5 Things I Didn’t Like from Notre Dame v. Purdue ’14

Max Redfield - Notre Dame v. Purdue
Purdue Boilermakers quarterback Danny Etling (5) reacts after being tackled by Notre Dame Fighting Irish safety Max Redfield (10) in the second quarter at Lucas Oil Stadium. Redfield was called for targeting and a helmet to helmet hit and was ejected from the game. (Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports)

For the first time this season this column was unfortunately not hard to write.  The last two weeks Notre Dame left very little for their not to like with a blowout of Rice and an embarrassment of Michigan.  The Irish looked ordinary against Purdue for much of the game, however, and a let a team that finished 1-11 a year ago hang with them for most of the contest.  Not exactly the next step forward we were all hoping to see out of the Irish this week.

With that said, here is this week’s 5 Things I Didn’t Like.  Hopefully future iterations of this column return to being tough to write.

1. Lack of a running game

Notre Dame struggled to run the ball well consistently for the second week in a row while Everett Golson led the team in rushing with 54 yards.  Part of the problem with the ground game was Kelly didn’t stick with it long enough – no Notre Dame running back carried the ball more than 9 times with Cam McDaniel and Tarean Folston each getting 9 carries to Greg Bryant’s 6. In fact, Bryant actually averaged a solid 4.8 yards per attempt on those six runs, but didn’t get enough to really get going.

As a team, Notre Dame ran for just 139 yards against a pretty weak opponent.  I figured Notre Dame would pass early in this game but then run it at will in the second half since Purdue’s run defense hasn’t been strong the first two weeks of the season.  Didn’t happen though.  With the bye week this week, Kelly and Mike Denbrock need to reevaluate the running game and what they want to get out of it because the Irish will need a much a stronger effort on the ground come October.

Which brings me to my next thing I didn’t like…

2. Problems with the offensive line

Part of the problem with the Notre Dame running game was the offensive line simply wasn’t very good against Purdue.  The yards the running backs gained were all hard fought and there weren’t many (any?) any occasions where the line just opened up a huge hole for a back to explode through.  Clearly Notre Dame is missing Zack Martin and Chris Watt much more than anyone thought and will need to rethink the unit they have out there and possibly even reshuffle the deck.

On Sunday Brian Kelly said that the line right now isn’t doing anything majorly wrong, they just aren’t sustaining their blocks long enough and seemed pretty confident that the problems the line faced Saturday night were correctable.  Hopefully they are because Everett Golson was running for his life most of the night and if he weren’t as mobile he is, Purdue would have notched a lot more than the four sacks they did.

Kelly also said he would be sitting down with Harry Hiestand on Sunday to discuss the line and what they wanted to do moving froward acknowledging that changes could be coming.  Does Mike McGlinchey take over at right tackle with Steve Elmer moving back to guard?  Does Christian Lombard swing back out to right tackle where he played in 2012?  We’ll find out soon enough but it would be surprising to me if the starting offensive line against Syracuse didn’t have a new look.

3. Stupid, needless penalties

This was one of the sloppiest games I can remember recently in the Brian Kelly era.  The Max Redfield penalty was really bad for starters.  There’s no reason for a penalty like that and the ripple effect it had was huge.  Redfield handled it well after the game and luckily it didn’t cost the Irish defense more than it did.  The only silver lining out of that play is that since it happened in the first half Redfield will be available to start against Syracuse.  Hopefully Kerry Cooks and Brian VanGorder use it as a teaching moment this week as well.

The Redfield penalty, however, wasn’t the only needless penalty Notre Dame incurred on Saturday.  There were multiple procedural and alignment penalties on Notre Dame that were drive killers.  Those types of penalties simply shouldn’t happen.  Throw in a taunting penalty and there will be plenty of things for Brian Kelly to harp on during the week with his team.  Notre Dame had a total of seven penalties this week after combing for just five penalties the first two weeks.

Notre Dame can’t have another sloppy game like that with the heart of the schedule on the horizon.   Part of this comes with the territory with such a young team – only two starters against Purdue are in their last year’s of eligibility – but that can’t be an excuse moving forward.

4. Tackling

After two really good weeks of tackling, there was a lot of sloppy tackling against Purdue – primarily in the first half.  There were a few occurrences of defenders going for the big hit instead of the sure tackle and Purdue getting more yards than they should have.  Tackling was cleaned up a bit in the second half, but considering how sound tackling had been against Rice and Michigan, this was concerning this week.

