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  • Irish Rally to Get Past Purdue

    by John Vannie

    Notre Dame took its first lead of the game early in the fourth quarter on the strength of two touchdown receptions by DaVaris Daniels, and held off the gritty Purdue Boilermakers by 31-24 on Saturday night. After a poor first half in which the Irish did not get on the scoreboard until the final minute, Tommy Rees got untracked and both Daniels and T.J. Jones made clutch catches to ignite the offense. Bennett Jackson added a fourth quarter interception return for a score that came in handy as Purdue did not go quietly.

    The Boilermakers served notice right away that they were primed for an upset bid. Rob Henry’s short but precise passes moved his team to a quick score in the opening series. Akeem Hunt galloped 15 yards with a well-conceived screen pass for a 7-0 lead following a six minute, 12 play march. Purdue added a field goal early in the second quarter to extend their advantage, while lethargic Notre Dame was forced to punt on its first three possessions and turned the ball over on downs on its fourth try. It seemed as though the Purdue coaches were in the Irish huddle on both sides of the ball, and frustration grew across NDNation.

    A long pass by Rees to Chris Brown and a pass interference call near the end of the half moved the Irish into scoring territory, but a poorly executed fade pass on third and two forced a Kyle Brindza field goal. Trailing 10-3, the Irish took the second half kickoff and drove for a score with Cam McDaniel walking in from one yard out. The sense of relief did not last long as Purdue returned the kickoff to the 46 yard line and took advantage of missed tackles by Notre Dame to go back in front by 17-10 at the 6:28 mark.

    Rees brought his team back as the third quarter drew to a close. On a key third down and goal, he hit Daniels on a corner route to tie the game at 17. The Irish defense finally began to assert itself by pressuring Henry, and Notre Dame got the ball back at its own 18 yard line. Rees immediately dropped back and heaved a deep pass to Daniels who outfought cornerback Ricardo Allen for the ball and tight-roped down the sideline for an 82-yard touchdown.

    The Irish defense again rose to the occasion of having its first lead of the night, and Jackson stepped in front of a Henry pass to score easily from 34 yards. Suddenly, the visitors had a 31-17 lead and it appeared the contest was decided. The Boilermakers were not willing to concede anything, however, and with 11:18 to go there was still time for a last ditch rally. Henry hit Shane Mikesky on a deep pass when two Irish defenders failed to look for the ball, and then found reserve tight end Justin Sinz for a nine yard touchdown to close the gap to 31-24 with 8:16 left.

    The roof nearly fell in on Notre Dame moments later when Amir Carlisle fumbled near midfield. The Irish defense suffocated Henry once again, and Purdue was forced to punt. Coach Brian Kelly called upon McDaniel to carry the rock and seal the win during the last six minutes, and that is exactly what the hard-nosed Texan did. Following a third down pass to Daniels to pick up the initial first down in the drive, McDaniel did the rest by moving the chains and draining the clock.

    Although the win was not as easy as expected, much of the credit must go to Purdue’s coaching staff and players. They were well prepared for the Irish, as Henry attacked their weaknesses in coverage and Defensive Coordinator Greg Hudson displayed an exceptional grasp of Notre Dame’s tendencies and formations. Talent ultimately prevailed, as Daniels showcased his athletic ability, Rees displayed coolness in the pocket and the Irish defensive linemen asserted themselves when they were needed most.

    Let’s review the answers to the pregame questions:

    Will the Irish perform with a high degree of energy coming off a loss or will they display the same lethargy we saw against Temple? It was a tale of two halves, as the Irish slept through the first half and played with a sense of purpose in the second.

    Can Notre Dame’s defense get off the field on third down against a team that struggles to convert? Purdue converted at about a 50% rate in the first half, but cooled down considerably after intermission.

    Will Kelly bring more balance to his play selection in the red zone and while the outcome is still in doubt? There were too many ugly fade patterns for my tastes, but McDaniel’s game clinching thrusts were a pleasure to watch.

