Initial Impressions – Notre Dame 23, Purdue 12

The Brian Kelly Era started off on the right foot with an 11 point victory over instate rival Purdue Saturday afternoon.  Many positives can be taken away from the 2010 season opener, but it was also very evident that the Irish have a lot to work on this weekend.

We’ll start on the defensive side of the ball.

  • First off, tackling was, for the most, much better than it was last year.  The defensive backs especially were improved in their tackling and it made a huge difference.  There were multiple instances where the defensive backs made stops to force 3rd and short situations instead of allowing first downs as they did more often than not a year ago.
  • Gary Gray and Darrin Walls really stood out to me.  They provided solid coverage and Walls specifically was more physical than he’s been in the past.  I felt like Gray was the best corner on the team last year so it’s tough to call him the most improved player on defense, but he had a heck of a game.  His deflection set up Ian Williams’ interception when Purdue was knocking at the door following Michael Floyd’s fumble.   Walls also made a great play on his second quarter interception.   Chuck Martin has done a pretty good job with the corners in a short time.
  • Manti Te’o and Carlo Calabrese both had 9 tackles from the inside linebacker positions, but Te’o was actually the sloppiest tackler on the field for the Irish.  He over pursued on a number of occasions and could have actually had quite a few more tackles than he ended up with.  When Te’o did make contact, whatever he did went down quickly.  He’ll need to be more consistent, however, as Notre Dame plays tougher teams.
  • The front 3 got a nice push at times, but were pretty inconsistent.  Ian Williams did a nice job collapsing the pocket at times, but outside of the first drive of the second half, the push just wasn’t there from the front 3 most of the time.
  • I thought both safeties played pretty well.
  • Lots of players got into the game for the defense – especially on the defensive line.  Emeka Nwankwo, Hafis Williams, Tyler Stockton, and Sean Cwynar all played quite a bit throughout the game in relief of the starting front three.
  • Notre Dame has major problems defending the perimeter which should be a big concern with Michigan and Denard Robinson coming to town next weekend.   Look for Notre Dame to play a lot of nickel next week to get more speed on the field.
  • I had bad flashbacks of Tate Forcier’s touchdown run when Marve took the option run into the end zone.  That was really not a good call there from Diaco.  Overall though, Diaco called a pretty good game and when he dialed up blitzes there were effective a good percentage of the time.
  • Overall, a pretty solid effort from the defense – especially considering how the defense performed last year.  Consistency could be an issue with this unit until the backups get more reps and experience because of how much the defense will be on the field each week.
Beyond the Boxscore: Notre Dame Barely Overcomes Mistakes to Beat Hokies

Now, onto the offensive side of the ball.

  • The offense had its moments, but was very inconsistent.
  • Dayne Crist had a solid effort for his first career start, but he will have to throw the ball down field more next week if Notre Dame is going to have much success against Michigan.  On the positive side, he completed a high percentage of his passes, limited his mistakes, and didn’t force the ball.  On the negative side, he threw underneath too often and had trouble putting touch on his passes down the field.  He had Floyd open for touchdowns twice in the 4th quarter but over threw him.  He needs to just keep the ball in play there and let Floyd get it.   Crist also had Rudolph open for a touchdown in the second, but air mailed it forcing Notre Dame to settle for field goals both times.
  • The best part of Crist’s performance was he didn’t do anything wrong outside of the normal mistakes a first time starter makes.  He played conservative and didn’t take many risks.  As his confidence level rises, he’ll trust throwing the ball up to his receivers more and more.
  • Really liked what I saw out of Cierre Wood.  He just looked like he was running with an extra gear.  He was a little cavalier with the ball at times – especially on his kick return – but it’s pretty clear that he has the skill to be special.
  • Armando Allen ran hard and was solid, but I was expecting more out of him.  He finished with 93 yards in 18 carries and had a nice 22 yard touchdown run, but he looked a tad slower than Wood.
  • The offensive line is still a work in progress.  Both new tackles – Zack Martin and Taylor Dever – struggled at times both with their assignments and their blocking when they did get their assignments right.  It’s tough to start two tackles with such little experience so this much is to be expected.  Both will benefit the most among the offensive line from film study.
  • The interior offensive line was much more consistent and Braxston Cave was impressive in his first start.
  • Would have liked to see more of Theo Riddick this week, but something tells me we’ll see more of him next weekend.
  • Surprised we didn’t see any of Jonas Gray.  He had a strong camp, but didn’t get on the field.
  • The offense left a lot of points on the field today and did more to slow themselves down than Purdue did.  The Floyd fumble inside the 5 really hurt because it would have put the Irish up 27-3.  The safety given up was just a bad play by the offensive line.  Martin and Rudolph double teamed a Purdue defender and Allen never had a chance.  If Notre Dame can eliminate some of the mental mistakes next week the offense should look a lot better.
5 Stats That Tell Story of Notre Dame Football at Midway Point of 2019 Season

Now, for perhaps the most encouraging unit, special teams.