Notre Dame ended up being with out a couple of key players on Saturday and we know they’ve been without a few regulars on defense because of the academic investigation, but just like with the penalties, that can’t be an excuse moving forward.  That will fly versus Purdue.  It won’t against Stanford, Florida State, or USC.

5.  Diversity of the Notre Dame passing game – especially after Amir Carlisle got hurt

For as much as I’ve been a fan of Everett Golson’s development and evolution into more of a pocket passer, the Notre Dame passing game has lacked some diversity the last few weeks.  A couple players who were supposed to be integral parts of the passing game have been virtually invisible – namely Chris Brown and Ben Koyack.  Brown drew rave reviews from Brian Kelly for his leadership throughout camp but against Purdue he caught one pass for 11 yards and has just 4 receptions for 36 yards through three games this season.

The disappearance from the tight end position has been alarming as well given the production Notre Dame has gotten out of the position the last 10 years.  Koyack was slightly more involved this week with 5 receptions, but those catches totaled just 32 yards and one ended in Notre Dame’s first turnover of the season when Koyack fumbled.  Purdue ended up turning that fumble into a touchdown relatively easily.

Once Amir Carlisle got hurt the middle of the field turned into somewhat of a dead-zone for the Notre Dame passing game.  With the speed and talent Notre Dame has on offense they need to exploit the middle of the field by getting their more athletic slot players in some favorable matchups.  Carlisle could be back for Syracuse and the Irish will also benefit from the return of Torii Hunter Jr, but the tight end position has to become more of a weapon for this offense to truly excel.

All in all, Saturday was not a great effort from the Irish but considering all of the injuries and missing bodies, they got the job done relatively easily.  Notre Dame now has an extra week off to heal up and prepare for Syracuse before they hit the make of break stretch of their season.  Brian Kelly and his staff have a lot of work to do with the extra week of preparation.  What they do with it will determine if we’re talking about a playoff run or next season by the end of October.

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  1. There’s too much rotation going on. How do you expect players to develop when they’re not getting the reps? Consistency comes with repetition, if you want more production out of your receivers, then you need to let them play.

  2. Greg Bryant facts:

    5’10” 205lbs
    Career Stats: 4 Games, 25 carries, 133 yards, 1-TD

    2013: Played sparingly in the first 3 games of the 2013 season before being shut down for the remaining 10 games due to severe Tendinitis in his knee.(redshirted and saved a year of eligibility)
    In 2013 he had 3 carries for 14 yards before the injury.

    2014: In returning from knee injury, through 3 games in 2014 Bryant has had 22 carries for 119 yards and 1 TD. He also returns kicks.

    1. Kelly needs to feed this kid the ball and stop this rotation mess. Bryant is explosive every time he touches the ball.

  3. While its true that our interior offensive line have not been able to get a good push, I also believe that bringing in a new RB on every series is a major problem as well. Bryant is our most talented back and he should get 20 carries a game. This kid is explosive running the ball and is a threat everytime he touches the ball. Folston should get the rest of the carries after that. This is not a knock on Cam because he is a very good back who will probably get drafted late and make a NFL roster next year but he is not as talented as the other two backs. I just don’t see how you can reasonably expect the RB to get anything going when they play a series and then sit for the next two. They could play in the 1st quarter but might not get back on the field again until the 2nd. This 3 back rotation is not working at all.

    Elmer struggles with speed at the T position and is simply not comfortable playing there and needs to be moved back inside. McGlinchey was the most physical OL this spring but struggled some learning the offense. If this has been addressed and he is ready to go Kelly has to put him in. If this line plays like this versus Stanford or Fla State it will be a long game. I think we fans all expected the OL to be the strength this year. Kelly wants to red-shirt Q. Nelson but he was impressive this spring and is in the two deep. I don’t think Kelly will start Nelson but they will entertain the options he gives this time. Nelson is VERY physical and he mauls defenders.

    My biggest disappointment has been how the University has handles this “academic” investigation with these 5 players. For them to not have wrapped this JOKE of a investigation up by now is a shame and Notre Dame knows it. Whatever excuse they come up with will not change my mind. Either kick them out or let these young men continue to chase their dreams. Players like Daniels and Russell have NFL talent and could get drafted and this joke will follow them during the drafting process. There had been rumors that Russell was close to being allowed to attend meetings 2 weeks back but Kelly said that wasn’t true and Russell has also been rumored as the player who had the best chance of being allowed to play. I also don’t see Daniels doing anything to jeopardize his future with this being his last year and coming off suspension. This joke of a investigation only gives others more ammo to take shots at our football program. Brian Kelly needs more power in regards to his players. I have said from day 1 that Notre Dame made to big of a deal out of this making the media do the same. Any other school and this story doesn’t even make the school newspaper much less being the lead story on Sportscenter. The kids deserve better and Notre Dame knows it. As a life long Irish fan this investigation disgusts me and its a black eye on the program.

