5 Things I Liked: Notre Dame @ Purdue

Davaris Daniels - Notre Dame vs. Purdue
Notre Dame Fighting Irish wide receiver DaVaris Daniels (10) scores a touchdown on an 82 yard pass play against the Purdue Boilermakers at Ross Ade Stadium. Notre Dame defeats Purdue 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Still playing some catch-up after a busy weekend, but despite another underwhelming performance from Notre Dame, there was still plenty to like from the Irish on Saturday night.

DaVaris Daniels stepping up in prime time

The story of the night for Notre Dame was the best game of DaVaris Daniels’ career.  Daniels hauled in 8 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns including an 82 yard bomb form Tommy Rees where he fought off a defender and raced down the sidelines.  The pass itself traveled just over 50 yards from Rees with Daniels supplying the remaining.

The play before Daniels highlight reel bomb was a nine yard touchdown to tie the game at 17.  After not catching a single touchdown last year, Daniels now has four this year through three games and is averaging just under 100 yards a game.  Daniels is showing all of the signs of being the dominant, #1, go-to wide receiver that everyone hoped he would become when he originally committed to Notre Dame.

The tough running of Cam McDaniel

Notre Dame is still in search of a go-to back and after Saturday, the surprise front runner right now could be Cam McDaniel after he provided some stability to the Notre Dame ground game in the 4th quarter.  McDaniel’s stats weren’t eye popping, but he ran tough and hard s the Irish worked the final 7 minutes off the clock.

McDaniel ended up totting the rock 16 times for 52 yards and a touchdown – Notre Dame’s only touchdown on the ground against Purdue and just its second on the season.  No one has been able to grab hold of the top spot on the Notre Dame depth chart at running back this year.  George Atkinson has had a case of the dropsies in the passing game, Amir Carlisle averaged less than 2 yards per carry against Purdue and then fumbled at a crucial juncture, and the freshmen tandem of Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant hasn’t gotten enough carries to show what they can do.  At this point though, McDaniel at least has earned some additional carries this weekend.

The development of Jaylon Smith & Jarrett Grace

The Notre Dame defense has not been fun to watch this year.  After being one of the best units in the entire country last year, the Irish defense has had trouble slowing down the offenses of both Temple and Purdue already this year. Despite the poor start, however, two players have started to step up and improve each week – Jarrett Grace and Jaylon Smith.

The play of the inside linebackers has been alarming at times in this early season, but Jarrett Grace has played better each week and was all over the field on Saturday night.  Grace had 10 tackles against the Boilermakers and is now second on the team in tackles with 20 on the season.  Grace is earning himself a permanent spot in the starting lineup and has looked the best in coverage among the ILB by far.

On the edge, freshman Jaylon Smith continues to show why he was so highly rated.  Smith only was credited with one tackle, but it went for a loss and his athleticism has led to other players making plays because of his pursuit.  Smith is starting to put it all together and should only continue to improve each week.

Tommy Rees taking a leadership role

Tommy Rees might not be a captain, but he was the one on the sideline leading a huddle of the offense with almost every member of the unit present and attentive.  Notre Dame needs some leaders to emerge as they are missing the leadership that Manti Te’o and Kapron Lewis Moore brought to the table last year.

Seeing the team rally behind Rees on the sideline was great to see as this team has shown glimpses of the talent it has what they are capable – a 14 point outburst in less than 5 minutes against Temple and a 21 point outburst in less than 3:30 minutes against Purdue – but consistency has dogged this team so far this year.  Rees is playing well on the field and if he can step up and assume more of a leadership role on offense, hopefully slow starts like last week won’t be a trend.

Notre Dame’s 3rd down offense

Despite a sluggish start on offense, Notre Dame ended up having a great day on third down converting 11 out of 16 third down attempts.   A week ago Notre Dame just over 50 % (8 of 15) of its third downs against Michigan and in week one the Irish were even worse converting just 5 of 13 third downs.

For the Notre Dame offense to continue to improve third downs will be key for this unit as they will need to string together long drives.  While they have shown the ability to make the big play, this isn’t an offense that will continually make that home run play.  If Notre Dame can convert third downs at a high rate again this weekend the Irish should find themselves victorious again this weekend.

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  1. The SEC and ND

    First, I believe the college football National Championship should be decided on the field. The Fans and players deserve nothing less.

    But if the NCAA follows suit with Alabama like they did with the similar situation at Southern Cal and the Reggie Bush accepting illegal benefits a few years back, the NCAA could vacate wins from Alabama, including wins in bowl games just like they did with USC.

    If… (and that’s a big IF right now) Bama could be stripped of their BCS bowl win over ND.

    And while I’m in no way ready to claim any kind of National Championship for last year, the record books would list ND as finishing the season as unbeaten and ranked #1.

    Just saying.

    1. I know they vacated SC’s wins but did the vacate losses for the teams they beat. Don’t recall that. I also don’t think they retroactively changed any rankings.

      1. Can’t say for sure about vacating losses, but one of those wins that was vacated against USC was the “Bush Push” game played in South Bend on Oct. 15th 2005.

        This long rich rivalry between ND and USC is also known as the battle for “The Jeweled Shilelagh”

        Tradition ensures that when ND wins the game a Emerald Shamrock shaped jewel is encrusted in the wooden Shilelagh.
        When USC wins, a Ruby Trojan head jewel is added.

        Rumor has it that shortly after the June 10th, 2010 NCAA ruling against USC, that vacated all their wins including that of the Bush Pusg game, the Shilelagh was returned to ND pending the outcome of the next meeting between the two teams.

        Sometime shortly after arriving back at ND, the Ruby Trojan Head jewel that was imbedded after the USC “Bush Push” victory mysteriously vanished.

        No one knows for sure what happened to it, but legend has it that Charlie Weis pried it off with a letter opener in the men’s room, and now sports it as a navel jewel!

  2. Yes but after all it was PURDUE the same team that struggled vs Indiana St. and was buried by Cincinnati. I cannot believe that we are into week 4 of the season and still BCS teams are playing “no name” opponents. Games vs the Nicholls St. and Anyone A&T etc should be wiped off all BCS team schedules. Then you have of course the SEC juggernauts like Alabama always playing their wk 11 games vs POWERHOUSES like Chatnooga St. etc. Yes SEC definitely the POWER conference of America. NOTTTTTTTTTTTTT.

  3. Not to be a smart aleck, but 8 1st downs in 15 3rd down attempts against UM would be 53.3%, which is of course, greater than 50%. The Irish actually outplayed Michigan in that regard. Michigan was only 6 of 12 for 50% on 3rd down conversions.

    In any case, I agree it was a good stat against Purdue, but one in which we had to recover from an early slump. ND went 11 of 13 to end the game after starting off 0 of 3. Slow starts against the better teams left on the schedule will doom the Irish.

  4. A comeback game, away from the comforts of home, early in a new season with a game opponent, is the sweetest kind of omen for this developing CFB team.

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