The season is only two games old, but one can’t help but wonder what the rest of it has in store for Notre Dame.
Before the week one game against Temple, expectations were still high based on the strength of the Fighting Irish’s defense. Yes, senior LB Manti Te’o left for the NFL after a stellar four years, and key role players like S Zeke Motta and DE Kapron Lewis Moore also left. But there was still a ton of talent left, especially on the defensive front. We knew that the offense was going to be hit-or-miss with senior QB Tommy Rees retaking the starting spot, and half of the other starters gone from last year. But we Notre Dame fans knew we could still count on that “lights out” defense.
Then came the Temple game. The offense played well for a half, then seemed to lose its edge. But the defense we were so proud of looked unmotivated, slow and out of shape. Sure, they only allowed six points, but it could have been much more if Temple had a kicker that could actually kick. But we shrugged it off as the team not taking a lesser opponent seriously (which happens often) in the first week of college football.
Enter Michigan in week 2. The biggest questions against Michigan were whether or not Tommy Rees could manage the game and not turn over the football (no) and would the defense rebound from a lackluster effort against Temple to keep the Devin Gardner and the Wolverine offense in check (also a big no). Granted, the offense played well enough (except the Tommy turnovers) to keep the game close until the 4th quarter, but the defense just got man handled. Clearly this is not the defense we thought Notre Dame was going to have coming into the season.
Well, if there is any hope of a rebound after that disappointing finish in Ann Arbor last Saturday, it will come against Purdue. The Boilermakers are ranked a putrid 116th in total offense (255.0 yards per game) and are tied for 113th in points per game, averaging 13.5. Defensively, Purdue is a little stouter, allowing 360.0 yards in two games, and allowing 26.0 points per game. I do have to mention, however, that their one victory was against Indiana State, and in their one loss they got blown out by Cincinnati 49-7.
Notre Dame must absolutely take care of business in this game if they want to get their season back on track. The Irish haven’t lost to Purdue since 2007, and the Boilers program hasn’t gone anywhere but down from that point. If the defense gets trampled again by this team, Notre Dame fans could be in for a long, long season.
3 Things to Watch
“Turnover Tommy” – What we all hoped wouldn’t happen against Michigan did happen towards the end of the first half, and resulted in six more Michigan points. Then it happened again in the end zone late in the 4th quarter when the Irish still had a slim shot at making a run to win the game. Yep, you guessed it: It was the return of Turnover Tommy. Both interceptions were very poor decisions, particularly the one in the 4th. On first and goal from the 6 yard line, Tommy Rees forces a pass into coverage while facing pressure. Instead of throwing the ball out of the back of the end zone, or even taking the sack, Rees made the worst possible decision and chucked a pass that was easily intercepted. We now have to keep an eye on Tommy because if he can’t stop making poor decisions, Brian Kelly will go with one of the underclassmen at quarterback.
Struggling defense – 822 yards in two games. 300 rushing yards (166 against Michigan). 47 points. Those are numbers we are just not used to seeing when it relates the the Notre Dame defense, not after just two games. Especially for a unit that has as much talent as this one does. The front is getting little to no pressure, and the secondary can’t stop anyone in the pass game. I know its only two games, but things are starting to look bad. But, as I said earlier, if anything can cure the ills this team has had, a game against Purdue just might do it.
Amir Carlisle – If there has been one bright spot in the disappointing start to the season, Amir Carlisle is it. The Junior RB transfer from USC has been a revelation, rushing for 132 yards on just 19 carries (6.9 average). Even with splitting the carries as much as Brian Kelly does, Carlisle has been a tough, get after it runner every down he plays.
My 5 Predictions
Rees – I see Rees bouncing back to Temple style statistics in this one, chucking the rock for 300 yards with 3 scores. However, I think he’ll make another poor decision and throw an interception.
Carlisle – Carlise is only averaging 9.5 carries per game, but still is able to make the big plays. He could have a huge day against Purdue, who gave up 221 yards on the ground to Cincinnati in week 1. I think BK’s confidence in Rees is waning some, so the RBs may get more action. I say Carlisle breaks it for 120 yards and a TD.
T.J. Jones – Jones ihas been every bit the threat in the pass game I thought he would be through two games, hauling in 15 catches for 232 yards. That trend continues as he hits his average in catches with 7 with 90 yards and two scores.
Notre Dame defense – The biggest prediction of all here. Despite all evidence to the contrary, I still have faith in this defense. I think they have a spectacular rebound, keeoing the Purdue offense out of the end zone the entire game.
Final Score – The offense and defense should both be clicking in this one, even on the road. I see Notre Dame taking it easy, 38-3.
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