  • Special teams was easily the most improved unit on the team.
  • Kick coverage was excellent on both kicks and punts.  Freshman Bennett Jackson made a name for himself today with his hustle and big plays on kick coverage.
  • Great game by David Ruffer.  3 for 3 with a 46 yarder made a huge difference.  All 3 of his kicks just looked smooth too.
  • Only negative was a rather pedestrian 31.7 average from Ben Turk.

All and all this was a solid win, but showed that there are plenty of areas for Notre Dame to improve on.  The Irish will get a tough test next week too with Michigan coming to town on the heels of a 30-10 win over UConn to start their season Saturday.


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  1. JDH 9 years ago

    You are correct on the rule. I was very confused myself. I THINK, MAYBE that they did not negate the TD because he DOVE IN THE ENDZONE as opposed to “CELEBRATING BEFORE THE PLAYER REACHES THE ENDZONE”, which is what the actual rule says. Granted, this is a stretch and if that is accurate, then the rule is even dumber than it appears.

    I think the truth is that the officials didn’t know what they were doing and the announcers followed suit. The screen showed no flag being thrown and it was hardly talked about. Anyone?

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    1. Shazamrock 9 years ago

      Fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice….
      I may be biased, but from my view, ND has been on the short end of too many bad, one-sided,or missed calls the past few years. I watch these refs like a hawk. It seemed like they screwed up here and tried to sweep it under the rug.
      I could see if Marve was
      being chased and diving head first might be his only way to score on a close play.
      But he was in the open field.
      No ND defender was within 20 yards of him. It was a clear case of showboating.
      Now you have players on both sides, besides anyone who watches the play, say “if he can get away with it, why can I”
      This sets a presidence for disaster.
      If I’m a ref, I make it clear to both coaches and their players, before the game starts, that no taunting will be allowed.
      I might even verbally remind a player who is on his way for a easy score to “keep it classy”
      It’s one call I wouldn’t want to have to make.

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      1. Shazamrock 9 years ago


        Thanks for the link. It states that the rule HAS BEEN CHANGED, but there is a 1 year grace period, and will not take affect until the 2011 season.
        Seeing Marve summersault into the endzone really wasn’t taunting to me. I thought it was kind of funny as he made a fool of himself on prime time TV. Bush league stuff normally associated with a team like Miami.
        I’m just a bit touchy when it comes to the officiating and ND football. You have a rule. You have a situation for the rule to be used, and the officials choose not to.
        Next week our young running back breaks off a 60 yarder agianst Michigan, summersaults into the endzone, and all of a sudden the play is called back.
        Sorry, that’s how it works around here.

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      2. JDH 9 years ago

        Bingo- It says 2011. I wish I could read! 🙂
        Man, I’m not looking forward to that rule going into effect. It is a pandora’s box of future injustice and anger. HORRIBLE decision by the NCAA, among many.

        I can understand your sensitivity when it comes to officiating. Need we talk about last year’s Michigan game? Ugh. Let’s hope that we at least see a fairly-called game next Saturday, so both teams can just play the game…

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  2. Shazamrock 9 years ago

    I remember reading that the NCAA was going to change the rules regarding “taunting”
    Then we have Purdue QB Robert Marve running for a TD and doing a summersault as he enters the endzone. If I understand the rule,
    a flag should have been thrown, the TD negated, and a fifteen yarder walked off agianst the boilers.
    Did the NCAA NOT make this a score removing foul? I know there was a lot of talk about it last winter.

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    1. C-Dog 9 years ago

      I’d like to know that too. Strange it wasn’t talked about during or after the game. In fact I didn’t hear the officials make the call on TV.

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    2. Neal Deesit 9 years ago

      Coach Kelly was asked this very question in a phone press conference. He replied that the rule on negating TDs will go into effect next year.

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  3. Bill R 9 years ago

    Nice game by the Irish in the win against Purdue. Just what I expected from a team with a young QB and learning new systems both offensively and defensively.

