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Notre Dame on red alert in red zone

Ranked 92nd in efficiency, Irish make it ‘huge point of emphasis’

– Notre Dame has found the balance it wants on offense as the No. 4 Irish (9-0) enter Saturday’s game at Boston College (2-7) averaging 204.1 passing and 200.3 rushing yards.

But the Irish would trade that near-even split for more points in the red zone.

Notre Dame is No. 92 in offensive red zone efficiency, scoring on 35 of 46 trips (76.1 percent) inside opponent’s 20-yard line. And the Irish have settled for field goals 14 times in the red zone.

“We’re on it as much as you guys are in terms of understanding how important it is to put points on the board when you get down there,” coach Brian Kelly said.

Notre Dame was close to paying a big price for missed chances to score red zone touchdowns in last weekend’s 29-26 triple-overtime home victory over Pittsburgh.

The Irish put together 60- and 89-yard drives on their first two possessions against the Panthers, but both times Notre Dame settled for field goals.

The first drive stopped at Pitt’s 20-yard line and was undone by two penalties on the Panthers’ side of the field, including a false start on the 15.

The second drive stopped on Pitt’s 2 when Irish running back Theo Riddick couldn’t get into the end zone on three straight attempts. The 5-foot-11, 200-pound senior gained a yard on his first run, didn’t move the ball on his second attempt and was dropped for a 4-yard loss on his last attempt.

“We know if we are going to win football games, we got to score in the red zone,” left tackle Zack Martin said. “If you look at the stats (against Pittsburgh), we’ve got 500-some yards offense, but … we had six points in the fourth quarter. That has been a huge point of emphasis. We are not stupid, we know it is something we’ve got to work on.”

Turnovers also hurt Notre Dame’s red zone production last week.

Quarterback Everett Golson threw an interception from Pitt’s 7 with 3:59 left in regulation, and running back Cierre Wood fumbled away a winning touchdown when he tried to dive across the goal line on second-and-goal from the 2 in the second overtime.

“This week once we get inside the red zone, we have to score,” Riddick said. “Seven is a lot better than three. Once we get in the red zone, it is crucial we leave there with six.”

With the Irish averaging 404.4 yards, players believe they can find away to start getting those last 20 yards needed for touchdowns.

“We’ve had plenty of drives where we drove right down the field and then a couple of bad plays and we are kicking field goals,” center Braxston Cave said. “We know we’ve got to do and better, and we know we’ve got to improve.

“We are working on it every day in practice. We are just waiting to turn that corner and some explosive stuff is going to happen.”

tkrausz@jg.net

Notre Dame

at Boston College
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
TV: ABC
Radio: 107.3 FM

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