Notre Dame fifth-year senior right tackle Josh Lugg isn’t buying the narrative that the running game is different depending on which quarterback is behind center, and he knows his unit must get better.
The offensive line has been maligned this season, though it played better against Purdue.
The Irish appeared to run the ball better against Toledo when Tyler Buchner was in the game. Buchner rushed for 68 of Notre Dames’ 132 yards against the Rockets. Senior quarterback Jack Coan has run the ball in limited circumstances, and he’s been sacked 13 times.
Notre Dame got off to a slow start against Purdue. Coan was sacked twice in the first quarter and the Irish rushed for just 15 yards on nine carries. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly even said after the Toledo game that Buchner gave the rushing attack a boost.
The line improved as the game progressed against Purdue. Notre Dame rushed for 113 yards. That included a 51-yard touchdown run by Kyren Williams in the fourth quarter. The breakthrough is that the line seemed to wear Purdue down as the game moved into the fourth quarter.
“I think they’re both fantastic quarterbacks,” Lugg said.”We respect them. We are going to block our ass for them. We love them. It doesn’t matter who is going to be in there. They work their butts off just like we do. We know they are going to execute at a high level as long as we do our job.”
No matter who plays quarterback the Irish (3-0) will have to be good against Wisconsin (1-1). The Badgers, ranked No. 18 by the Associated Press, are a six-point favorite, according to PointsBet.
Coan played all but a few snaps after Buchner was pulled because of a tight hamstring. Lugg said the line is aware that it’s maligned in the eyes of the Irish faithful. It’s not something they pay much attention to.
“I don’t think we need other people to tell us we need to be better,” he said. “We watched the film. We always understand everything can be better whether it’s technique or fundamentals. We’ve watched the same film that you guys watch.”
Lugg said the line is close to being good, and that the problems are fixable.
“I think we’re going in the right direction right now,” he said. “I think we showed that against Purdue. Running the ball? We are getting there. We need to clean up a few fundamental things with pass protection. We don’t have an atrocious list of things to (fix).”
Lugg said he got beat inside for a sack against Purdue because he was “set too far from my target. Now I go into this week knowing I can’t set too far back. Now that is fixed, it’s done. We just need to trust each other and play together.”
Lugg also pointed out that Notre Dame will use the same rotation of linemen that it did against Purdue. That didn’t happen after the Florida State or Toledo game.
It’s possible that Michael Carmody could return at left-tackle. Carmody was out with a sprained ankle.
“This is the first week where we’ve had all five that played the previous week because of injuries,” he said. “It’s really important for offensive linemen to work together and understand what the fine details are that need to be fixed.”
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