Irish Looking For Complete Game on Offense

The Notre Dame football team went back to work on Tuesday in preparation from their game with Pittsburgh this weekend. The Irish are coming off a huge win at Tennessee, and many seniors will be playing in their final home game on Saturday. We spoke with a couple of coaches and running back Darius Walker to get their thoughts on the Pitt game as well as the Tennessee victory and more.

The Notre Dame offense has struggled recently, including just 216 total yards of offense against Tennessee last weekend.

Offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick said he knows what the problem is with his offense, but third-year Irish coach didn't want to share that with the media on Tuesday—most likely to protect his players.

"I do know, but I'm not going to say," said Diedrick when asked what the problem might be with his struggling offense. "And that's not against you guys, I just think it's breakdowns, it's lack of execution at critical times. Those things don't allow you to be consistent and that is most difficult."

"I think in some areas you are surprised by it," said Diedrick when asked if he was surprised his offense is still struggling after almost three years of implementing it.

The inconsistency is not just a game-to-game situation. Sometimes the offense struggles from week-to-week in running or throwing the football. Diedrick admitted the inconsistency has been frustrating.

"I think that that is disappointing," said Diedrick. "For whatever reason, even when they've played extremely well, (they) haven't come out and kept that intensity or consistency in the second half or vice versa."

As frustrating as it can be for a coach, Diedrick says he remains patient and optimistic his offense will put it all together soon.

"I think you do have to have patience, and sometimes it's very frustrating," he said. "It's not the game on Sunday where you can go out and get new players. You have the players you have and you try to continue to make them better, consistent and you do that on a day in, day out basis."

Defensive coordinator Kent Baer says Saturday's game will be a bittersweet situation for him. He'll be watching many of this seasons top performers play their last football game in Notre Dame Stadium.

"It's Tuesday, and I don't want to address it too early, but there's going to be some emotions even in our meetings, and certainly Saturday when we walk in this locker room or walk down that tunnel," said Baer. "Things always have to come to an end, but there's a lot of great young men in that locker room that's been my pleasure to be around."

The Irish defense played one of their better games last Saturday in their win over Tennessee. Baer seemed pretty pleased with what he saw from his defense after further review of the film.

"It's never as good as it looks on Sunday, and it's never as bad as it looks," he said. "What's enjoyable about that is our kids played hard. That's something we really pride ourselves in, how hard we play. I guess the other part of that is when you put a plan together and it works. The defensive staff did a tremendous job."

Next up for Baer and the Irish defense is Pittsburgh and another quarterback that can challenge a team with his legs as well as his arm in Tyler Palko.

Palko was recruited by many schools to play linebacker and Baer says he can certainly see why.

"He does have that mentality," said Baer of Palko's linebacker-like attitude on the field. "He's a tremendously gifted runner. He's a hard runner, he wants to hurt you when he runs down field. He'll run over you, and that's his defensive mentality. He's certainly a handful."

We asked Baer what about the Pittsburgh offense would challenge the Irish on Saturday.

"How balanced they are," Baer said. "They're very balanced and they're very efficient with the football. They don't have a lot of turnovers. They don't have a lot of sacks. One of their receivers is eighth in the country in receiving. They run the ball well. They have three different backs, a couple different fullbacks, they rotate them in and out and they seem to stay pretty fresh. It's a huge challenge because they're so balanced."

Another hot topic today was the recent speculation regarding Baer and the vacant Utah State head coaching position. The third-year Irish coach lettered all four years in football while playing at Utah State and also coached there for nine years previously.

"It's all speculation," said Baer when asked to talk about the vacancy.

"That's all speculation," he said when asked if he'd be interested in the position. "Honestly, I haven't talked to anybody, and I haven't even addressed it right now."

There is no denying, however, that Baer has a real fondness for the state of Utah and Utah State as well.

"It's a place a grew up," he said. "My whole family lives there. It is a special place, but I'll tell you what, (Notre Dame) is a special place. I've enjoyed every minute of it here even though it's hard at times. To have the opportunity to coach here at Notre Dame, walk out on that field, playing the games that we've played on the road, and some of the wins we've had have been tremendous."

Where is Darius?

Freshman running back Darius Walker made a big splash early in the season with some outstanding running for the Irish. The freshman sensation has appeared to be the hot back the last few weeks, but hasn't been receiving the lion's share of carries. We asked Walker if he gets frustrated with the number of carries he's receiving.

"I just try to keep myself prepared for when I'm called on," said Walker. "Whenever they need me to get in there and attempt to run the ball, block, or whatever they need me to do. I try to keep myself ready for that.

"As you know we've been going through this little rotation, and it's good so it keeps us all fresh, focus and ready to go."

Despite agreeing with the rotation the Irish are using at running back, Walker feels the rotation does make it hard for him to find his rhythm as a running back.

"I'm am feeling pretty good," said Walker. "When I get out there and you get the chance to get a few yards, you kind of get into the momentum, and I guess it's a little difficult when you're rolling in and out. It's a good system that we have that keeps us all fresh and ready to go."

Walker was asked if he ever wonders why others are playing in front of him when he appears to have the hot hand and running back.

"I don't know about all of that," he said. "I just want to do what I can for the team, and I guess whoever they see fit needs to go out there, I guess should be out there."


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