Irish Look To Revive Rushing Game

Thursday, September 21st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Notre Dame coach Bob Davie realizes that two yards is the difference between talking about how well new quarterback Gary Godsey did against Purdue and how poor the Irish rushing attack was.

Two yards is about how far Nick Setta's winning field goal was from the right upright in the 23-21 victory over the Boilermakers on Saturday.

Two yards farther to the right, and instead of spending the week talking about how the Irish are ranked No. 16 and look ready to compete with top teams, Davie instead would be talking about how to revive Notre Dame's rushing game.

The Irish had a total of 78 yards rushing against Purdue, marking the sixth time since 1990 the Irish failed to rush for at least 100 yards. Notre Dame lost those other five games.

``We'd like to be a team that can rush for 200, 250 yards a game,'' offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers said. ``It wasn't there last week. A lot of the running game from this offense take place through the option and quarterback runs. Well, that's kind of eliminated right now. So we've got to find other ways to get it done.''

The Irish starting quarterback is the 6-foot-7 Godsey, who made his first start last week in place of injured Arnaz Battle. While Battle ran for 157 yards through Notre Dame's first two games, Godsey ran for three.

With the option gone and Godsey new at quarterback, the Boilermakers surprised the Irish and blitzed continually.

``We ran some plays into some defenses, you had no chance,'' Davie said.

Asked if the Irish offense had regressed a little because of Battle's injury, Rogers replied: ``A little? A lot.''

The Irish are averaging 152 yards rushing. That's 30 yards less than a season ago. If the trend continued, it would be Notre Dame's worst rushing attack since 1984.

Davie said he doesn't think there are any major offensive problems.

``I don't think it is because our backs aren't hitting the holes. I think it is because we played some really good defenses,'' Davie said. ``We are going to have to do something a little bit different now to be able to run the ball.''

Julius Jones, Notre Dame's leading rusher, is averaging 56 yards. Rogers said it appeared that Jones was missing his usual ``pop'' last week against Purdue, but Jones said he is fine.

``I didn't feel any different,'' said Jones, who has 184 yards on kickoff returns. ``They just blitzed every play and we had a little trouble picking it up. It was hard to get a running game going.''

Irish coaches expect No. 23 Michigan State (2-0) to try to do the same thing Saturday. Rogers said the Irish will be better prepared.

``If they want to take chances on us, we've got to make them pay,'' Rogers said.