    Can Tuitt have the breakout performance that we all know is coming? Not yet. I knew it would not be his night when I stopped at the grocery store before the game and saw his face on a milk carton.

    Will Henry and the new Boilermaker offense begin to click after two ineffective starts? Yes, Henry was better than he had showed in two previous starts. The Irish linebackers and safeties made him look even better with weak coverage and ineffective arm tackling.

    Will my liver (and sanity) remain intact after being subjected to another four hours of Brent Musburger? Surprisingly, old Brent looked fresh in the booth this week, while both Notre Dame and Michigan appeared to have a hangover from last week.

    The Irish return home next Saturday to face the Michigan State Spartans, and there are questions that need to be resolved in practice this week. McDaniel has made a case to be the starting tailback after ineffective performances by George Atkinson and Carlisle. The Irish linebackers are chasing in pass coverage and getting themselves dinked and dunked to death, while the first defender to make a play on a ball carrier in space is consistently missing the tackle. Other than that, there isn’t much to worry about.

    36 Responses to “Irish Rally to Get Past Purdue”

    1. Love Cam McDaniel (sp?) TOUGH! The IL connection between Lake Forest Rees and Vernon Hills Daniels is cool. Like Herbie but please less Brent, please.

    2. Kelly is not a very good coach. a good come back for sure but against a team that should have been beat by three scores. Special teams still a roller coaster ride. Defense has regressed significantly. No offensive identity. Kelly really just is not a good coach

    3. “ . . . there are questions that need to be resolved in practice this week.” You really expect answers?

    4. Better performance…I’m concerned about the future of our linebackers…Grace, Fox, Carlo all look slow. We have to get better or the horses on the schedule will run us out of the BCS…

    5. Top tier teams would have won this game by 40 points. But a win is a win.

      • I agree. The Irish always seem to play up or down to their competition. They did the same thing last year and got a lot of fortunate bounces of the football to go undefeated in the regular season. Just once (or twice) I’d like to see ND put a hurt on an inferior opponent like Oregon or Florida State does. And let’s not kid ourselves, Purdue was about as inferior opponent as the Irish are likely to see this season. Very disappointed in last night’s game, in spite of the outcome.

    6. I agree Jimbo. Next week Michigan state wins 5 to 3.

    7. By now, it’s clear this is not last year’s defense. By the law of association, if Michigan sucks, and we can’t cover the spread at Purdue, then to some extent, we suck, too. BCS bowling might be a bit hopeful to say the least.

      On the other hand, these guys found a way to win on the road. And controlled the game in the second half, where runs of 1 and 2 yards turned into 4 and 5. There is a solid winning, don’t quit mentality. I like all of that. Doesn’t seem to much to ask to find a way to get out of the gates a little bit faster, win what we can win, and make this a respectable (although not natty champ or BCS) season.

    8. Shocking to see how much the defense has regressed since last year.The tackling is terrible.

    9. martinjordan says:

      1. Purdue would have beaten ND and Ohio St. last year were it not for Danny Hope.
      2. This is a better win than the “experts” think.
      3. After 2 and 3/4 games the defense finally showed up.
      4. After watching Alabama beat Texas A & M this week and Georgia beat South Carolina last week ND isn’t even close to that level.
      5. The absence of Golson really hurt this program. Tommy’s having a good year but they were going to have to rebuild a bit this year and the development of Golson this year and another strong recruiting class would have set them up for another run next year.

    10. NDBonecrusher says:

      “Top tier teams would have won this game by 40 points.” I dunno about that, Jimbo. That Purdue team last night did not look like the doormat of the Big 10. Also, lots of teams struggled yesterday. Michigan had all they could handle with the Mighty Zips of Akron–they damn near lost and Akron was in a position to win in the final seconds. Stanford did not crush Army by any stretch of the imagination.

      “But a win is a win.” Damn skippy. The first half was putrid but the second half showed me that the lads have a pulse (minus the fumble). Eventually Purdue got worn down. Running the ball late was refreshing and reminded me of the days of yore.

