Thursday, September 9, 2010

Boiler(s) Down, Wolverines Up Next For Irish

Brian Kelly, Notre Dame's latest chosen one charged with restoring the program to prominence, had never seen a game inside Notre Dame Stadium until last Saturday. Many middle-aged people wait that long to catch their first glimpse of the Irish, but rarely, if ever, has that opportunity been paired with head coaching duties.

In his first game, both inside the stadium and coaching, Brian Kelly pulled back only some of the curtains behind the new-look, spread offense-minded Irish.

Redshirt Sophomore Quarterback Dayne Crist eased into his new starting role while putting up impressive numbers and displaying accuracy in short yardage situations. He went 19-26 passing for 295 yards, 1 TD, and 0 INTs as the Irish handled Purdue 23-12.

The Irish win marked the seventh time in eight tries the Boilers fell in a season opener to ND.

Armando Allen Jr., a senior running back, was a prime beneficiary of the spread offense as he rushed for 93 yards and the game's first score. Fellow running back Cierre Wood provided necessary breathers for Allen and a nice change of pace to the running game by adding 58 yards on seven carries.

Michael Floyd had an opportunity to seal the game's fate early in the third quarter but he fumbled a bullet from Dayne Crist inside the Purdue 5 yard-line, ultimately allowing the Boilermakers to make things interesting.

It was the Notre Dame defense that perhaps showed the most promise last Saturday, though, as they locked down on the Boilermakers allowing just 322 yards of total offense while playing in a new defensive formation.

Notre Dame's tackling ability showed marked improvement over last year's team. Rather than whiffing on ball carriers in the open field the Irish defenders collapsed quickly and rarely allowed Boilermaker skill position players to create havoc.

In fact, the longest play allowed from scrimmage by the Irish was a 23-yard touchdown run by new Boilermaker quarterback and University of Miami (Fl) transfer Robert Marve. That was really the only play where the defense underachieved as both the outside and middle linebackers on the strong side of the field bit on Marve's fake up the middle.

This weekend the Irish will face much stiffer competition in the Michigan Wolverines. Lead by first time start Denard Robinson the Wolverines cruised to a 30-10 victory over Connecticut thanks largely in part to Robinson's productivity.

Robinson set Michigan school records for total offense (383) and rushing yards (197) by a quarterback.

The key to the game will be Notre Dame's ability to stop Robinson. Defensive Coordinator Bob Diaco will rely heavily on the defensive line's push against the Wolverine's offensive line to allow the linebackers to drop back in coverage or supply pressure up the middle. Defensive ends Ethan Johnson and Kapron Lewis-Moore will need to spend the majority of their time in the Wolverine's backfield if the Irish want to throw Robinson off his game. If the Irish can force Robinson out of his comfort zone by forcing him into obvious passing situations it could be a long day for Wolverine fans.

Speaking of passing games, the Wolverines only have four remaining members of its now depleted secondary. With inexperience and lack of depth in the secondary look for Dayne Crist to take aim down field often. Michael Floyd, Duval Kamara, Theo Riddick, and Tailer Jones could post career days on Saturday.

Regardless, this will be a high scoring contest with plenty of hard hitting and flashy plays.

Tune in to NBC at 3:30pm EST this Saturday to see for yourself.

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