Notre Dame defeated Purdue 20-17 Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, IN. The game was a lot closer than it should have been.
A combination of poor offensive line play, sloppy penalties, bad clock management, and injuries allowed a scrappy Boilermakers team to stay in the game, tying the game at 17 all in the 4th quarter. Irish senior quarterback Tommy Rees, coming off the bench for Everett Golson, led the Irish on a last minute drive down the field, allowing Notre Dame to kick the go-ahead field goal and eke out a win.
Here are my thoughts and reactions:
The Offensive Line
The biggest strength on Notre Dame’s team this year was supposed to be the offensive line, which boasted a dearth of experience and talent. They just got their asses handed to them by Purdue. The offensive line surrendered 4 sacks as Purdue got constant penetration that effectively shut down the run game, and caused a number of false start penalties that caused drives to stall. This absolutely has to be the exception to the rule. Notre Dame cannot have any success against their schedule unless their offensive line plays way better than they did on Saturday.
That’s not to take anything away from the Purdue defense. I lit them up a bit in my game preview, and they showed that they have more talent than what is generally believed. But if you are giving up four sacks or more a game to the likes of Michigan, Oklahoma, and USC, you are going to have a rough stretch of losses.
Golson was impressive today against Purdue, throwing 31 passes, completing 21 of them, for 289 yards and a touchdown. He had no interceptions (although a couple came close), and made plays with his legs, including a 3-yard touchdown run. I am very happy that he showed a lot more against an aggressive Purdue defense than he did in Dublin versus Navy, but I’m not ready to crown him as the “next big thing” in Notre Dame football – yet. Let’s get through a stretch that includes Michigan State, Michigan, Miami (FL), and Stanford before making any real determinations.
That being said, with as well as Golson was playing, it was a little concerning to see coach Kelly pull him in favor for Tommy Rees at the end of the game, despite the fumble with 3:24 to go. Coach Kelly has said Golson will start against Michigan State, but why not have him finish this game? With the game tied, clock ticking down, and the ball in your possession, that’s a situation you want to see your young QB in to see if he can deliver or not.
Rees got the job done to be sure, I just think that you take a swipe at your sophomore QB’s confidence unnecessarily when you yank him with the game on the line.
Louis Nix and the defensive line
“Irish Chocolate,” as he’s called, had a monster game. He batted down two Purdue passes at the line, had big run stops in the red zone, and sacked quarterback Robert Marve with about two and a half minutes to go. Nix was merely the brightest star along a d-line that had almost as good a game as Purdue’s did. If Nix continues to play with this kind of ferocity, things could get interesting against some of the ranked teams this year.
I predicted big things for Purdue’s TerBush against a short handed and inexperienced Irish secondary. With the exception of his lone touchdown pass with a little more than two minutes to go after Marve’s knee injury, I was wrong. For the majority of this game, TerBush looked lost and confused, and was outplayed significantly by Robert Marve. Here are the lines for each: TerBush – 8-19, 79 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Marve – 11-18, 119 yards, 1 touchdown and no interceptions. The Purdue offense just looked more confident and made more plays with Marve under center. Purdue fans had better hope his injury isn’t that serious. He’s supposed to have an MRI performed Sunday to assess the damage.
Notre Dame takes the field again next Saturday at 8:00 pm against Michigan State in East Lansing. My game preview for the first real test for this team will come in the next week.
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