Irish Stewed: The Spoilermakers

I have a confession to make: I don’t hate Purdue. Both my sisters attended the school, as well as at least a dozen of my high school friends. I still cherish my tattered “Go Ugly Early” sweatshirt from Harry’s Chocolate Shop, and I still rank the unmitigated debauchery of Breakfast Club during Purdue’s Grand Prix weekend as one of my favorite all-time college parties.

Coach Danny Hope's offense this year is built around a punishing ground game, which could give Notre Dame's suspect defensive line fits.

That being said, I sometimes struggle to get excited about this game. Oh sure, there have been glimmers of competitiveness, most recently during the Joe Tiller years. But when going .500 versus the likes of Bob Davie and Tyrone Willingham is your program’s bar for excellence, you really don’t have a bar.

Consider these numbers:

  • 52-26-2: ND’s all-time record versus Purdue
  • 3-1-2: Purdue’s record versus ND in the first five games of the series from 1896 to 1905
  • 3-17-0: Purdue’s record versus ND from 1906 to 1953
  • 0: The number of times Purdue won in South Bend from 1975 to 2002
  • 0: The number of times Purdue won during the Holtz era
  • 39-11: The average score of the ND-Purdue game during the Holtz era
  • 5-7: Joe Tiller’s career record versus ND

Let’s face it, these numbers paint a picture uglier than the Gene Keady family portrait. After winning three games in the first nine years of the series, it took Purdue another half-century to double that win total. I’m 38 years old, and Purdue has gone nearly winless in South Bend in my lifetime. And in the 80s and 90s, Lou Holtz’s average margin of victory against Purdue was four touchdowns. Again, WHY am I supposed to care about this game?

I’ll tell you why. As insignificant as you think Purdue might be, they didn’t come by their nickname “The Spoilermakers” for nothing. What team ended Notre Dame’s school-record 39-game unbeaten streak? Purdue. What team has ended double-digit unbeaten and/or winning streaks by Notre Dame on four separate occasions, more than any other Irish opponent? Purdue. What team holds the record for the most points scored in one game by an opponent in Notre Dame Stadium ? Purdue. What was the only team to defeat a #1 ranked Notre Dame team twice in the Ara Parseghian era? Yep, still Purdue.

Look, I’m not making a case for Purdue as a perennial power or even one of our biggest rivals. By and large, the Blue & Gold has owned the Gold & Black, and the Boiler fanbase is at times comically delusional. Their only two legitimate claims to fame in the last 40 years are a 1998 upset of Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl and a 2001 Rose Bowl berth they “earned” for being just the Big Ten team that sucked the least in an abysmally down year for the conference.

But be careful. These 2009 Boilermakers are dangerous. Don’t let the Northern Illinois game fool you. Danny Hope can coach. That sophomore running back, Ralph Bolden, can and likely will gash our highly suspect defensive line. To the Irish faithful heading up to West Lafayette, don’t assume this is going to be easy. And if you need a place to celebrate (or God forbid drown your sorrows), stop by Harry’s and have a cold one for me.

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  1. IrishStewed-

    While I choose to think you have no knowledge of the situation, nor do I think Gene Keady reads your blog, you might want to reconsider ever using the ‘Gene Keady Family Portrait’ comment ever again.


    1.) Gene is the first to make fun of his ‘look’, and it is common knowledge that he doesn’t mind the hair or combover comments.
    2.) Regarding the ‘family’ in your comment. In any case whatsoever, family is off limits unless they’ve thrust themselves in the public light.
    3.) FYI, to my knowledge, Gene has no living family any more. His wife Pat passed away last year after a long bout with cancer. His daughter Lisa (whom Gene adopted when he married Pat), fell from a step stool in her kitchen about ten years ago and hit her head on a marble counter top. This caused a brain hemorrage, and eventually killed her a few years later, some believe, as a clot broke loose and caused an aneurysm. 4.) At the relatively the same time as Lisa’s malady, he lost his mother in Kansas and his sister in northern California.

    With his wife Pat’s passing last year, his only remaining families are Purdue, the BigTen network, his golfing buddies and his other friends.

  2. I have to agree with those who have cautious optimism. I’ll be a fan as long as ND keeps it’s honor, regardless of wins/losses. But I may not like things that are happening. I may be skeptical. And so I can see why folks are not overly optimistic. Give Purdue credit. They played Oregon to the end. Isn’t Oregon ranked higher than ND? And yes, without a stout defense, no game is a gimme. The old saying, “Offense draws crowds, Defense wins ballgames.” holds true. All true contenders have tough defenses.

