Saturday’s game in Chestnut Hill, MA was a historic one for Brandon Wimbush. In the best running effort by a quarterback in program history, Wimbush ran for 4 (!) touchdowns while picking up 207 yards on 21 carries. He contributed to a day in which the Fighting Irish totaled 515 rushing yards.
I’ve long been a believer that Notre Dame should put an emphasis on running the ball. While I know this game was against lowly Boston College, the Eagles have had a quality defense the last few years. Plus, any time you total that many yards, it’s no joke, regardless of who you play.
However, Wimbush’s passing still leaves a lot to be desired. On the season, he’s completing 50.5% of his passes. He hasn’t thrown for more than 215 yards in a game yet. He’s thrown 2 touchdowns and 2 picks while being sacked 6 times. If he commits to throwing the ball, he often has an issue feeling the pressure, and consequently, holding onto the ball (see the Georgia game, for example). The Irish aerial attack is 124th in passing efficiency.
This isn’t a result of the offensive line, which is extremely experienced. This isn’t a result of a lack of weapons, as he has one of the most athletically-gifted wideouts in the country in Equanimeous St. Brown, along with a deep core of receivers/tight ends. Granted, he wasn’t exactly helped out by his receivers on Saturday, but the point still persists.
If the Irish are to make a bowl game, they’re going to need to be able to move the ball aerially. I don’t need him to be DeShone Kizer – he will simply never have a bigger arm. I do think they could benefit from ‘safer’ play-calling – putting more focus on shorter-to-intermediate passes
Ultimately, the Irish defense is much, much improved from last season. While Wimbush is in his first season as a starting quarterback, he does have a wealth of upperclassmen supporting him. The Irish are bound to play in some really close games this season, starting this Saturday against Michigan State, and we all know that hasn’t been their strongest suit recently. The Spartans boast the 2nd-best passing defense in the country, but the Irish simply can’t abandon that part of their offense altogether if they expect to win.
They will continue to not win those close games if he can’t complete passes at a respectable rate.
Cover photo from USA Today.