Jimmy Clausen came off the bench to lead Notre Dame to its second fourth quarter comeback in as many weeks Saturday night with a 24-21 victory over the Boilermakers. The Irish didn’t have the services of Armando Allen and had Clausen for a little less than half the game, but were able to make a clutch drive at the end to improve to 3-1 on the season.
Here are some notes and my initial impressions from Notre Dame’s latest heart stopping finish.
- A win is a win. I would have liked to see Notre Dame score a couple touchdowns in the third quarter to put the game away, but anytime you win on the road without the best wide receiver in college football and your starting running back and have a starting quarterback playing with a bad plant foot, you can’t complain too much.
- Very gutty performance from Clausen. He was obviously hurting and Weis didn’t plan on playing him in the second half, but he came in and lead the game winning drive for the second week in a row. His stats weren’t as pretty as they were the past few weeks, but were still pretty good considering he only played two quarters.
- I would have liked to see Charlie Weis let Dayne Crist throw the ball more. Once Purdue realized that Crist was only going to pass if forced to, they loaded the box and shut down what was a really impressive running game in the first half. If Crist is needed again next week, Weis is going to have to open up the offense a little more.
- I also would have liked to see Kyle Rudolph be more involved in the game plan. I can’t for the life of me figure out why he isn’t getting targeted more this season. He’s a huge target and as he showed on his game winning touchdown, he is very tough for anyone to cover one on one.
- That said, I thought the game plan to use the wildcat and Golden Tate in the backfield with Crist was pretty smart from Weis. Tate’s a playmaker and he showed he can make some plays out of the backfield.
- Crist looked pretty good considering this was his first playing time, but it’s clear that Weis isn’t comfortable letting him run the full playbook. It would have been nice to see Crist connect with Golden Tate on the long bomb in the 4th quarter for what it would have done to his confidence.
- Defense missed a couple opportunities for big plays again. Robert Blanton and Kyle McCarthy both had chances for pick sixes that they couldn’t come up with. McCarthy’s was at the goal line when he did an excellent job of recognizing the route and jumping up. He was just a shade late though and what could have been a pick six turned into a touchdown for Purdue.
- Purdue ran the ball for just 74 yards on 26 attempts. That’s a 2.8 yards per rush average. That number is skewed a little by the 18 yards Purdue lost on sacks but that’s just 92 yards on 24. Purdue was running the ball pretty well over the first three games so this is at least a little encouraging.
- I didn’t understand why Weis went for it on 4th and 10 in the 4th quarter. He was playing very conservatively up to that point and hardly let Crist throw before that.
- The defense played better, but still not great. A couple players that caught me while watching the game where Kapron Lewis-Moore, Darius Fleming, Manti Te’o, Gary Gray, and Ian Williams.
- Fleming especially had a big game. Three tackles for loss and a sack.
- I’ll have to rewatch the game to see just how often the Irish blitzed, but it seemed like a very conservative game plan from the defense in terms of the volume of blitzes. Sure enough, reducing the number of blitzes also seemed to make the blitzes Tenuta did send more effective.
- I LOVED seeing Tenuta send a blitz on Purdue’s first play on their final drive. I hate the prevent defense and liked seeing Notre Dame send pressure in that situation so Purdue’s receivers couldn’t get too far into their routes.
- Tough game for Toryan Smith. He collected only two tackles and was targeted on several passing plays by Purdue. His lack of coverage skills are going to be noticed by opposing offenses.
- Tackling in general wasn’t strong again this week. After four weeks in a row of poor tackling, it might be safe to assume that it’s going to be an issue throughout the season.
- Robby Parris picked a great time to make his first catch of the game with his 15 yarder on 3rd and 14 on the final drive of the game. I wouldn’t mind seeing a little more of him.
- Robert Hughes ran very hard and looked pretty fast. This was easily his best game since the 2007 Stanford game. Overall Notre Dame ran the ball pretty well. Without the sack yardage, Notre Dame gained 188 yards on 39 attempts.
- Also a tough game for Duval Kamara who dropped two passes and got flagged for two illegal formation penalties.
- Nice returns from Theo Riddick once again. Would have like to see him break his long return to the outside and not get tackled by the kicker, but I think it might only be a matter of time before he breaks one for a TD. Riddick busted a 24 yard run and threw the critical block on Golden Tate’s touchdown run. Very impressed with Riddick so far.
- Nice to see Darrin Walls come up with his first pick of the season. I know some might have liked him to just bat the ball away, but I’m glad he secured the ball and didn’t give Purdue any chances to come up with some sort of crazy catch off of a deflection.
- Eric Maust struggled again this week. Weis said they would make decisions by the bye week as to what they were doing with redshirts, so I think we’ll know soon enough if Ben Turk is going to get a look at punter this year. Maust did have his best punt on his last attempt though.
- Nick Tausch is getting better each week on kickoffs. When was the last time Notre Dame had a kickoff reach the endzone at the start of a critical defensive drive?
- Did Danny Hope really call time out with 36 seconds left? I don’t know what shocked me more, the timeout or Notre Dame calling for a spike. A spike with 36 seconds left??? Even if Notre Dame used the entire play clock in that situation they would have gotten the play off with 25 seconds left and had plenty of time to run the play and still get a 4th down play off. I’m going to hope that they were going to run a fake spike play there and Weis just didn’t want to admit to it for future games.
- Great game from the offensive line, but Sam Young had a couple critical mistakes in the 4th quarter again. He let a Purdue blitzer get to Clausen untouched while double teaming a different pass rusher on 2nd and 7 and then committed a holding penalty on the next play that was declined.
- I loved seeing Trevor Robinson get in the face of the Purdue defender that taunted Clausen after he was stopped on 3rd down in the first quarter. That’s the kind of attitude the offensive line has been largely missing over the last few years.
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