Frank’s Purdue Preview

Notre Dame looks to improve to 3-1 this weekend. Standing in the way are the Purdue Boilermakers and their improved rushing attack.

Notre Dame looks to improve to 3-1 and inch back towards the top 25 this weekend as they travel to West Lafayette.  The Irish will limp into Ross Ade Stadium though with a number of injuries that could limit Notre Dame against a very dangerous Purdue team.

Notre Dame on Offense

The Irish offense is limping into this weekend’s matchup.  Michael Floyd was lost for the season last week with a broken collarbone. Jimmy Clausen is likely a “go” according to Charlie Weis on Thursday after nursing turf toe this week, but starting tailback Armando Allen is a game time decision. Allen’s availability could really alter what the Irish offense does this weekend. Purdue has had trouble stopping the run this year and Allen figured to see an increased role in the passing game as Notre Dame tries to replace Floyd.

Even before Weis announced that Allen would be a game time decision, I thought there was a good chance that Notre Dame could come out in a five wide set like they did against Michigan State. With Allen iffy the chances of this happening go up quite a bit. Notre Dame spread Michigan State out last week with a no-huddle multiple wide receiver package and moved the ball really well. Even without Floyd, Notre Dame has the wide receivers to pull this off again.

Spreading out Purdue will make it a bit tougher for Purdue to really key on Golden Tate like defenses did last year. Notre Dame didn’t really have the offensive line to pull off this kind of offensive attack last season though. With the Irish line vastly improved this season, Notre Dame could come out in such an attack this weekend. Notre Dame is going to need to find ways to get Golden Tate some open looks and other than just moving him around a lot this is one way to get Tate some favorable matchups.

Allen’s availability will really impact what Notre Dame does on the ground though. Weis said that Robert Hughes and Jonas Gray got the bulk of the carries with the first team with Allen unable to go full strength in practice this week. Gray is the more talented runner, but his struggles in pass protection have been well documented this week. Purdue is going to likely send more pressure than normal this weekend to get after Clausen with his mobility limited which puts a premium on having a running back that is strong in pass protection.

If Allen is able to play this weekend, Notre Dame could come out and try and establish the run early, but with Floyd out I think Purdue will key on the run early and force Notre Dame to beat them in the air. Notre Dame had a tough time doing that last year when Floyd was out and until they prove they can still throw the ball all over the field without the star receiver, defenses are probably going to stack the box to stop the run.

Allen’s status will also determine just how much of the Wildcat we see this weekend. Allen’s been the only Irish player to line up in the Wildcat so far this year. If he is unable to play it’ll be interesting to see if Weis still uses the formation or if he scraps it for this week. It would make sense to use the Wildcat liberally this weekend given its effectiveness and its ability to take some pressure off of Jimmy Clausen. Using the Wildcat could given Clausen a few plays off to help keep him fresher on his injured toe.

Without Floyd this week Notre Dame is going to need another receiver to step up. Duval Kamara and Robby Parris are listed as the co-starters opposite Tate heading into the weekend, but freshman Shaquelle Evans figures to be in the mix as do sophomores Deion Walker and John Goodman. One of them will need to step up this weekend to take some pressure off of Tate and give Clausen a reliable target. Evans has the speed to provide a deep threat, but depending on how much pressure Purdue decides to bring, Notre Dame might not have time for deep routes early on.

Kamara is probably the safest pick to be the wide receiver who steps up. He’s had an inconsistent past up to this point, but one of his best games did come in Ross Ade Stadium in 2007 when he caught 6 passes for 68 yards and his first career touchdown.

One thing to think about too is that Golden Tate did not have a single career reception before the 2007 Purdue game. Afterward he had 3 for 104 yards and a touchdown. It’s very possible that Shaquelle Evans could have a similar breakout performance if he is given a large role in this week’s game plan.

Tight end Kyle Rudolph figures to be a major part of the Irish passing game as well. Purdue’s linebackers are not very good in coverage and Rudolph is a matchup nightmare for any linebacker that tries to cover him one on one. If Purdue rolls a safety over to help cover Golden Tate, the middle of the field should be wide open for Rudolph.