    1. Kenny,

      First I don’t feel that the running back rotation is an issue. Elmer needs to be moved back to Guard and Lombard needs to be moved to tackle, with McGinchey being brought in as a reserve.

      Now the last thing you discussed really is irritating me. This is a pissing battle between the Academic administration and the Athletic department at ND. Right now the Academic department is flexing their muscles to show the AD that they run the school. It’s the old Student Affairs dept being a bunch of idiots. Enough is enough, in true academia form they are taking a bunch of time to render a decision. Crap or get off the pot you morons.

      1. Don’t mean to butt in, but…

        There is the “political” side to consider here.
        (At ND there is always a political side)

        First, there was talk of possibly “vacating” wins.

        At a place like ND anything “vacated” is akin to a death sentence. Remember that.

        Second, ND has always preferred to handle its own dirty laundry opposed to the NCAA taking over.
        (Some may say this is because ND has its own best interest at heart, but at ND, what’s truly in the “Best Interest” can always be traced to the student first and foremost)

        This, in my opinion, is very wise.

        But this leniency has only been made possible by the “Integrity” factor that Notre Dame has set for its self and adhered to in its history.

        That Integrity Policy includes honesty, responsibility, and fairness, regardless of whether it is written or unwritten, spoken or unspoken, and applies the NCAA, The University, and the individual students/athletes.

        When you look at the big picture,(this includes reflecting on all the daily news stories and headlines from across the country in comparison)of how our student athletes overall conduct in the classroom, in our society, on campus, and on the football field grades out.

        With this in mind it’s hard for me personally to fathom that if this is moderately or a lower grade of infraction… in our society of second chances… and given ND’s successful track record with second chance cases… that the future of these student athletes, who have, in all honesty, have put in a considerable amount of time, sacrifice, hard work, and dedication to this point, will not be given the opportunity to amend their
        mistakes, use their experience to teach and guide others, and set an lasting example for others to follow.

        That too is part of the Notre Dame History, Tradition, and Faith.

        If that can’t be done at a place like ND, I doubt it can be done anywhere.

        That’s a lot to chew on, and I would prefer that the powers that be, take their time and get it right…. For everyone.

      2. Shaz,

        I agree with what you are saying, my problem is the delay in the hearings. The investigation has been completed for three weeks. I can understand the committee having to go through the information, but three weeks? Also, you have students lives hanging in the balance and according to the reports there were actual students involved in this incident, but their names were not released to the press. If I am a student involved in this case ND better dot their I’s and cross their T’s or they could really be opening themselves up for a law suit from the football players. Also, what happens when if these students are convicted of this infraction, they are currently taking courses, tests, and classes. Do you vacate this semester? Do you allow them to finish the semester as a student?

        I can understand trying to get it right, but they need move the process forward or if I’m the player they will be hearing from my legal council.

      3. Jack,
        I was just saying the exact same thing yesterday in regards to lawsuits. ND has the responsibility to get this right. That being said, why has it been 6 weeks? Is Eric Holder investigating?

        I’m going to sound hypocritical here because, on one hand, I abhor our overly-litigious society. On the other, if ND wrongly ruins my kid’s life because of analysis paralysis, mental masturbation and feeling the need to make an example for public opinion….well there would be consequences for that.

      4. Jack / JDH

        In regards to the perceived delays…

        In the back of my mind I can faintly hear words like… “backlash”, “public opinion” and “NCAA Involvement”.

        I’m guessing the Administration does too.

        And while due process sounds nice, and student rights sounds great, when one signs on at the University of Notre Dame (a private institution) you accept the conditions and give your Heart and Soul to God…. because you know damn well your ass belongs to the Administration!

        That being said, growing up, the Good Sisters and Fathers of the Archdiocese, taught me many, many things, over many years,(and many that often required several occurrences of determined “Reinforcement”)in which to use to guide my life.

        For me, the one that probably tops the list is ‘Penance” (surprise, surprise)

        But along with Penance is this wonderful thing called Forgiveness.

