Brady Quinn had a fairly average game stats-wise. 318 yards and two touchdowns is about what is expected of the senior quarterback these days even though a couple years ago most Irish fans would be raving about such numbers. What was nice to see out of Quinn, however, was his accuracy early on. He has had a lot of problems early in games with his accuracy this year, but this was not the case on Saturday. Quinn opened the game by completing 24 of his first 28 passes.
Not coincidentally, the Irish started strong for the first time this year behind the arm of Quinn who didn’t throw an interception for the first time since the Penn State game. Quinn’s counterpart, Curtis Painter, however, had a career day with 398 yards passing and two touchdowns. Neither quarterback threw an interception, but Quinn’s accuracy in the second half left a little be desired as the Irish managed just seven second half point after putting 28 up in the first thirty minutes.
Darius Walker had his first 100 yard game of the year with 146 on 31 carries. Walker was the primary focus of the offense from the first drive on and he added another 73 yards on 9 receptions. Walker had some nice lanes to run through from his offensive line and for the most part, he took what he was given. There were times where Walker did a little too much dancing around which cost him some yards, but it’s hard to argue with 146 yards.
Purdue ran the ball just 18 times as a team as they concentrated on attacking the Notre Dame secondary. Kory Sheets looked pretty good on the few carries he had, but was not nearly the factor that Walker was for the Irish.
Advantage: Notre Dame
Rhema McKnight had a career day for Notre Dame with 120 yards on 10 catches and two touchdowns, but Jeff Samradzija had a so-so game with just 46 yards on 4 receptions. Samardzija found the end zone as well, but his lone touchdown came on a fake field goal rather than through the passing game. Other than McKnight and Samardzija, the Irish got very little production out of their other receivers again this week. Chase Anastacio recorded his first catch of the year, but the Irish still lack a reliable third receiver at this point.
Most of the damage done by Notre Dame receivers was done on comeback routes and not down the field. Rhema McKnight had one deep pass bounce off his face mask in the end zone, but other than that the deep passing game was not much of a factor for Notre Dame. It was, however, very effective for Purdue and sophomore receiver Selwyn Lymon who had 238 yards on 8 catches with two touchdowns including an 88 yard bomb at the end of the first half. Dorien Bryant and Matt Keller were held in check for the most part, but Lymon killed the Irish secondary.
Notre Dame Offensive Line vs. Purdue Defense Line
In the first half of the game, the Notre Dame offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage and created holes for Walker to run through. They protected Quinn very well in the first half and eliminated a lot of the mental errors we had seen the previous weeks. In the second half, they allowed a few sacks, but for the most part the offensive line had a nice push and gave Quinn plenty of time to pass.
Purdue defensive end Anthony Spencer had a nice game for the Boilermakers, but for the most part the offensive line won the battle in the trenches. There still is a lot of room for improvement for this line as they haven’t dominated for an entire game yet. They’ve had some dominate halves, but we really haven’t seen this line control a game from start to finish yet.
Advantage: Notre Dame
Notre Dame Defensive Line vs. Purdue Offensive Line
For the most part, the defensive line was solid. They didn’t do anything too spectacular, but didn’t really have a poor performance. The one troubling stat for the defensive line however is 0 sacks on 46 pass attempts. We can debate the lack of holding calls all we want, but the bottom line is the line produced zero sacks despite getting some pressure at times. Victor Abimamiri had a bunch of hurries, but he couldn’t get Painter down and as a result, Painter had all day to throw for those 398 yards.
The defensive line is going to have to get more consistent pressure on the opposing quarterbacks or the secondary will continue to be picked apart by even average quarterbacks.
Travis Thomas was injured and Joe Brockington filled in pretty well. He had the one easy interception dropped, but for the most part he looked pretty solid out there. As we’ve seen all year, however, the Irish lack play making linebackers at this time. One play early in the first quarter stuck out to me. On a blitz, Maurice Crum ran directly into one of his own players who was being blocked and by the time he moved over to the lane created to blitz, Purdue picked him up easily, this negating the blitz.
The Notre Dame linebackers have not been able to be very effective blitzing off the snap. The one time they have been effective blitzing has been on delayed blitzes where they can wait for the lane to be created and use their speed to attack the quarterback.
While the Irish got torched for almost 400 yards through the air, the secondary really wasn’t as bad as it looked. Yes, Sylwyn Lymon had a career day, but whenever a team passes 46 times, they are going to put up some yards. The pluses here are Terrail Lambert who continues to look strong after the Michigan game and Mike Richardson who has really made some nice plays.
On the down side, freshman Darrin Walls was picked on by the Purdue passing game and was replaced by Leo Ferrine who in turn had a lot of balls thrown his way. Walls has definitely shown a lot of promise, but he is still prone to freshman mistakes. Better days, however, are definitely ahead for the talented corner. Safety Tommy Zbikowski also had a bit of down game this week with a couple missed tackles and the whiff on Lymon on his 88 yard touchdown when he and Walls collided.
Geoff Price continues to give Notre Dame an edge in field position with his punting. He averaged 45.7 yards per punt and put all three of his punts inside the opponents 20 yard line. In the return game, Notre Dame looked ok on kick and punt returns, but we’re still waiting to see a big play from this department for the Irish. Purdue, on the other hand, had a very nice day returning kicks thanks to some missed tackles and blown coverage.
The Irish did use a fake field goal for a touchdown at the end of the first half, which proved to be huge after Purdue’s 88 yard bomb shortly after.
Advantage: Notre Dame
Weis came in determined to run the ball and the Irish did just that. Give Purdue credit, however, for adjusting and limiting the Notre Dame offense to just seven points in the second half. Joe Tiller came in looking to throw the ball all over the field and was smart in targeting the freshman corner Walls. Notre Dame was determined to take Keller and Bryant out of the game and when they did, Lymon became the go to target and he responded with a career day.
It was nice to see the Irish come out strong for the first time since the Penn State game and not have an emotional let down after last week’s comeback. I’ve got to give Tiller credit, however, for keeping his team in the game and being very complimentary in his post game comments (even if his hand shake with Weis after the game left a little to be desired).