      Will somebody PLEASE explain to TR that he doesn’t have to audible EVERY STINKIN’ PLAY?!? Every second he delays is another second the opposition has to rest, and many of his decisions last night were just plain wrong.

      There should be oodles of “teaching points” from this tape. Hopefully the 2nd half of this game becomes the new normal. GO IRISH BEAT SPARTANS!!!

      • Michael Scott says:

        maybe 40 points is an exaggeration, but Alabama, Oregon and Texas A&M would have beaten Purdue by at least 3-4 TDs. And yeah, Michigan barely beat Akron, but then again does that mean that Akron could possibly beat ND head-to-head? And it was great seeing a physically overmatched Army team play so well against Stanford (the Cadets are my second favorite team) but Stanford is not in the same caetgory as the SEC powers or Oregon. Having said all that, I hope the Irish have a very good to great season.

        • Stanford is not in the same category as Oregon but yet Stanford beat Oregon last year? And twice in 4 years? How does that logic work?

      • Purdue got beat by Cincinnati in week 1 42- 7. So by 35 points. You are saying that Alabama, Texas AM and Oregon would not do that against Purdue when Purdue struggled to beat Indiana State? Those teams would win by more than that. ND coaching is a mystery. I can sit at home from my television set and tell you when ND is going to blitz. I see the linebackers run up to the line and I’m thinking surely they aren’t tipping their hand that poorly? They must be faking blitz to disguise their coverages, but nope they actually blitz and telegraph their defense that bad. I blame the coaching for this. You mix up coverages and you tell your players to not be predictable. ND’s defense hasn’t been stellar for all 4 years of Kelly’s tenure. I think that people are giving the defensive coordinators too much credit for last year and not remembering the prior years before when we were average. Things must change or we will continue to play close and eventually lose. When Purdue’s coach says at halftime that they were able to figure out ND’s tendencies from watching their formations from the previous weeks that means that Kelly is doing the same thing over and over again. Too predictable.

    11. Not sure what to think of this win. I honestly think giving what happen to Michigan, that the two teams were physically and emotionally spent from last week. They pulled through with a much improved second half. A win is a win.

    12. 3 Games of waiting for pass rush watching us dinked to death. Floyd and Eifert play on Sundays fade is gone Brian or Chuck

    13. StoneyBehindTheCiderBarrell says:

      “It seemed as if the Purdue coaches were in the Irish huddle on both sides of the ball”. That statement says it all. Notre Dame has been figured out and the coaching staff needs to do some changing and disguising or this will be a long frustrating season.

    14. Can’t figure out what’s wrong with the Defense. Too many yards on first down is one observation. I wouldn’t put it all on the linebackers, even though they have trouble with these small shifty guys they’re relatively stout against the run. Russell has been looking real bad (where’s Lo Wood) and all the DBs are very soft tacklers. Then folks appear out of position, Linebackers blitz and no one has the RB out of the backfield.

      That fade used to be my least favorite play, but this QB quick throw to the side is moving up the list fast. Two almost got picked for 6. Cam looked awesome in the fourth, I don’t understand why they didn’t do that all game.

    15. We have become as predictable as they come. Surely we scout ourselves for tendencies, don’t we? Please say we do . . . please!

    16. All we can say is we won. Poor tackling, predictable play calling, I could go on and on. Time for Kelly to shake up his staff. Especially Diaco.

    17. ND offense is extremely predictable. watching on TV it is easy to predict their plays by the formations, so if we can do it watching then defense coaches who prepare can have a field day. even though TR has had very good numbers and done a reasonable job running the team he is so one dimensional that he is easy to defend. In the spread offense when the backfield is empty it is always a pass–he cannot run. That means looking at the formation give the play away constantly. Since the short underneath passes are the best throws for a a weak arm teams crowd the receivers. It is too easy to defend. Add to that the fact that the second the ball is snapped he looks to only one receiver and forces the ball to that receiver no matter what. Finally when there is a time crunch as there often seems to be he seems confused and often we are snapping the ball with less than 2 seconds on the play clock. With all those limitations the coaching staff has done a good job to get plays where receivers are open. that is probably the only good thing Kelly has done. Defense and special teams play is poor and has regressed. Special teams are really pathetic.

