened right after Irish defensive lineman Trevor Laws forced and recovered a Washington fumble.
Quinn faked a run to an Irish back and bootlegged and hit Fasano for his first touchdown on the day. A very impressive play call as the entire Washington defense bit on the fake.
Quinn himself had a fine first half. The sophomore is an enigma when you watch the replay, however. He's deadly accurate on a number of throws, and then misses wide open receivers on others.
He clearly had his best day as a quarterback for Notre Dame, but he did miss a number of open opportunities that the Irish can't afford to miss against the better teams on their schedule. He's certainly improved, however, and playing well.
The Irish defense also played a fantastic game on Saturday, and credit has to be given to both the players and coaching staff. Kent Baer threw a number of excellent blitzes at the young Washington quarterbacks, and the Irish players dominated what many considered a good offensive line.
I cannot tell you how well Greg Pauly played in this game, or his counterparts in Derek Landri and Trevor Laws. All three players just dominated the middle, and Pauly especially had an outstanding game.
On Washington's only scoring drive, they had the Irish in a third-and-one situation. Pauly blew up the middle and a blitzing Mike Goolsby tackled the Washington back for no gain.
On their fourth-and-one attempt, Pauly blew a huge hole in the offensive line and Brandon Hoyte shot through the hole unloading on Washington quarterback Casey Paus as he tried to sneak for the first down.
I also noticed a number of passing plays where Pauly, Landri-Laws would get a big push up field, not allowing the Washington quarterbacks room to step up in the pocket and throw.
On the Dwight Ellick interception, this is exactly what happened as the Washington quarterback was forced to throw off his back foot because of the pressure up field. The result was the Ellick pick and the end to another Washington threat.
On Washington last threat of the game, it was Pauly again coming up with a big play. The Huskies were set with second down on Notre Dame's three-yard line. Pauly shot the gap and blew up the hole stopping another rushing attempt. An illegal shift put Washington back five years, but the Pauly play was typical of what I saw all day from the fifth-year senior.
The trio inside for the Irish defense has been doing an outstanding job of putting opposing offenses in second-and-long and third-and-long situations. There just is no running room for opposing backs on first down, and one of the main reasons the Irish have been so successful on defense this year.
The Irish defense played an outstanding game—the entire game—on Saturday. The Irish offense had their best half of football to date under offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick, and they appear very close to putting it all together for a complete game.
The Irish will likely need a complete game next week against Purdue. Senior quarterback Kyle Orton is playing as well as anyone in the country, and the Purdue offense could prove to be problematic for the Irish defenders.
It will be vital for the Irish offense score points on Saturday, and score them early, to stay in the game because we're sure Purdue will put up their share of points on Saturday.
A good sign is that the Irish offense did just that this past weekend, and credit has to go to both Diedrick and the Irish players for their recent success.
I didn't admit I was wrong, did I? The jury is still out, but the Irish offense appears ready to take that next big step Irish fans have been waiting for.