    Keys to beating Michigan:
    1) Defensive needs to play steady and tackle solid. Robinson broke a lot of arm tackles. UConn broke down and allowed him to run free. Brian Smith HAS to do a better job on outside contain. Robinson will run if his 1st passing option isn’t open.
    2) Open the offense up. Michigan was able to crowd the line of scrimmage and shut down the run. No one can cover Floyd and Rudolph one on one. Against Purdue, the game plan was conservative. I think it was to not show Michigan much.
    3) Need a better average from the punter. Field position against Michigan is important. Special teams needs to sustain from last week.
    Go Irish!

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    1. Shazamrock 9 years ago

      Bill R,

      How about a fourth Key.
      ND blocking assignments. Michigan runs an unorthodox 3-3-5 defense. It’s not much different from a 3-4 but does allow for better deep coverage, and disguises the blitz better. Dane Crist will need to get plenty of looks in practice this week.
      As with most obscure defenses, a good running game will cure all.

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      1. C-Dog 9 years ago

        Your comments about the line blocking assignments are definitely to be considered. what do you think about the 3-3-5? What if Michigan blitzes out of it? Do we see more of Hughes to tenderize them a bit?

        On Defense, what if Teo shadows Robinson? It might keep him at home more. ( That was my only complaint about his play, otherwise he was a force ). What do you think?

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      2. Shazamrock 9 years ago


        The 3-3-5 is nothing more than a modified or glorified 3-4. Instead of a fourth backer, you have a extra DB.
        The key for them is their run support. Hughes and Rudolph could do a lot of damage.
        (Remember the corner for Purdue? Number 15? By games end he was plum tired of taking on Kyle Rudolph.)
        A good running game is a young QB’s best friend. Run the ball. Staying out of second and third and long is a good start.
        Robinson left the game for a few plays after taking a shot to his hip. I’d be surprised if he ran as much agianst us if for no other reason that he might be a bit tender this week. If we can get a couple of good shots on him, he might start looking for some turf instead of down field.
        Then there are the intangables.
        ND started off the Brian Kelly era in fine fashion. The team played relaxed, confedent football. There were very few mistakes, missed assignments or penilties. These are things we can continue to build on this week. Remember, ND is not ranked. We aren’t supposed to be in the BCS mix this year. After 3-9, 6-6, & 6-6, there is a optimistic view right now. That allows Kelly to take some well calculated risks with this vetran team. The pressure is low. Forgiveness High.
        On the other side, Rodreguez is on the hot seat. Every game brings new pressure.
        And as WE know, pressure on the coach, transends to the players, and on the field.
        Hope to see Kelly exploit this. I still remember 38-0.
        We owe some payback!

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  4. JDH 9 years ago

    I think you guys have covered pretty much everything- I don’t think I have too much to add. This team was well-prepared and excited to play. And they remained in control when the game got tight. That was impressive for a first game and coming off the heels of another dismal season.

    I see Crist developing nicely. This offense has ALOT of weapons- lots of versatility. I think Manti’s over-pursuit was first game excitement. He’ll settle in just fine and be a beast. Can’t wait until next Saturday! GO IRISH

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  5. Shazamrock 9 years ago

    One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
    Manti Teo. He might have missed some plays, but that kid finishes a play with a flurry. He can really close in a hurry.
    Defense only gave up 10 points. Can’t argue with that number.
    I blame the saftey on the play calling. Starting inside your own 5 yard line, you should be in a short yardage formation. Lineing up your running 10 yards deep in the endzone is a fundemental mistake.
    I thought ND kept their offense very basic. This should help agianst Michigan.
    Armando Allen really read his blocking well. Great improvement and it showed.
    Checking out some of the other games from around the country, there was a lot of slopyness. Bad snaps, fumbles, poor tackleing, penilties.
    It was so refreshing to not be a part of all that.
    Last year if we fumble inside our own 5 yard line, and give up a saftey, we probably end up loseing this game. This team, didn’t panic. They hung in there and got the job done.
    I thought UCONN played Michigan very physical. They hit really hard. I would guess there are some very sore bodies up in Ann Arbor this morning.

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  6. nd forever 9 years ago

    I agree with you if Purdue had been a good, expiernced team I think they would have won the game in a close battle. I liked the attitude from the Irish but the play was sloppy at times.This was a perfect game to get ready for Michigan though, Kelly will address a lot of the mental errors. It also gave Crist confidence that he can run the offense. Kelly will have a good game plan for Michiagn next week, I’m sure he’s looking at some old West Virginia film like 2007 vs. Pitt. Pitt held a Pat White led offense to 9 pionts(and also cost WVU a shot at national championship):) Kelly will have this team ready. GO IRISH!!

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