Irish provide a glimpse of their 2014 offense

Al Lesar

AL LESAR
South Bend Tribune

NEW YORK -- Recognize the scheme. Disregard the opponent. Ignore the personnel.

The Notre Dame football team gave a schematic peek into its offensive future during Saturday's 29-16 Pinstripe Bowl victory over Rutgers.

That the 9-4 Irish were able to have at least a limited amount of success, given the players available, should cultivate a measure of optimism as Irish fans look toward 2014.

En route to its underwhelming postseason victory at Yankee Stadium, Notre Dame amassed 494 yards of total offense, but scored just two touchdowns.

That's not easy for a team to do.

Finishing became a factor.

Of course, that's a Notre Dame team operating with an immobile backup quarterback all year, a makeshift offensive line since midseason, and a dysfunctional running game that didn't find itself until the final 30 minutes of the season.

"I'd like to get 90 (offensive) plays, like we did today," Irish head coach Brian Kelly said of his vision for the future. "We'd like to play a little faster, like we did today. We'd like our offense to be a little bit more multi-dimensional.

"We had five yards rushing from our quarterback (Tommy Rees), and ran 90 plays. If we have a quarterback next year who has the ability to run the ball (Everett Golson), we will be difficult to defend. We would like to be that kind of team."

That's the sort of team the Irish, in the Kelly era, started out to be. The ol' square peg and the round hole syndrome kept that sort of approach from being a staple. Kelly proved he was flexible enough to tailor his system to the talent at hand and do the best he could.

Saturday, the field was spread with receivers. Decisions happened quickly at the line of scrimmage. Defensive adjustments didn't have time to be made.

All without the threat of a quarterback making big yards out of a broken play.

Rees threw for 319 yards (27 of 47) and the Irish rushed for 112 of their 175 yards after intermission.

Something about that offense looked like it could work with the right sort of athletes making the plays.

The roll of the dice should come with more options next season.

Notre Dame's red-zone offense left three drives wasted inside the Rutgers 10-yard line. Those marches ended with three of the five Irish field goals.

Kelly said his hire as defensive coordinator, to replace Bob Diaco, won't come from within. Co-defensive coordinator Kerry Cooks, who stepped into the spotlight for the bowl game, won't be the main man.

Finding the right guy to cobble together a quality front seven is imperative.

The choice for an offensive coordinator to replace Chuck Martin won't happen so soon. Kelly said he hasn't given that position much thought — though he has the last word offensively anyway.

The future appears bright.

Actually, that's exactly how it looked this time last year, too.

Remember, a lot can happen between now and September.

But ...

Notre Dame players celebrates their 29-16 win against Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl on Saturday at Yankee Stadium in New York.