- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Tyler Eifert's most recent catch -- a 38-yarder on third down from Tommy Rees -- effectively lifted Notre Dame to 4-0. Problem is, that's been the tight end's only catch in his last two games.
Which isn't entirely a problem in the All-America's eyes.
"I can't really get frustrated when we're 4-0," Eifert said this week. "If we were 0-4, then I'd probably be pretty upset. But we're doing all right."
The Mackey Award finalist from a year ago passed up the NFL to return for his senior season. The 6-foot-6, 250-pound Eifert has been the focus of every defense he has faced since, meaning, he said, that opponents have tried to re-route him, throw off his timing or, at times, bring in another safety over the top.
It has all resulted in nine catches for 158 yards through four games, though eight of those catches and 120 of those yards came in the season's first two weeks. Eifert's 63 catches and 803 yards last season were both Notre Dame single-season records for a tight end.
"I don't think it's as much right now a product of Tyler not being involved in the passing game per se as much as how efficiently we can throw the ball in certain situations and make good decisions and make good reads and get the ball where it needs to get to," offensive coordinator Chuck Martin said last week. "So trust me, Tyler's been doing awesome and he's been an unbelievable teammate and competitor.
"We're a better team if the ball gets in 80's direction more. It's certainly not by design that the ball's not going there. Sometimes it's just by the read or by the decisions within the passing game that the ball may not be going to him as much as maybe it should at times."
Such is life working in a still-developing offense with a still-developing starting quarterback in Everett Golson. While the Irish wait for someone to step up and take advantage of uneven coverage -- running back Theo Riddick leads the team with 14 catches -- Eifert will go about his business without complaint, happy to contribute in fashions outside the box score.
"I just do what I'm asked," he said. "Run the routes the way I'm coached to run them, and I'm ready to make a play whenever the ball comes my way."
1mMatt Fortuna and Gerry Hamilton