        It is the foundation of all Religion.

        It was drilled into me from a very young age.
        Those Good Fathers and Sisters never quit on me, never gave up on me, and never turned their back on me.
        There’s a lesson to be learned in that.

        What would the message be if we were to just kick every hard case to the curb because they were mistake ridden, too much trouble, or too embarrassing to care about?

        What would the eventual outcome be if that happened?

        So what happens to those who might be convicted of an infraction?

        If they wish to stay, I would expect that they accept their Penance, fulfill their obligations, are then granted forgiveness, and apply their lessons learned as a guide in which to live by.

        Anything less by a Faith Based Instatution might actually then be grounds for a Lawsuit!

      5. There’s going to be backlash against ND in the court of public opinion regardless, because it’s ND. If they punish the players “too severely”, there will be a backlash about a “lack of forgiveness” and hypocrisy. If the perception is that no players or all players aren’t being punished enough / at all, it will be the old “ND is just like everyone else” canard. And again, the hypocrisy charge.

        So the only thing the Administration can do is investigate fully and punish ONLY if preponderance of the evidence warrants that.

        I have no issue with the investigation and appropriate punishment being meted out. I have a major problem with how much time it is taking.

        Again, and I could be completely wrong here, but I think the investigation has not found anything conclusively. Now the administration knows they are painted into a corner and, no matter what they do (see above), it is going to look bad in the court of public opinion. So basically, screw public opinion.

        “And while due process sounds nice, and student rights sounds great, when one signs on at the University of Notre Dame (a private institution) you accept the conditions and give your Heart and Soul to God…. because you know damn well your ass belongs to the Administration!”

        Hopefully the students have the same rights, or even better-protected rights, at ND as they do anywhere else.

        There is a stark difference between accountability and tyranny.

  4. Two things:

    First, where is Nyles Morgan? I thought he’d be getting significant playing time by now but all I see at ILB is Joe Schmidt.

    Second, I keep reading about when Austin Collinsworth will be returning. However, I want to see Max Redfield remain the starter. The reality is Collinsworth is the defense’s version of Tommy Rees. He’s steady, decent and knows what’s supposed to be done. However, he lacks the athleticism to compete against the elite teams. Too many times, I saw the back of his jersey because he doesn’t have the athletic ability to get where he needs to be. I know Redfield has a lot to learn but isn’t that why BK gets $5 million/year? Coach him up and make him your starter.

      1. Thanks for clarifying. Then I’d like to see Shumate be the starter instead of Collinsworth for all the same reasons.

  5. That “targeting” rule is the stupidest penalty in organized sports. The team and player get double penalized, with the player thrown out, for nothing over which the player has control. It was very obvious that Max Redfield had no intention of hitting the QB with his helmet. If whoever reviews the thing in the booth had any guts, he would not have been ejected. That rule is so dumb and unfair that I thought sure the NCAA would revoke or modify it after the several travesties which occurred last year. Ridiculous rule.

    1. Honest Question:

      If a Purdue player had done the exact same thing to Golson, and Golson was taken off the field on a stretcher, would your opinion be the same?

      For the record, I don’t think Redfield meant to go helmet to helmet. It had to do with the QB changing from a head-first slide to a feet-first slide. I think because of that, the 15-yard penalty should have stood, but not the ejection. That was what Kelly was arguing. Often the fule is applied wrong, like last year against Tuitt during the Pitt game. Their QB lowered his head, so why is that the defender’s fault?

      Unfortunately the rule is applied inconsistently. But with consussions being a very serious health issue at all levels, I understand the tough rules.

      1. I can honestly say that my opinion would have been the same. I have no problem with a penalty of 15 yards or whatever it would be. Ejection, however, only makes sense if the player did something intentionally and could have controlled his conduct, like intentionally punching someone. Redfield was simply playing football, trying to make a tackle. This is a very bad rule which needs to be changed.

      2. How does it minimize the chance of a concussion to eject a player under those circumstances? He couldn’t have done anything different except to holler Ole and let the QB run by unmolested. It was just dumb luck that the helmets came together. Will penalizing dumb luck somehow change the dumb luck? I know you were making a point, but the Purdue QB was not carried off on a stretcher and didn’t miss a snap.

      3. I agree and think the penalty is to severe. I think it should be changed to 15 yards and ejection for one full quarter. entire game is to severe especially on a hit that is borderline intentional like the Redfield hit.

