Notre Dame improved to 3-0 on the season on Saturday with a 27-13 win over long-time rival Purdue. The Irish looked better than they did a week ago in their narrow win over Toledo. Still, the Irish again squandered opportunities offensively and missed out on an opportunity for an offensive explosion that would have had the Irish coasting to a blowout.
This game should have been a blowout
It was great that Notre Dame covered the spread and won by double digits for the first time this year, but this game shouldn’t have even been that close. Notre Dame missed entirely too many plays simply from a lack of execution.
In the first half, Jack Coan kept throwing the ball towards the endzone to Kevin Austin, but he didn’t keep the ball inbounds and give him a chance to come down with the catch. Then he overthrew him for a walk-in touchdown from about 60 yards out. A couple of plays later, he and Joe Wilkins failed to connect on a long 3rd down at the end of the half, too, on a play where the ball hit Wilkins in the hands with a lot of room to run.
In the second half, Coan overthrew Braden Lenzy in the endzone on a 3rd and goal. Lenzy later dropped a 40+ yard touchdown that hit him square in the hands (and then the face).
Add all that up, and Notre Dame left at least 20 points on the field today. Maybe more. That’s too many points, and against a better opponent, it’ll cost them a game at some point.
There were some positives to build off of offensively coming out of this game, but when the team sits down and reviews the film tomorrow, they will see that they should have scored 45 or 50 points today.
It wasn’t mentioned by Kelly or Coan after the game, but I have to wonder if Coan needing his finger popped back into place last week was impacting his throws today. He was way more off-target than anything we had seen in the first two weeks.
The offensive line might have found something in the second half
Notre Dame struggled to run the ball early again, and it looked like they would need to rely on Tyler Buchner’s legs to spark the rushing game again. Unfortunately, we didn’t see that much of Buchner because of a hamstring issue. We did see the offense finally bust a long run with Jack Coan in the game, though. Kyren Williams ripped off an impressive 51-yard touchdown run made possible because of some good blocking.
Today’s offense wouldn’t ever be confused with the offense from a year ago, but we did see them have some more success running the ball – and protecting Coan – in the second half. They still have a long way to go, but it was enough success to be encouraged that it’s something they could build on. The difference was that Notre Dame let the line do a bit more attacking with some straight-ahead blocking versus more of the zone-blocking they typically do. With the line they have this year, that might be what they need to do more of.
Transfer Cain Madden, in particular, played his best game of the season. In addition, True-freshman Joe Alt made his debut and recorded a big-time block on Williams long touchdown run.
Pass blocking was still not great without having to keep too extra blockers, which then limited Michael Mayer’s opportunities in the passing game but did help keep Coan upright.
The defense looked a lot better today
On the whole, the defense played well today. Purdue didn’t have a single play of more than 10 yards in the entire first half. That’s pretty impressive. We didn’t see as much pressure as we have the last two weeks, but we also didn’t see a single play of 60 yards or more. That shouldn’t be a barometer of success each week, but after giving up four such plays the last two weeks, that is reason to be pleased today.
Marcus Freeman adjusted his game plan from what we say the last two weeks. We saw a lot less of the dollar package (3-man front) and a lot of dime. It worked well, the Irish eliminating the big plays and bottling up Purdue for most of the day.
Myron Tagovailoa Amosa had a massive stuff on 3rd and short. Kyle Hamilton had a big stuff on 4th and short and later put the nail in the coffin with an interception in the endzone in the fourth. There are still things to clean up, but this was a really good step in the right direction for the defense.
The one negative for the defense was that they again gave up a touchdown to the opposition right after the offense finally opened a two-score lead. Both last week and this week, the defense went long stretches where they dominated the opponent but suddenly looked momentarily lost following an offensive score. It’s tough to be too critical of them when were dominate for a long stretch, but the defense HAS to cut that out, or it could cost this team – maybe even next weekend.
Injury Cut Short Tyler Buchner’s Day
Brian Kelly said in his post-game comments that a hamstring injury cut short Tyler Buchner’s afternoon. As a result, we didn’t see the freshman in the second half after seeing him make a few impressive runs in the first. Kelly did not indicate the severity of the injury, but let’s hope it is nothing serious. Notre Dame managed by Purdue today, but the Buchner package was only going to expand week to week, and the Irish will need it as soon as next weekend.
Avery Davis was a baller
On last week’s podcast and in my preview post, I said that Avery Davis has been open down the seam several times this year, and Coan hasn’t thrown it. Well, he finally did, and Davis rewarded him with a 66-yard touchdown. Davis hauled in 5 passes for 120 yards on the day – more than Austin and Lenzy combined and more than half of all of Coan’s passing yards.
With Mayer needed to stay in and block more and Austin and Coan seemingly not on the same page today, Notre Dame needed someone to step up, and that person was Avery Davis.
Bounce Back Game for DJ Brown
Safety DJ Brown had a rough performance in the season-opener in Tallahassee and then barely played last week. However, he was back in the mix and played a lot better. Everyone will remember his INT at the end of the game, but it was his six tackles that really stood out. Brown was one of the biggest culprits on the 89-yard touchdown run by the Seminoles in week one. He was in a similar situation this week where a long run was coming if he missed a tackle. This time Brown made the stop. Good on him for bouncing back.
JD Bertrand, Tackling Machine
For the third game in a row, JD Bertrand had double-digit tackles. This week he ended the game with 12, including one for loss. He’s got 35 on the season now and leads the Irish with 4.5 TFL. A surprise in the box score was ROVER Isaiah Pryor racking up a career-high eight tackles for the Irish as well – only Bertrand and Hamilton had more.