Irish Renew Hostilities with Purdue

Notre Dame renews its longstanding intrastate rivalry with Purdue on Saturday and the 2-0 Fighting Irish battle the 2-0 Boilermakers in South Bend. Purdue won its opener in impressive fashion against Oregon State before crushing hapless UConn last week. Meanwhile, Notre Dame has struggled mightily to get past heavy underdogs in Florida State and Toledo. This is the first meeting between these schools since 2014. The Irish lead the series by a 56-26-2 margin. NBC will provide national television coverage beginning at 2:30 PM Eastern time.

Coach Jeff Brohm is in his fifth season for Purdue after successful stops at Louisville and Western Kentucky. Expectations for Brohm were quite high, so the trajectory of his first four seasons in West Lafayette has been disappointing. This year’s team finally appears to be capable of making some noise. The Boilers have a competent offense with quarterback Jack Plummer at the helm. Plummer’s poise and accuracy won him the starting nod over senior 2020 incumbent Aidan O’Connell. Running back Zander Horvath has been a reliable tailback, although he suffered a broken leg last week and will not be available. Defensively, Purdue can rush the passer with George Karlaftis and boasts a top cornerback in Cory Trice.

George Karlaftis stands over another vanquished quarterback

The Irish have spent the past few days retooling the offensive line and attempting to patch the holes in a defense that has been gashed for multiple big plays in the first two games. New faces such as Rocco Spindler, John Dirksen and Andrew Kristofec are auditioning at guard, where starters Cain Madden and Zeke Correll have struggled. The problems on defense are related more to missed assignments as opposed to a talent deficiency.

On the injury front, the Boilers lost starting linebacker Semisi Fakasiieiki in the preseason, but are otherwise healthy on defense. Horvath’s absence will be felt on offense. Backup King Doerue is capable but not a breakaway threat. Garrett Miller, a pass catching tight end who complements talented running mate Payne Durham, will also miss the game due to an injury.

Notre Dame hopes that left tackle Michael Carmody can return to action after leaving last week’s contest with a sprained ankle. Tosh Baker will continue to fill in if Carmody is unable to play. Defensive end Jordan Botelho is expected to be available after missing the first two games for undisclosed (non-injury or COVID) reasons.


The Irish will continue to start Jack Coan at quarterback. That said, freshman Tyler Buchner’s role is being expanded, and he will be on the field once again. Both appear to be comfortable with this arrangement.

Notre Dame will utilize RPOs when Tyler Buchner is in the game

Notre Dame must avoid third and long situations to sustain drives. The line must clear a path for Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree, and the quarterbacks need time to throw the ball. Except for Trice and possibly safety Marvin Grant, the Purdue secondary can be exploited by the Irish receivers. This would be a good week for Coan to finally hook up for a long scoring pass to Braden Lenzy, especially if Trice is preoccupied with Kevin Austin.

Defensive ends Karlaftis and DeMarcus Mitchell lead a capable line. Tackles Damarjhe Lewis   and Lawrence Johnson are sound in the middle. At linebacker, Jaylan Alexander has started the last three seasons on the outside. He was moved into the middle last month when Fakasiieiki broke his ankle. He and Jalen Graham are good Big-10 players. Front seven depth is provided by two transfers from the SEC, Auburn linebacker Octavius Brothers and South Carolina end Joe Anderson.

Coach Brian Kelly is rightfully most concerned with the havoc that Karlaftis can create. “Obviously we know about George Karlaftis. He is probably, arguably the best pass rusher in college football” he said. “Great motor, can play the run, extremely active, plays with his hands really well. We have to have a plan for him. He is a guy that you just don’t say, ‘We’re going to deal with him one on one.’ We have to have a comprehensive plan for him.”

On paper, Karlaftis has a huge advantage in experience over Carmody or Baker. They can expect help from a tight end or running back on passing downs and at other times as well.


Plummer has the tools to play pitch and catch against Notre Dame if he can take a five step drop and release the ball. He is a precise short and intermediate range passer who won’t have the time nor the inclination to wait for a deep route to come open. Brohm is a savvy play caller who will find ways to get the ball to wide receiver David Bell and tight end Durham with room to run. Both are stellar playmakers.

David Bell is Purdue’s most dangerous receiver

A good pass rush by itself may not be enough to slow down this type of attack. The Irish linebackers and secondary must take away some of these routes with smart, tight coverage.

