Notre Dame v. Purdue ’14 – 5 Things I Liked

Everett Golson - Notre Dame v. Purdue
Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Everett Golson (5) rolls out of the pocket against the Purdue Boilermakers at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

It took a little more effort than anyone thought it would last night but Notre Dame improved to 3-0 last night following a 30-14 win over Purdue in the Shamrock Series.  Unlike the last two weeks, there wasn’t as much to like as the Irish played by far their sloppiest and least impressive game of the season last night.  Still, Notre Dame’s sitting at 3-0 while USC is wondering how the heck they lost to Boston College and Michigan is just happy that they finally scored another touchdown.

Here’s this week’s “5 Things I Liked”.  Unfortunately, I have a lot of material for the “5 Things I Didn’t Like” which will be coming later today.

1. The continued evolution of Everett Golson

Everet Golson was not perfect on Saturday night.  In fact, Golson might have had his worst performance of the early season against Purdue this weekend, but his worst was still a lot of fun to watch.  In what most would consider an off game for him, he accounted for another three touchdowns (2 passing, 1 rushing) while completing 25 of 40 passes for 259 yards.  Golson added another 56 yards on the ground too – 74 if you take away the yards lost from sacks.

If we got a performance like that out of Golson in 2012, we’d all have jumped for joy.  Instead most came away from Saturday feeling like Golson under performed.  And to be fair, he did.  The fact that a three touchdown, zero turnover game is considered under performing is a sign of how much Golson has improved.  With a bye week next weekend before a trip to MetLife Stadium to take on Syracuse I think we are going to see Golson’s best game to date in two weeks.

2. Notre Dame’s 2nd half defense

In the first half, Purdue delivered the blueprint to attack the Notre Dame defense – power running and short passing.  The Irish defense was on its heels for the first time this season.  Brian VanGorder maximized his 20 minutes at halftime though and the Irish defense came out and shut down Purdue in the second half.  The Boilermakers didn’t score a single point in the 2nd half while only gaining 121 total yards.  The Irish also picked off Danny Etling twice in the second half (Devin Butler and Joe Schmidt).

I’m sure every future Notre Dame opponent will dissect what Purdue did in the first half, but what was great to see were the adjustments VanGorder made.  For as good as Bob Diaco became at Notre Dame at times, remember all those times when the Irish defense just couldn’t make adjustments like Navy in 2010?  That wasn’t the case last night.  Notre Dame came out in the second half and shut down Purdue just like they should have all game long.

3. Young players stepping up when thrust into action

Notre Dame’s depth chart was ravaged by the end of the Purdue game.  Already without the five players under academic investigation in addition to Austin Collinsworth, Torii Hunter, and Jarrett Grace, Notre Dame was without starting OG Christian Lombard and defensive end Andrew Trumbetti to start the game.  During the game Notre Dame lost Max Redfield for a targeting ejection and then Cole Luke, Amir Carlisle, and Nicky Baratti to injury.

With all of the subtractions, Notre Dame was down to three active safeties which thrust true freshman and on-time Purdue commitment Drue Tranquill into a prominent role.  For starting the game 3rd on the depth chart, Tranquill played great and showed a lot of promise for the future.  Sophomore Devin Butler also saw more action with Luke out of the game and responded with his first career interception.   Notre Dame is going to need the bye week to get healthy, but the experience some of the younger players have received should pay off down the road.

4. The Shamrock Series helmets

Notre Dame had the interlocking ND on its helmet for the first time in history last night and they locked fantastic.  Like many uniform related topics I’m sure there were a few fans who didn’t like them, but I thought they looked great and were probably the second best Shamrock Series helmets behind last year’s.

The reaction from recruits on Twitter last night was also very, very positive and as much as some don’t want to admit it, alternate uniforms and crazy helmets make a difference with recruits.

5. Being upset over a 16 point win

It’s a sign of the progress Brian Kelly has made with the program when we’re upset over a 16 point victory, but when I woke up this morning I had the feel I usually have after a loss.  Notre Dame didn’t look good at all last night and left way too many plays on the field, but at the end of the day, the Irish are 3-0 and have won those games by a combined score of 109-31 (36.3 – 10.3 average).  We all would have killed for results like that a few years ago.

