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.