      4. Fair enough. I completely understand where you are coming from. I can see both sides. I hate it when any player gets ejected for “targeting” because it’s so subjective. There’s no PROOF that the player targeted- it’s just a best guess by the officials. It’s not like other penalties, where you have video proof of the infraction. Helmet to helmet is easy to see, targeting is a black box. I hate that part of the rule as well.

        As far as whether or not these severe rules/penalties will reduce concussions, I suppose the verdict is still out. It’s a tough issue.

  6. Greg Bryant is pretty obviously the best running back of the three. He’s even significantly better than Tarean Folston. He can consistently make something out of nothing. Accordingly, I didn’t like the lack of playing time and touches for Bryant. Why didn’t he play more? Is this going to be a mismanaged running back again, like Cierre Wood, forced prematurely into the pros because of a lack of deserved opportunity from Coach Kelly?

    1. Yes I think Kelly could care less about the running game. He will play all his RBs equally like he does every year. Very rarely do you see the same RB in the game for two series in a row. Dont understand it or like it. Probably why Elijah Hood said thanks but no thanks.

      1. I have always thought something fishy was going on with Hoods recruitment. This kid was hitting all these different elite camps trying to get every elite player to follow him to Notre Dame and then out of the blue he picks UNC. I know its his home state but North Carolina has a reputation of bending/breaking the rules.

        These schools will do just about anything to get these 5 star kids to their program.

  7. I really think that Kelly has not opened up the entire passing play book. Saving some for later in the season. As far as the running game, agree we need to focus on giving Bryant the chance to really get on track.

  8. I put it down to Purdue and all that goes with it. Last 2013 seasons game was a nail biter and Purdue goes on to get hammered by Wisconsin the following week. It is just the way it goes when ND/PU play.

  9. I have to give (Mad)Max Redfield a bit of a pass on his penalty.

    At first the Purdue QB was running and diving head first on the play, only to switch to a slide at the very last second.
    That’s a split second reaction that makes it pretty difficult for any defender to pull up in time.
    Live and learn Max.

    Purdue defensive lineman #89, Phillips.
    There are reasons that Purdue doesn’t get much respect.

    On two separate occasions ND gained a first and goal inside the 10 yard line, and on both occasions the Purdue D-Lineman took a dive in an attempt to stall ND momentum, and provide a breather to the boilermaker defense without having to use a timeout.

    On the first one, he sat around on the field for a while, then walked off, sat out one play, then ran back out on the field one play later perfectly fine.

    Watch the replay, he wasn’t hit, blindsided, or rolled up on.

    He didn’t pull a muscle, turn a knee, or twist an ankle.
    Just a plain ol fashion dive.(and a pretty poor one at that)

    Ok, the first one you get the benefit of the doubt, but on his second flop, ND did something interesting…. they ran the ball right at his replacement… for a touchdown!

    While ND (other than Golson) didn’t run the ball very well, they did get Koyack, and Robinson more involved in the passing game which will help the overall offense in the future.

    1. I agree, Phillips should be in the NBA and get a flopping award. It was pretty clear to me also this was a Purdue designed tactic to slow down momentum.

      Regardless, Purdue cam to play and threw caution to wind. They were throwing the Kitchen sink at ND and in the first half were successful. I was very please with BVG half time adjustments to defense, I feel like if Bob Diaco was still the DC this game would have gone south in a hurry. BVG is the man!

  10. It did seem that Kelley gave up on the running game way to soon. Running Bryant inside is somewhat of a waste. With his speed, get him loose on the outside and let him go. he also probably needs to throw more to Robinson.
    Losing Amir is or could be a problem, getting Hunter back will be a plus. Both seem to be hurt more so then not. Hey, they won and that is really all that matters. Go Irish!

  11. i think Kelly needs to start figuring out the RB situation. We cant split the reps between three of them….none of them can get into any kind of rhythm. He needs to come up with a for-sure starter and backup. We’re always going to have talent in that position and we can’t continue to do what he’s doing.

  12. Don’t get me wrong. I love our running backs but a couple of times I thought the running backs were trying to make big plays and did too much dancing when they should have gone north rather than sideways.Sustaining blocks doesn’t only apply to running the ball. It applies to passing as well. When Rees was back there the ball came out on time. Golson, on the other hand, can buy time with his feet but a couple of times I thought he had happy feet and should have thrown the ball away.

    1. You are right about the backs looking for the homerun. But they also know they are only in for one series and they are trying to make the best of it. This 3 back rotation is not working and it needs to be dumped.

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