Final Review: Notre Dame v. Purdue ’06

This week’s final review comes a little late after taking in last night’s Monday Night Football game from Lincoln Financial Field where my Birds beat the crap out of the Packers without their starting running back, #1 wide receiver, and #1 and 3 corners, but that’s another story all together.  Anyway, lets get into my final thoughts on last weekend’s game.

The safety and/or corner blitz almost NEVER works
For the last two years the safety and/or corner blitzes rarely results in anything positive for the Irish.  Mike Richardson had a few sacks last year, but the safety blitz has pretty much been feast or famine for Notre Dame under Rick Minter’s defense.  The touchdown pass to Lymon at the end of the first half came when N’Dukwe blitzed.  The problem is that Notre Dame’s blitzing schemes are not complicated so its very easy for the opposing offense to see it coming and adjust accordingly.

Notre Dame has to find effective ways to get pressure on defense
The safety blitzes aren’t the only blitzes that haven’t been working.  Notre Dame registered no sacks last week in a game where their opponent threw the ball over 40 times! The defensive line has gotten a little more push than they had a year ago, but they still aren’t getting to the quarterback and it’s helping expose the secondary.

Quinn looked better but…

Brady Quinn had a heck of a first half and completed 24 of his first 28 passes, but he completed only 4 of his final 11 and didn’t look as good in the second half.  We’re still waiting for that huge breakout games stats wise from Quinn that we got used to last year.  It’s odd to think that a 300+ yard two touchdown performance can be classified as average after some the offenses we’ve seen over the last several years, but I expected a lot more with Purdue sporting one of the worst defenses in all of college football.  With Stanford coming to town this week, Brady could have a huge game.

Running game was improved, but still needs a lot of work

The ground game certainly looked better after Weis made it a point to run the ball early and often, but the running game for the Irish still is far from impressive.  I’ve said almost countless times this season that the main reason for the Irish ground game struggling is the lack of depth (thanks Ty).  Running backs take a pounding and its almost unfair to expect one back to play every series of every game which is what Walker ends up having to do.  Unfortunately all that is behind Walker right now are two freshmen (Munir Prince and James Aldridge) and Junior Jabbie who has yet to record a carry.

How are wide receiver recruits not knocking down Weis door right now?

With Notre Dame losing McKnight and Samardzija this year and no other receivers really establishing themselves so far this year, I don’t understand how the Irish don’t have any other commitments then Duval Kamara at wide receiver.  Kamara is great recruit, but Notre Dame needs at least two other big time commits this year.  The chance to start as a freshman will be there especially if they can enroll early.  There’s a chance there some silent commitments we don’t know about, but still, one would think wide receivers would be lining up to play in Weis’s offense and catch passes from Jimmy Clausen.

Terrail Lambert is on a tear
After being seen on Sports Center over and over on Mario Manningham’s touchdowns in the Michigan game, the junior corner has really stepped up.  He had the game winning touchdown on an interception return last week, then sealed the game with another pick, and then followed that up with a forced fumble against the Purdue.  Lambert also played some pretty good defense despite some borderline penalties called.

Still waiting for a big kick/punt return

Zibby had the punt return called back against Michigan State, but there still hasn’t been many big returns this year.  George West has looked pretty good at times and Darrin Walls looked very fast last week in David Grimes absence, but none of the returners have really helped give the Irish good field position since the Georgia Tech game.  I’d still love to see Munir Prince returning kicks based on Weis’s comments about his speed, but it seems Weis and special teams coach Brian Polian are pretty confident in Grimes and West.

Craig James is a moron
James, an ABC analyst, voted the Irish 18th in his most recent poll.  Now, if he really thinks the Irish are the 18th best team in the country I have no problem with that, but when his poll also has Georgia Tech, a team with the same record as Notre Dame who LOST to Notre Dame at home ranked two spots higher than the Irish, his poll lost all credibility.

It would be one thing if this were the last poll of the season and one team improved while the other regressed all season, but that game was barely a month ago!  How on earth can he honestly say Tech is a better team than Notre Dame since the only way to know for sure would be if the two teams played.  Which they did.  Which the Irish won on the road.  I’m sorry, but that is just ridiculous.  I’m not one to complain about Notre Dame dropping after a loss if the team moving ahead of them has a better record or has been more impressive, but no offense to Tech (who I think is a very good team), but they proved the Irish are the better team already.

Still waiting for a full 60 minutes
I’m still waiting to see this team play a full 60 minutes.  The Penn State game was very close, but in that game Notre Dame shot itself in the foot multiple times early on.  This week the Irish played excellent in the first half, but scored just seven points in the second half.

The bye week needs to get here

The lack of depth can catch up to this team if the Irish suffer a few more injuries.  Ambrose Wooden, Asaph Schwapp, Bob Morton, David Grimes, and Travis Thomas are all starters who either didn’t play or missed time.  The bye week next week should really help this team rest and heal up for the second half of the season.

Geoff Price Still Rules
I said it last week, and I’ll say it again.  Hyping a punter doesn’t happen often, but Price is becoming a real weapon in winning the field position game for Notre Dame.

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