Friday, September 13, 2013

A Look Ahead: Notre Dame vs. Purdue

By Justin Cates

For whatever reason (Blogger sucks) my ND-Michigan preview didn't post last week despite me making an extensive effort to do so in a timely fashion.

Today, I'll reuse bits of that preview and tie it in to what should be a cakewalk for the Irish against Purdue.

The Boilermakers are one of the worst teams on college football. They got absolutely blasted in their opener 42-7 by Cincinnati and barely edged out lower division foe Indiana State 20-14 last week in West Lafayette.

For reference, Indiana State allowed 73 points to Indiana in their first game.

Basically, Purdue can't stop anyone (79th in points allowed) and they can't score themselves (116th in points scored).

This should be an easy win for the Irish, which gives them an opportunity to address some concerns.

Before Michigan, I attempted to say this:

"Touchdown" "Interception" Tommy Rees played almost perfectly in the opener completing 16-of-23 passes for 346 yards and three touchdowns. Against the Wolverines, he and the rest of his offense have to let things come to them and not force the issue.

When I've watched Rees play in the past there seemed to be a tendency to press too much. Now that he isn't battling for a starting job, that may well be a thing of the past.

This proved to be fairly accurate with Tommy reverting to forcing things. Rees played well for the most part but threw two interceptions and was very close to a third. The biggest mistake came on a pass picked off in the endzone. I'm fairly certain it was on first and goal making it a rookie mistake. That ball needs to be in the stands.

Another area I had concerns about was the running game.

One thing I'd like to see from the Irish is one of the running backs stepping up and seizing the bulk of the carries....Even though this can clearly be a pass-heavy offense with Rees at the helm, it's nice to have a go-to-guy at tailback in your back pocket. 

Clearly, the Irish are pass-happy and quite good at it. The problem is the offense is one dimensional.

Notre Dame's leading rusher Amir Carlisle has just 19 carries through two games and right behind him is George Atkinson III with 13 carries. The two have combined for just one rushing touchdown.

That's not sustainable if you want to keep defenses honest.

The good news is Carlisle is averaging 6.9 yards per carry and Atkinson is sitting at 5.5. The Irish need to use this game as an opportunity to establish the run and ideally find a reliable go-to tailback.

I think it's Carlisle based on his more aggressive running, but he needs to grab the job by the throat and make a statement.

The defense struggled against Michigan, but that's perfectly understandable.

All quarterbacks should wear outrageous numbers like Devin Gardner's new 98.

Wolverine quarterback Devin Gardner is an impressive talent—even if he did throw the dumbest pass in the history of organized football—and the Irish defense won't have to worry about stopping anyone quite as dynamic the rest of the season.

Based on that variable, I tend to think this performance was an outlier. The defense can go a long way to putting any fears to rest by dominating a very poor Purdue offense.

There are clearly flaws with Notre Dame, but it's still very early in the season and we've seen nothing that can't be fixed.

No one likes losing, but I'm sure Brian Kelly enjoys being able to so easily get his team's attention regarding their flaws. Now it's time to fix them.  

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