    18. Vannie’s analysis is right on and insithfull.

      Kelly was out coached for the third week in a row. Tuitt and Day both need to lose weight. Both too slow when chasing Quarterbacks. Linebackers aren’t overweight, just slow. Desparately miss Tao and Zeke. Special teams lack a sense of purpose and decision making is poor.

      Irish must get a fast start against a physical Michigan State and ND coaches can’t wait until halftime for adjustments.

    19. irishhawk50 says:

      8-4, if we are lucky. The front three were able to handle the run as they did against Michigan, but the linebackers and secondary better get better soon. I remember a game years ago against Army when Army went for two points for the win and a small safety or cornerback stood their fullback up on the goal line. I saw a play last week where one of the secondary threw himself at the legs of the Michigan receiver at the two yard line. Yep, knocked him off his legs and into the end zone. Smart play! I know these are just college kids but step it up. If I was Kelly, I’d better yelling too!

      • I remember that Army game as well. 1995 season, and ND had just blown a 28-7 lead in the fourth quarter. They were fortunate that Ivory Covington made that play at the goaline.

    20. irishhawk50 says:

      Meant I’d be yelling, too!

    21. 1. ND Offense is to predictable, conservative, and have the same tendencies.
      2. ND is lacking leadership and no one wants to step up on DEFENSE… Nix and Tuitt ARE NOT the studs
      they thought they are!!!
      3. ND coaching staff is not preparing or motivating players to play.
      4. ND Defense is to soft and their tackling is awful!!!
      5. Tommy has the look of a “Deer in Headlights ” look again. Be nice to see Hendrix in their to change
      up the pace!!!
      6. Offense needs to dictate the pace of the game by going into 2 minute drill. Not all the time but
      change it up sometimes!!!!

      Why is it that it takes ND 10 years to put a winning team on the field. Why can’t we RELOAD like ALabama and Oregon can!?!?!?!?!?!?!

      • Agree with most of what you say except Hendrix is awful. Slow linebackers, too many sideways passes and foolish fade routs, no intensity, refusal to compete in the first half, predictable playcalling, no deception. Discouraged, and I have to say we look like a Charlie Weis team. Why are two-star and no star recruits able to stay with our alleged four stars? Did they leave their stars in high school? I’m concerned Kelly thinks things are alright. They look like they are far from alright. We’re in big trouble this next Saturday.

    22. How about Cam McDaniel?? This guy had a breakout game and showed the toughness that most of the team lacks. Tommy is a character guy and you have to love his attitude, but he is not in the same league as any top 20 QB. Like all on this thread, I am VERY concerned about the defense…do we even HAVE a linebacker corp?? Is there any penetration by the D-line? After all, this was Purdue. Cincy killed this team last week and we had to struggle from behind? 8-4?? I hope, I hope.

    23. southernirish says:

      I watched both FSU and ND on TV Saturday. Even on TV, FSU seems to breath energy, excitement. ND, not so at all. And I have been a ND supporter many years before I moved South.

    24. southernirish says:

      To give perspective, I have a wife and two daughters who are graduates of FSU and a father and two older brothers who are graduates of ND. Obviously those are my two favorite teams. Just saying ND was flat.

    25. Ghost of Joe Moore says:

      No leader on defense and no QB. Rees is consistantly inconsistant. Anything resembling a rush and he is skyying the ball over the receivers head, behind them of launching it out of bounds. He telegraphs his throws like Western Union. Arizona State game even though they had the refs blessing vs Wisconsin is definitely looking like a loss. 7-5.

    26. Is anyone else concerned that Purdue scored more points against ND (24) than it did against Indiana State (20)?

      • John Vannie says:

        To make matters worse, seven of the 20 points scored by Purdue against Indiana State were on a long kickoff return.