This week is really going to show just how good of an offensive coordinator Weis is. If he can keep the Notre Dame offense humming after losing one of the best wide receivers in the country, things might just work out alright for the offense this year. Notre Dame has the weapons to be able to still have a very effective, if not potent, offense.

Notre Dame on Defense

Where to begin? The defense has been a major disappointment so far this year to say the least.  Notre Dame’s given up 68 points combined the past two weeks after recording the first shutout of the Weis Era in week 1 against Nevada. Even in the shutout though, there were signs that the Irish defense was vulnerable in some areas.  No one, however,  thought the defense would be vulnerable to the extent it’s been the past two weeks.

Purdue’s offense is vastly different under new head coach Randy Hope than it was under Joe Tiller. “Basketball on grass” has given way to a power running attack that has looked very strong at times this year. In Purdue’s season opening win over Toldeo, they ran the ball for 315 yards. That total has decreased each of the last two weeks though to 193 two weeks ago and then to 147 last weekend. Those totals are a bit skewed by the fact that Purdue got into shootouts both of those weeks and had to throw the ball more than they’d probably like.

Sophomore running back Ralph Bolden could give the Notre Dame defense fits this weekend if they don’t improve on their tackling. Bolden is a very quick back that excels at making people miss. That’s not a good combination for a defense that has been missing tackles at an alarming rate through the first three games. Bolden has run for 421 yards on 62 carries with four touchdowns so far this year. That’s an impressive 6.8 yard per carry average.  Notre Dame is going to have to be much more fundamentally sound this weekend or Bolden will run wild on the Irish. Bolden was held to 64 yards last weekend, but he was only given 12 attempts with Purdue falling behind 28-7 to North Illinois.

Notre Dame is going to have to be very aware of Purdue quarterback Joey Elliot as well. Elliot isn’t known as a mobile quarterback, but he was still able to run for 68 yards on 6 carries with a 58 yard touchdown run off a broken play last week against Northern Illinois. Given Notre Dame’s problems getting to and bringing down opposing quarterbacks, this is another cause for concern for the defense.

Purdue isn’t as strong in the wide receiver department as they’ve been in the past. Keith Smith and Aaron Valentin are the top receivers for Purdue, but neither has been much of a deep threat this year with Smith averaging only 13.1 yards per catch and Valentin averaging 8.7. Notre Dame will need to be aware of tight end Keith Adams though.

I think we’ll see Notre Dame play more press coverage this weekend when they send pressure. The last three weeks the corners have been giving huge cushions which has allowed opposing quarterbacks to play pitch and catch at times. When Notre Dame pressed Michigan State’s receivers last week the defense was much more effective. Look for Notre Dame to key on Bolden and try to stop the run early.

In terms of generating more pressure, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not Jon Tenuta will be able to fix the Irish pass rush this week. Notre Dame’s blitzes have been frequent this year. The problem is that they’ve been frequently ineffective. Joey Elliot has thrown five interceptions in the first three games this season so look for Notre Dame to try and get some pressure on him in hopes the secondary can come down with the picks that they dropped last week.

Like Northern Illinois last week, Notre Dame’s best defense could be a good offense. If Notre Dame can get out to a similar lead and force Purdue to play catchup they will be able to limit Bolden’s impact. Given the injuries on offense though, counting on them to build such a lead is asking a lot. The offense has carried the Irish the past two weeks, but with Clausen and Allen banged up, the defense is going to have to step up and carry some of the burden this weekend.

Notre Dame on Special Teams

Notre Dame will have a solid edge in the special teams game outside of field goal kicking. Purdue has an outstanding kicker in Carson Wiggs. Wiggs has a big leg and has connected on a 59 yarder this year. His only miss in three attempts was from over 60 yards.

In the return game though, Purdue’s return and coverage teams have been inconsistent. Aaron Valnetin fumbled away two costly punts last weekend and their coverage units have been suspect. Theo Riddick’s had a couple nice returns so far this year and nearly broke one against Michigan State last week so watch for a possible big return out of him again this weekend.