Purdue’s offensive line has been competent to date in pass protection. Left tackle Greg Long and right guard Tyler Witt are solid veterans, but the others are just average at best and may struggle against the Irish. Run blocking is not a demonstrated strength of this unit. Notre Dame’s strategy should be to make the Boiler offense one dimensional as early as possible.

Other targets for Plummer include wide receivers TJ Sheffield, Milton Wright and Jackson Anthrop. Doerue is not often used as a receiver out of the backfield, and Plummer is not regarded as a running threat. The challenge is therefore simple for Notre Dame. Stuff the run, pressure Plummer and try to take away the quick release slant and drag routes that can turn into long gainers.


Neither team has accomplished much in the return game this season. Coverage units have been effective, although the Irish allowed a 38-yard kickoff return last week.

Jonathan Doerer has kicked well this season, missing only a 55-yard field goal against Toledo. He followed up with a successful 48-yarder later in the game. For Purdue, Mitchell Fineran has been perfect this season including a 48-yarder of his own.

Jay Bramblett is solid as the punter for the Irish. He averaged 49 yards last week with a long of 58. Freshman Jack Ansell is still a work in progress for the Boilermakers. He has averaged 37 yards to date. The team tried two others in this role last week but neither broke 40 yards.


It’s almost too simplistic to say the team that can run the ball effectively will win, but that is very likely in this matchup. This does not mean either team will need 200 rushing yards, but 125 might do it if they can help keep the offense on the field. Plummer will try to hit Bell with quick passes that can turn into big plays if the Irish secondary continues to miss tackles or takes poor angles. Notre Dame will do everything in its power to disrupt Plummer and force the ball out early under duress.

Justin and Jayson Ademilola are unsung heroes on the Irish defense

For the Irish to win, the quarterback shuffle must work as smoothly as it did last week. These switches can backfire if handled poorly. Unlike Toledo, where Buchner made a surprise debut, Purdue is sure to have a defensive plan in place for him. The other questions for the hosts are how much improvement Notre Dame can realize along the offensive line in a few short days, and how much progress the defensive staff has made in curing the assignment confusion among the linebackers and safeties.

Here are a few questions that will shed light on the outcome:

Will the Irish pass rush (ten sacks in two games) continue to dominate?

Can Notre Dame find an effective offensive line combination?

Who will win the marquee matchup between Austin and Trice?

Will special teams have an impact on the outcome?

Which Irish quarterback will have the most success?

Will Notre Dame’s consecutive non-sellout streak continue?

How many times will Drew Brees slip and refer to Purdue as “We”?

Have you canceled your Peacock subscription yet?


I can envision a long afternoon during which Plummer teams with Bell and Durham to pick apart an Irish defense that remains somewhat unsettled. Brohm calls a masterful game and puts points on the board. Meanwhile, Notre Dame’s offensive line cannot enable the running game nor contain Karlaftis on the edge. This nightmare scenario could indeed happen, but the Irish are too talented to continue to perform so poorly. Purdue has certainly improved this season, but the Boilermakers are still not at a level that can fully exploit the weaknesses of this year’s Irish squad. That day may come next week and repeat itself multiple times before the season ends, but the hosts should escape with another close win unless they give away points as easily as they did last week.


30 thoughts on “Irish Renew Hostilities with Purdue

  1. Irish are due for a breakout game:
    Freeman figures out that a 3 man rush won’t work
    Offensive line decides to come to play

    ND 42 Purdue 14

  2. For some reason Purdue won’t be able to bring its (world’s largest) drum this weekend for the halftime show. This is the 1st time this has happened anywhere since forever, including Notre Dame stadium. I’m sure that the admin (as always) has an explanation replete with virtue all ready to go for the occasion, but really – isn’t this a bit much?

    This long time Irish fan from Maine has to say this – Go Boilers.

    Enough is enough (BTW beware of the fun police – they’ll be everywhere) and guess who Drew Brees will be rooting for.

    • I read that Notre Dame clams the drum is too big to fit into Notre Dame Stadium, which seems like a bizarre explanation.

      • The claim is it won’t fit through the visitors’ tunnel (which is true) and they won’t grant any kind of waiver to allow it through the regular tunnel (which is stupid)

        • Mike Coffey – Thanks, and this explanation IS stupid, and it is really just inexcusable – there is no GOOD reason for it.

          I repeat – beware of the fun police.

        • I think in a show of good faith, Notre Dame SHOULD allow Purdue to bring the drum on the field through the regular tunnel. Is it really that big of a deal?

        • In a show of good faith, I think Notre Dame should allow the band of the field through the regular tunnel. I mean, is it really that big of a deal?