Notre Dame has a lot of work to do in the bye week.  A lot of work.  The offensive line has a lot of holes to plug.  The wide receivers need to work on their blocking.  Golson needs to hang in the pocket more and see the field better. And so on.  They have all of that work to do with a 3-0 record though and as a result, there will be a lot of positivity in those meeting rooms as they go about getting that work done.

It’s a shame that Notre Dame didn’t come out and put a licking on Purdue last night because they certainly had the opportunity to do so.  Notre Dame had the chance to hang 50 points on the Boilers if they just made the plays that were there to be made, but things definitely could be worse right now.


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    “The full BC-USC Highlights included the insane disparity in rushing stats, as Boston College ripped USC for 452 yards on the ground, while the Trojans could only muster 20 yards in the same category.”

  2. One positive about having a less than stellar win is it will serve as a wake-up call. Having an inferior opponent give you some trouble should help ground the team. It’s never good in football to feel invincible. I think the team will play even harder now, realizing if they are not careful, if they get too over-confident that they could get into trouble.

  3. What I like is Golson demanding the players around him to pick up their game. A couple of the wideouts said that Golson told them in the huddle they needed to elevate their game. He might not be a Captain but he is without a doubt the leader of this football team.

  4. re: #3 –
    My pre-season surprise pick to click, Drue Tranquill, was outstanding, as were most of the D players who allowed but one scoring drive longer than 27 yards, and nothing the last two and a half quarters.
    re: #2-
    Our D-scheme seemed less aggressive, but it worked, and the D’ has allowed fewer points after three games than any ND defense since our 1988 national champ, and without two key starters mired in academic limbo.
    re: #1- Everett “Ever-Ready” Golson
    Who is truly THE number one key despite wearing #5.
    Everett Golson gives even the greatest pessimist hope.
    Despite dropped passes (but far more great clutch grabs) , an ineffective rushing offense, and a receiver’s fumble that led to a short field score for Purdue, EG made keys plays with his legs and his arm all night long as he has all three games and – when turned loose, as he did in 2012 .

    His 25 completions were a career best and, again, many came under duress and with minimal rushing support.

    What I also liked is the quality of effort and performance from the numerous very young players
    ( J. Smith, Fuller, Robinson, Cage, Blankenship, Trumbetti, Luke, Redfield, Butler, Tranquil
    and my apologies for failing to mention any other contributing Frosh & Soph) who have stepped in and stepped it up!

    Add Joe Schmidt’s INT to his $C pass break-up last year, and his forced fumble last week to that former
    walk-ons highlight reel. Mix in the unseen- his leadership on the field.
    Ya gotta love that kid’s ongoing saga. May it continue to grow.

  5. Was glad to see Kelly make a case for Redfield to refs. I thought a slide meant feet first. And only replays were in super slow-mo. Seemed like at real-time Redfield would have needed to make a Superman-like body reversal in midair.

    Still, with thread-bare secondary, VanGorder’s unit did yeoman’s work in 2nd half. As mentioned above, we’re getting used to superior play, and though a win is a win, still left us feeling need for improvement. Still, GO IRISH!!!

  6. Frank, just a countervailing observation on #5. Because of the performance
    against Purdue, there will be plenty of film to show the room for improvement. The post-Michigan euphoria was a little too rich, and that
    attitude of invincibility can make practice and taking coaching difficult.

    An old sales manager friend of mine used to say “Success is the enemy! It softens you.!”

    And then of course there is
    “”Success is more dangerous than failure; its ripples break over a wider coastline.”

    Graham Greene

    It’s actually going to be a fun three weeks before we play Stanford.

  7. Golson’s run and the block at the end of it was an awesome way to finish the first half.

    The Michigan victory was incredible and I think we had a bit of a let down and we still won by 16. The let down was in some ways unavoidable…just human nature.

    Look what happened to USC and VT after impressive wins a week ago.

    I am really happy just to win this game! I was worried when Redfield got booted. Remember how we did at Pitt last year when Tuitt got ejected? The big TD run before half was the game winner. That was HUGE!


  8. i agree completely with your last point. A couple of years ago we would have been more than happy with a 16 point win over any opponent. now, we feel as if we had lost the game just because we didn’t beat them as bad as we were all hoping we would. I think this is a testament to how far Kelly has brought this program. this team is still young, and I cant wait to see what the rest of the season holds when the games starts becoming easier for the young guys.

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