Prediction Time

So far this year I’ve been pretty good at predicting how many points Notre Dame will score. I was only off by 7 in week 1, was dead on in week 2, and was only off by a point last week. Unfortunately, I’ve been dead wrong in how many points the Irish defense would give up.

This game scares me because of all of the injuries and in the back of my mind I’m concerned Weis might try to get too cute in his play calling with Floyd out. This is a game that Notre Dame should win and should win fairly easily. So were the last two games though.

Considering how poorly the defense has performed the last two weeks I think it’s a stretch to think they’ll suddenly become dominant and hold Purdue down. I can see Bolden having a big day with the way Notre Dame’s been tackling. In the end though, I think Notre Dame will win another high scoring affair.
Notre Dame 38, Purdue 31

Previous Predictions

Week 1 – Notre Dame 42, Nevada 21 (W, Notre Dame 35-0)
Week 2 – Notre Dame 34, Michigan 21 (L, 34-38)
Week 3 – Notre Dame 34, Michigan State 23 (W, 33-30)

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  1. I have tried to remain neutral on the Weis situation, but many decisions rendered, small or great, have completely altered games. I can go thru all of them, but I will focus on the Purdue game for tonight. They are as follows: 1. 4th and 10 in the second half (ND 17- PU 7), and we opt to go for it and turn the ball over on downs. I don’t care what his explanation was, that was a gross error. Really, a pooch was the right call and we could have pinned a team inside the 20 for once this season. I know the Defense has been poor, but the simple statistics are in your favor. 2. The double time-out! Are you kidding me? I think he outthinks himself. 3. Gray is NOT and should not have been the back of choice. This is what Chicago fans refer to as the Garette Wolfe syndrome. I must say that Hughes stepped it up tonight, but the back changes should have been made earlier. But, what do we do? Same gameplan 2nd half and Gray does his usual bounce out. And why does he have to bounce it out “O” line? Are we not big and experienced enough to create holes up there against a midlevel team; give me a break! Hughes and Gray aside, am I the only one in the Irish nation that thinks that Theo Riddick has more potential than these two guys put together?! Get him more touches Charlie for gods sake!

    1. I agree on the Riddick comment…give him some touches…not a fan of J. Gray…he always trying to bounch the play out…therefore running parallel to the line of scrimmage- he does not have the spped to pull that off.

  2. 3-1, now let’s get healthy and make a run at 10 wins.
    Hats off to Charlie, he had two game plans ready in case Jimmy could not play the entire game. Tate running the wildcat, Crist with a great run on his first play and a fired up Robert Hughes grinding out some tough yardage.
    The D looked a little soft again – even McCarthy caught the “missing tackle bug”. Seems they tend to over pursue on the blitzes and the opposing QB’s just step up in the pocket and get the throw off with little pressure.

  3. We won! And if it was not for Charlie playing his game with Clausen being fine and AA being Fine we would have lost. Give Kudos to Charlie playing the Bill Belicheck game with injuries. I can say I am proud of our defense/

  4. Im not sure if my heart can handle more of these nail bitters…:). Must admit I thought we were going to win by 14 after the first half…thank GOD we won….

  5. I’m going to either puke or have a heart attack if this keeps happening every game. However, it was Jimmy’s first LAST MINUTE comeback….kudos! ND was out their receiver, running back, and quarterback (for the majority), adn still managed to pull it off on a fiesty and better than their record would suggest Purdue team. A “W” on the road is just fine, any way its won!

  6. They couldn’t buy him out and we were in a whole because Willingham couldn’t recruit. It was Kevin White who put us in this whole.

  7. Yeah, winning 9 games makes you a failure in South Bend…which is why Weis won only 10 games in 2 years and kept his job.

