Here’s a look at what Notre Dame has to do this weekend in order to leave Notre Dame Stadium with a 2-0 record for the first time since 2008.
Go Deep Early
We all saw Notre Dame run the ball 46 times right at Navy with great success. Guess what? So did Purdue and while the Boilermakers aren’t going to bring in the ’85 Bears defense into South Bend, they are more stout up front defensively than the Midshipmen. Purdue is going to stack the line of scrimmage early – especially since Cierre Wood and the Irish ground game gashed them a year ago in West Lafayette.
In order to soften up the Boiler defense, Everett Golson is going to need to drop back and unleash his cannon of an arm – preferably off of a play action – and hopefully find one of his young receivers. If Golson can connect on a downfield pass or two early, Purdue will have to respect the Irish passing attack. If that happens, Notre Dame will be able to run the ball and run it well.
Run George Atkinson and Theo Riddick right at Purdue
Once Notre Dame softens up the Purdue defense, the Irish should go back to what worked against Navy – running right at the defense. Purdue didn’t have an answer for Cierre Wood and Jonas Gray last year and they won’t have one for Theo Riddick and George Atkinson this year if they force Purdue to respect the passing game. If Purdue can line 8 and 9 in the box though, well, then the Irish could have a tough time sledding in the running department.
Purdue was solid against the run last week, but hardly spectacular. Eastern Kentucky ran 31 times for 105 yards. Hardly impressive numbers but we are talking about Eastern Kentucky here. It’s not as though Purdue shut down a vaunted ground attack.
If Notre Dame runs for 200 yards again this week, the Irish should coast to an easy victory.
Get pressure on Caleb TerBush and Robert Marve
Robert Marve threw for just under 300 yards while tossing 3 touchdowns last week, but his performance was not without blemishes. Marve threw an interception against Eastern Kentucky after throwing 5 last year compared to just 4 touchdowns. His performance was not enough, however, for Purdue head coach Danny Hope to name him the starter again this weekend. Instead, Hope has tapped Caleb TerBush, who was suspended last week, as his top signal caller when he brings the Boilermakers into South Bend.
According to our Purdue scouting report provided to us by Purdue blogger Travis Miller, it’s possible that Marve still sees time at quarterback as well this weekend, but regardless of who lines up behind center for the Boilers, it’s safe to assume Hope and the Purdue staff will use them to test the Irish secondary.
Navy was able to get receivers behind the Irish secondary despite Notre Dame playing soft coverage designed specifically to limit big plays. Some of Navy’s success could be attributed to Notre Dame preparing two first time starting corners to defend an unique offense that they won’t see again this year, but that explanation is only going to go so far.
Bottom line here is Notre Dame has to improve its pass defense here in order to have the same kind of success against Purdue that they’ve had the passed two years and the best way to do that is going to be put pressure on TerBush early and often. Notre Dame needs to unleash Ishaq Williams off the edge again this week and continue to rotate in defensive linemen so the line stays fresh throughout.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of Kona Schwenke at NT this week even though Louis Nix played so well against Navy because of the pass rush skills Schwenke displayed. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Stephon Tuiit slide inside more this week with Williams flanking him at defensive end at times as well so Bob Diaco can get Williams and Prince Shembo on the field at the same time.
Protect the football
This one goes without saying. You always need to protect the football in order to win football games, but given Notre Dame’s tendency to turn it over last year it bears repeating here.
Notre Dame was +3 in turnover margin last week but still did have one bad turnover when Golson threw late to Tyler Efiert inside the red-zone and got picked off. Purdue meanwhile was -1 while turning the ball over 5 times against Eastern Kentucky. If Purdue protects the ball that poorly this weekend, it might not matter if Golson and the Irish passing attack gets going or not, Notre Dame should win easily if Purdue turns it over that many times this weekend.