Friday, September 25, 2009


I think the fact that I’m so nervous about this game says something about Notre Dame’s season. Let’s talk this out. Preseason this game was supposed to be an automatic win, a gimme. Suddenly, with three of our five biggest offensive weapons sidelined or banged up and a defense with more questions than my girlfriend had while trying to watch The Godfather, going into Ross-Ade Stadium is a scary proposition. Purdue is not a particularly talented team—in fact this is probably the weakest squad the Boilermakers have fielded in over ten years. But they also have shown more progress than expected even with their loss to Northern Illinois. They blew the doors off of Toledo (who turned around and blew the doors off of Colorado) and took Oregon down to the wire in Eugene. Last weekend was a bit of a reality check, but make no mistake; this is a team that is more than capable of pulling an upset.

The Irish have made unbelievable strides on the offensive side of the ball…but now Michael Floyd is gone. Some people point to how the floor dropped out from the offense after he went down last year but I don’t necessarily buy that has relevance in terms of this year. No one will deny how huge a gamebreaker he is, but this year Jimmy actually has a functional offensive line. Many forget that Floyd barely played at all in the Hawaii Bowl last year and when he was in he was ineffective because he was probably 60% healthy. The offensive line kept Jimmy upright in that game and I believe that will be the defining difference between last year sans Floyd and going forward this year without him. Michael will be missed, but his absence won’t be a offensive death knell like it was the last couple regular season games last year.

Speaking of Jimmy, he’s banged up. Last Saturday was a gutty performance in leading the Irish to a comeback victory. I think Charlie relieves some of the stress in this week’s gameplan and we really get to see just how much the offensive line has improved in the run blocking department. Northern Illinois shredded the Boilers for 280 yards on the ground last week. Is it a stretch to think the Irish should be able to do that, especially when Purdue can’t load up the box due to our passing game? I’d like to think yes but the jury is still out. We’ve shown great flashes this year—enough that I’d call Verducci a Frank Broyles Award candidate—but now it’s time to impose our will with the running game being the focal point. This will be a huge test.

Speaking of the running game, it will be hampered a bit because Armando Allen may not play. I love Jonas Gray; I love the way he runs and I think he has loads of potential …but his matador blocking and tendency to fumble are two things we really can’t afford this weekend. We have a talented stable of backs and I think they’ll get their shots as well this weekend, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past five years it’s the difference having a back that does all the little things makes. Armando has slowly entered the Darius Walker Zone with his ability to pick up blitzes and fall forward for that extra yard when he’s going down. Can Jonas, Theo Riddick, or Robert Hughes step up? Frankly if we want our season to stay on track they have no choice. They’re not facing a high-caliber defense, it’s time to deliver some big plays on the ground.

Our defense’s shortcomings have been discussed ad nauseum at this point. Purdue doesn’t have the high powered offense we’re used to seeing with their “basketball on turf” attack, but they still posted over 450 yards two of their first three games (including Oregon). The last two weeks the Irish have made Tate Forcier look like Joe Montana and Kirk Cousins look like a first round draft pick. Jon Tenuta defended his scheme this week and the company line seems to be that they’re on the verge of breaking through. I don’t really know what else to say that hasn’t already been said at this point. Our defensive line has been bad, our linebackers have been nearly as bad, our secondary has been a letdown (minus Kyle McCarthy), and we seem to blitz no matter how much/little sense it makes in a given situation. I do know that if we get flagged for one more late hit I’m going to go to my cabinets and just start throwing glassware at the television (apologies in advance to my roommate C-Loss—it’s his glassware and his TV).

I thought we’d know a lot about our team and what expectations should be after the first three weeks. I know it’s going to be another month (at least) until we have a nice relaxing Saturday like we had against Nevada. There’s a boatload of talent on the offensive side of the ball that seems to have come into its own, but the Irish have done just about everything in their power to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Penalties and special teams are the main culprits—things that good teams do well, things that are easy to fix with DISCIPLINE.

This game will go one of two ways. The first is like 2005 where we come out with the pedal on the metal and immediately deflate the stadium en route to a beatdown. The other way is that we let them hang around and it goes down to the wire in yet another game that is stressful enough to take a year off my life. I’d love to say Notre Dame steps on Purdue’s throat early and coasts to a victory just like that 2005 masterpiece…but I just can’t. There’s nothing I’d like more than to have some confidence restored with a complete game as we march toward October 17th, but with so many banged up this has turned into a “get a win and get the hell out of there” game. We only need to bring our B- game and we walk out a victor. The Irish post a 3.0 and stay on course.

Notre Dame 31
Purdue 23

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