  8. As per public opinion Weis got rid of Minter after the LSU loss, which was warranted. He hired Corwin Brown who was the dc for a year. He then hired John Tenuta and made him co-coordinator. We went from a 4-3 to a 3-4 back to a 4-3. To much changing on defense, the players need to play in a system and learn it. They are thinking to much and not reacting. As far as loosing Chris Martin you will loose and entire recruiting class, plus possible transfers, Manti Teo and again have to start over. Brian Kelly really wants to come to a place where if he wins 9 games he is a failure, Urban Meyer didn’t want it.

  9. I mean I know I’ve had to come across very Anti-Weis the last couple of weeks, and I really don’t intend to. I’m not saying that I want him to be fired – just if things don’t improve, I think he definitely deserves to be. Last year ND lost games they shouldn’t have, and after 3 games this year…they’ve almost done it twice already.

    If the Irish don’t win 9 games this year, I don’t know that there’s any reason whatsoever to keep Weis – even if it means losing Chris Martin as a recruit.

  10. That’s wishful thinking. First off you can’t say for sure that the Irish defense will turn into anything good under Weis. 4 years and Weis still hasn’t given the Irish a good defense. Not to mention assuming you’re right and the defense DOES come around, the offense won’t be as good. ND will be losing most of their offense after next year. Not saying Crist and Co. can’t come in and do well, but the odds of them coming in and being as good as this Clausen-led offense this year are not good.

    1. The defense isn’t bad for a lack of effort on Weis’s part. He got rid of Minter when it was clear his defenses weren’t going to cut it and then he ended up bringing in a DC with a reputation for being one of the best in the business.

  11. Sorry Frank, I just don’t like programs shopping for a coach to take them to the promise land. The players are the only way you win. The great teams of the 80’s won because of the players on the field. Lou went to South Carolina and didn’t win, Spurrier is at South Carolina and hasn’t one an SEC championship. As fans we need to stop with it is the coach’s fault and look at the play of the players. The defense needs to tackle, you can only scheme so much if you are not able to tackle that is a problem.

  12. Should Weis get fired, ND should send a dump truck full of cash to try and get Brian Kelly to come to South Bend. Look what Kelly has done with recruits and players at Cincy – imagine what he could do with ND’s resources – and Kelly does reportedly have interest in ND.

  13. I just want to ask Frank one question, who is going to be the coach to bring ND back? How long will you give the next coach? If you want CW fired name the new coach and how many years until a National Championship. If you are going to ask for the coaches head then become the next AD and name the person who takes this program to the promise land.

  14. The problem is the players on the defense have to go full speed. I see to much hesitation. If you are in the wrong place at least be going full speed. Too many people thinking and not reacting. These players need to stop worry about mistakes and go all out. Leave it all on the field Every Friday night I sit by myself and watch highlights of the good years and one thing I see is the players are not afraid of success. Take a chance and make a play. I see no confidence on the defense side of the ball. It has nothing to do with the coaches it needs to come from the players. They need to rise to the occasion. They need to PLAY LIKE CHAMPIONS. I wouldn’t need a coach at ND to make me fired up to play, Stick some one and make it hurt.

  15. Aaron I agree 100%! Tenuta and Brown seem like they are not on the same page…Brown would have a more balanced approuch to play calling. I will also say i wish we were still running a 3 4 defence…we need to get Teo more involved and Ethan back to a DE. T Smith is doing good and is an upper classman however Teo has a higher upside.

  16. Agree. The backers seem to stay with their assignment more and supposedly we are forcing the QB to throw to our strength…the secondary?

  17. In my opinion, blitzing on every down does nothing for you. Great defenses absolutely mix it up and keep the QB guessing. When we blitz on every down we shoot ourselves in the foot. Our best defensive play call last week was the final int. We rushed four and created some pressure and forced the bad throw. I just hope we mix it up more.

  18. Notre Dame will control both lines and the defense will play their best game yet. Here’s hoping ND ends up with 2 losses or less and you have to put up with Charlie for another year, or two, or three….

    Go Irish!

