SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — The Notre Dame offense the past four years hasn't much resembled the squads Brian Kelly coached at Cincinnati and Central Michigan.
Not even close.
The Irish are on pace to be the worst offense Kelly has had in 10 years of coaching at the FBS-level and may have hit rock bottom in the second half Saturday against USC with the Irish unable to do anything behind backup quarterback Andrew Hendrix after starter Tommy Rees went down with a neck injury.
Even with Rees expected to play Saturday at Air Force (1-6), there are concerns about the Irish offense, which is ranked 85th in the nation in total offense at 374.3 yards a game.
That's the worst output for the Irish in four seasons under Kelly, and markedly worse than last season when the Irish averaged 412 yards a game, which was still only 54th in nation.
Kelly talked last spring about he hoped Notre Dame would be able to sometimes switch to the kind of no-huddle, hurry-up spread attack that Cincinnati used under him to finish fourth in the nation in scoring in 2009 at 38.6 points a game.
He talked in August about the offense needing to carry more of the burden this season after the Irish rode a dominant defense to the BCS title game. So far, though, the Irish offense hasn't been holding up its end.
Kelly wouldn't say Tuesday, why he hasn't been able to have the success at Notre Dame offensively as he has elsewhere, other than again saying defense is the key to winning at Notre Dame.
"I'm not going to answer the question. Look at college football, look around college football, the teams that are scoring a gazillion points, it's not innovative gurus on offense," he said.
Asked again why he hasn't been able to do at Notre Dame what he's done at other stops, Kelly replied: : "Consistency. You have to be consistent on offense."
The Irish were dealt a blow this season when last year's starter, Everett Golson, was suspended from school for the fall semester for poor academic judgment. That came after Gunner Kiel, a top-rated quarterback coming out of high school, announced he was transferring.
Kelly named Tommy Rees, who started 18 games the previous three seasons, as the starter. The problem with Rees is he isn't the running threat Golson is, and opposing defenses have crowded the line daring Rees to beat them with his arm.