        • Caroline’s Dad says:

          I have thought about this drum way too much already…but while I was thinking of it the other night I realized the following:

          A. It’s completely petty

          B. I like petty — but not in circumstances like this where we should be perceived as the stronger, better program. I only like petty when we are the underdogs — see Charlie Weis growing the grass longer to try to slightly slow down #1 USC. That’s my kind of petty.

          C. It seems simple enough to let them roll their dumb drum down the main tunnel and place it next to the tiny visitors tunnel, so that they can just use it once they have crouched down single-file like they are navigating through the aisle on a tiny airplane….

          That to me is classy and petty all at once.

  3. It feels like the Irish are on borrowed time after surviving the first 2 weeks. I could’ve lived with the Toledo performance more if Jacksonville St hadn’t beat FSU. There’s nothing ND does particularly well. It’s unfortunate the team finally has really skilled position players and now doesn’t have a reliable O-line to protect and create holes.

    I’m confident Freeman will be a good DC but like the offense there’s nothing this unit does really well. The linebacker unit is decimated with injuries which is leading to inconsistent tackling and will catch up with them Saturday.

    I’d be surprised if Purdue doesn’t lead most of the day with ND struggling to run the ball and being forced into throwing most of the second half. Purdue 33-27

  4. Mr. Vannie’s last question was “Have you canceled your peacock subscription yet?” Obviously a sarcastic question, but here I go – I haven’t canceled it because I never got it. (duhhh!!)

    If the money changers at the University make a sufficient number of shekels going through peacock to televise the game – and it’s pretty obvious that this was a trial run – this is just the beginning. If it DID work then there will be more every year, and undoubtedly they have a plethora of virtue-signaling reasons ready to trot out in their defense.

    And the beat goes on.

    • I found another way to follow the game last week. I listened to it on radio. Remember that medium? It’s how my dad followed his beloved team back in the day when only one or two games per season were on TV.

      • I was born in 84. I only remember the early 90s ND football. But my dad would always watch the game on the TV muted and listen to the radio at the same time. Anyway I always thought that was cool. I’ve been a die hard fan since I can remember. Go Irish beat boiler makers

      • Yes I did the same thing. The radio was really great and brought back very fond memories of being with my Dad and Grandpa in the 60’s and 70’s rooting for our IRISH. The Peacock can go swim far away.

  5. JVAN,

    After a decade +, if you can believe it,

    BK admitted (once again) he didn’t have his team ready to play last week.. On the other
    hand, JEFF BROHM said this week he’s dreamed of an opportunity like this for his team.
    I don’t think the Purdue players will let him down and they take it to the Irish for four quarters!!

    Too much David Bell for the Irish DB’s to handle this week —- way too many Irish injuries..

    Purdue 37
    ND 27

    • If the game were at Purdue, there’s no question I would pick them to win. Your prediction still may come true though. I don’t think they have enough difference-makers, but it won’t matter if Notre Dame is sloppy and turns the ball over.

  6. Not sure what to make of this year’s Irish. I asked before the season if the Irish are at a level where they reload rather than rebuilt. The jury is still out but the evidence is starting to mount against the reload theory.

    I agree with the many others that its bush league not to find a way to allow the Purdue drum into the stadium and I also agree that its is just plain greed driving the Peacock TV scheme. You always sort of hoped ND was different, but I guess not,

  7. I was one of the few who watched the Purdue-Oregon St. game two weeks ago (while everyone else was watching Georgia-Clemson). They have enough tools on offense to cause us trouble. Plummer is very capable at QB, he can hit open receivers and can scramble. David Bell is better than anyone we have at receiver. Durham is a very good TE. Horvath was a steady RB in short yardage, but, as you note, he’s now out. Didn’t see much of the other RBs; doubt that they’ll get a lot of rushing yards. Fineran hit all 3 of his FGs (and I think he had a fourth negated by a penalty). If this game were a night game in W. Lafayette, we’d be in trouble. I think we’ll win a close game because we have more talent across the board, but a loss wouldn’t surprise me.

    Fun Fact: Purdue’s 2 wins this year are against UConn and Oregon St. ND is 0-3 all-time against those two teams.

    ND 28, Purdue 24.


  8. I doubt ND will have found answers to their offensive line and defensive struggles in one week. There are bound to be many cardiac moments against Purdue and ND will either win another nail biter in the last minutes of the game or snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

    If ND loses Kelly will favorably compare Purdue to Alabama and tell us that he and the coaches need to coach better as he always says when things don’t go right.