  19. If I may add:
    – ND needs to reduce their penalties
    – ND needs to be detail oriented on Special Teams
    – JC needs to realize that not every throw can be for 40 yards, he needs to take the intermidate gains as well.
    – Secure the ball (Gray), looks like he is going to be some carries.
    If ND can do a good job of above…I think we win by 14.

  20. Notre Dame needs to do two thigns to win this game: 1. Throw over the middle to Rudolph on every third down. As long as he catches the ball, you will convert because he will not be covered. 2. Don’t worry about double coverage on Tate. We never double cover good receviers and will give him 10 yards off the line. Whether you have Jimmy Clausen or Jimmy from South park at quarterback as long as he can do those two things you will be fine.

  21. This game could be the straw that broke the camel’s back in terms of getting rid of Weis. Weis doesn’t have it, never will. He needs to go and this game could be the one to assure that.

    1. If ND loses more than 3 games this year, he is gone without question. No one would be able to say he wasn’t given enough opportunities.

  22. I too have been very disappointed in the performance (or lack thereof) of a secondary which seemed to have such promise. On the flip side of the coin, the offensive line has been playing lights out compared to the last couple of seasons and I believe have been by far the biggest surprise.

    The potential absence of Allen is my biggest concern. If ND is unable to establish a solid running attack, Clausen will find it very difficult to open up the air attack. I’m hoping Rudolph sees alot of action with Floyd out.

    1. I have been disappointed in the corners as well, but they are not the ones calling the formation. Against MSU the pressure wasn’t working because the corners and safeties were 10-15 yards off the line, leaving all receivers as hot receivers.

      Pressure up front needs help on the backside. Good pressure means coverage doesn’t have to last for as long. The ball has to come out quickly and if the corners are 10 yards off, it is easy pass and catch.

      Roll the corners up AND apply pressure to shut down the run.

      Funny how that scenario worked on MSUs last offensive play. Corners up tight and pressure led to a pick.

  23. was reading some comments on NDNation yesterday and didn’t realize how well certain aspects of our special teams have played. Our KO returns, which you mention, are as good or better than they’ve been in almost 20 years (27 yds/return), and that’s without a TD, which would skew the stats a little. Also, I think that we’re the only FBS (football bowl subdivision) team that has not yet had a punt returned against it. We’ve had 10 punts, all of which have been fair caught, out of bounds, or a touchback (1 of those).

    Now that doesn’t excuse the breakdowns in KO coverage, a missed XP, or failure to cover on onsides kick, but still impressive and worth commendation on their own.

    On the press coverage issue, I can’t figure out what’s going on. Many, myself included, thought that our secondary was arguably the greatest strength of this team headed into this season. Only our WRs were more widely recognized by outsiders than were our corners and safeties. What happened? We’re playing soft man to man against teams that don’t even have great receivers. If our corners are so great, why not play up over receivers in each of the last two games? It makes no sense. As you said, when we pressed MSU, our corners seemed to play much better. What are the coaches seeing that is leading them to call in this cushion?

  24. Man – the way this season has been developing, this may very easily turn into a nail biter. I am telling you the fans in West Lafayette are jacked for this night game which could easily turn into a nightmare for our beloved Irish! I would predict Purdue will expect Charlie to go conservative especially if Allen cant go full speed and I bet they are focused on getting pressure on Jimmy. Unless Charlie gets out of his comfort zone and presses the issue on offense which he is not likely to do based on past experience – I could see a heartbreak loss here fellas. A Boilermaker win against the Irish at home – at night would make their season. I am very nervous about this game.

  25. I think John Goodman lined up behind center in the Wildcat once. That would be an interesting wrinkle to show Purdue.

  26. Time to circle the wagons. Time for some of these player’s to step out of the shadows and into the limlight. It’s a total team game. No more so than this Saturday night.

    * ESPN has a nice story on K-MAC. Check it out.

    Notre Dame our Mother… inspire us!

  27. Considering how close MSU usually plays the Irish, I still don’t know why people were thinking ND should have won that game fairly easily.

    But as for this one, I’m going to be sorely disappointed if Purdue is able to keep the game under double digits – even with the injuries.

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