By TOM COYNE
AP Sports Writer
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Last season Michigan held Notre Dame to 4 yards rushing -- the worst total in 41 years for the Fighting Irish. The same performance Saturday against the Wolverines would be a season best.
That's how bad the Notre Dame offense has been this season.
Coming off the worst rushing season in school history -- and with the losses of quarterback Brady Quinn, tailback Darius Walker and receivers Jeff Samardzija and Rhema McKnight -- the Irish (0-2) are struggling to find an offensive identity.
They are last in the nation in rushing offense, last in the nation in total offense and worst in the nation in sacks allowed. The offense has yet to score a touchdown and has produced just two drives that led to field goals. Mainly because of 119 yards lost on 15 sacks, the Irish were held to minus-8 yards rushing against Georgia Tech and no net yards against Penn State.
Coach Charlie Weis has yet to find an answer. The team made fewer mental errors last week in a 31-10 loss to Penn State than it did a week earlier in a 33-3 loss to Georgia Tech, but wasn't much more effective.
"I'm frustrated as the head coach as well as the play caller," he said.
Part of the reason the Irish have struggled is they've started two young quarterbacks. Part of the reason is they have been using a limited playbook because Weis didn't want to give Demetrius Jones or Jimmy Clausen more than they could handle.
But the biggest problem has been the miserable play of the offensive line. What makes it difficult to fix is it's often a different problem on each play, offensive line coach John Latina said.
"Any time you're not playing very well there are so many things that go on," he said. "I wish it was as easy as pointing to this was a problem or this was a problem. It's just inconsistent play by different people at different times."
Weis said the Irish have spent more time hitting in practice the past two weeks to try to fix the problem.
"I think that's what you have to do because that's something you can't simulate without pads on," he said. "You have to be doing that full speed and you have to be doing it with contact and you have to be doing it with movement."
Weis said he's also let the backups know that there are starting jobs to be won. He said some backups have looked good enough in practice that he will put them in Saturday if a starter struggles.
The Irish need to get the line blocking better so they can expand their offense. They need better blocking so the tight ends can go out for passes instead of staying back to help protect. They need better blocking to get the running game going and open up the defense. They need better blocking so they can set up their play-action passes.
The best news for the Notre Dame line is they are playing a Michigan defense that has been nearly as inept as the Irish offense. The Wolverines (0-2) are the fourth-worst team in the nation in pass efficiency defense, 11th worst in the nation in rush defense and 12th worst in total defense.
Michigan coach Lloyd Carr sees similarities between the teams.
"I think they are a young team in some regards like we are. So there's going to be some days, some issues that you have to fight through early in the season, and issues that you address," he said. "I'm sure they are doing that, trying to do that just like we are."
Center John Sullivan, the only Irish lineman to play consistently well, said it doesn't matter who the Irish are lined up against.
"It's more of a question about our offense than it is about their defense," he said. "It doesn't matter who's out there in front of you, we just need to go out and execute as an offense."