  3. The struggling against teams with lessor talent continues – the drop and lack of focus once ND gets a 3 point lead or so is indicative of the demands and discipline or lack there of from the coaching staff. The failure to play with fire for an entire game is the measuring line here folks. I remember Holtz never stopped demanding execution – focus and intensity until the final whistle. While only 3 games in – it seems fans are once more approaching each game with an anxiety of walking on egg shells – I AM TIRED OF IT! WE should be much farther ahead of the curve here by now. The system has been in place for 5 years – yet as an example you still have Sam Young….SAM YOUNG all 6’8″ 335 pounds feeling the need to jump off sides or hold someone. Questionable play calling especially against Michigan and a deafening lack of confidence to the guys in the trenches choosing not to run because Michigan wasnt going to let us by their set…..It is simply maddening to me. That was a teaching moment and a real chance to light a fire – you get the line together and tell them what they are going to do – “we’re gonna run fellas and you guys are gonna open the holes. Not small holes – big holes and we’re gonna focus on getting 2 first downs and walk out of here with our heads high and a win under our belt!” The difference is you dont get that motivation from coach Weis – instead fans know in their gut the dreaded mantra of too much time once again rues the day and sure enough Michigan gets the ball back when it should have been a done deal – we won 34-31.

    1. Until the defensive unit shows up, we will have only an offensive circus show that only matters if we score first and manage to stay in the lead. Beyond that, the Michigan game was indeed a stupid loss. Even Nat-brain immediate grasp of the obvious coaching should have prevailed in the Michigan game. The Michigan State game speaks for itself; another last minute rodeo. Again, with no real defense even Purdue looks threating. Kudos Chris, I agree with your assessment.

  4. Why are people saying this game is a “loss” already and “ifs”? Geeeze have some confidence in your team. I say we blow them out. Purdont has no chance at all.

    1. I’m saying there’s no way ND should lose this game. That seems pretty confident to me.

      But stranger things have happened – that’s why it’s ALWAYS ok to say “If they lose”, people are just merely discussing the ramifications if it happens.

    2. Why? Because of losses last year to UNC, Syracuse, Navy, Pitt, etc. Because of the lack of ability to close the deal against Michigan this year. Because of just barely getting a win against MSU last week. Because of a defense not improving but perhaps regressing each week.

      Confidence is earned. Weis and Co. have not earned ND fans’ confidence game in and game out because of the reasons we’ve discussed ad nauseum.

      That being said, my expectations are high for Saturday. I think/hope Tenuta will have worked out some glitches to keep Purdue under 20 pts. There is no reason why our offense shouldn’t rack up 500 yds. on Purdue.

      Prediction: ND 38
      Purdue 17

  5. Clausen only has turf toe, which isn’t that big of a deal for a QB. He was able to be effective on offense against a better MSU team, and that is without a week’s worth of recovery that he will have against Purdue.

    You can say Purdue had a case of jet lag all you want, but they allowed 36pts to an oregon team that lost their best RB and was held to almost 3 full qtrs without a 1st Down the week before against Boise. Then they lost to NIU – and even in their one win of the year they allowed 31pts against Toledo. The same Toledo team that got shut out by OSU.

    Losing to Purdue is unacceptable, it would be even worse than the Syracuse loss last year, IMO.

    1. If Clausen is forced to run on that turf toe, it could be interesting to see how his accuracy holds up. But first Purdue has to bring the heat and while they promise to do so, ND can counter with a quick pass game to Tate and Rudolph.

  6. With Clausen injured, Purdue has better odds. Purdue had an ugly case of jet-lag last week from being in Oregon. I look for this game to be a close one. Turnovers will once again be the deciding factor.

  7. I’ll judge at season’s end. Agree with accountability. I don’t think Weis is any different than other coaches where the expectation is to win. Period.

  8. I’ve been a big Weis supporter during the last couple years when he’s had heat on him, even during the 3-9 year and loss to Navy, underachieving last year – but he lost me a bit after the Michigan game this season. The team is extremely talented, and a loss to a team like Purdue would show me that they aren’t really much improved over last year (losing to teams they should have beaten…UNC, Pitt, Cuse last year).

    So why shouldn’t he be held accountable for starting 2-2 in a season where lots of people figure they’d only lose 2 or 3 games at most all year? If ND were to lose this game, you really cannot defend the man any more.

  9. I totally agree that this team plays down to its opponents and it has just about broken my last nerve. The last 2 weeks they have played against teams with inferior talent on both sides of the ball and have came very close to losing both games. I’m fine with the play calling for now because of the production it has shown, but there are a few things that i think are obvious easy fixes that could put this team in a far better spot than it is now. I just hope they are obvious to the staff.

    1. SIT DARRIN WALLS ON THE BENCH! Walls has shown the last 2 games that he cant cover anyone and also cant catch a cold. Whatever happened to him in the last year needs to be addressed very soon, possibly by inserting Gary Gray or Jamoris Slaughter into the starting spot.

    2. Play more press coverage and blitz less. Its obvious that the blitz isn’t working and just getting us burned by below average quarterbacks. Try pressing and dropping some LB’s into coverage and make these below average QB’s on the schedule beat you from the pocket. I don’t think it can be done and wish they wouldve done this vs Forcier last week

    3. Insert Shaq Evans into the starting lineup. With floyd gone for forever this team needs to keep another threat on the field at all times. No offense, Parris and Kumara are good possession receivers, but are not scaring any defensive coordinators. From what i’ve heard Shaq sounds almost like a michael floyd clone. I would try him out there with tate and let him run the same routes as floyd and see what he can do.

    Trying these few things may make all the difference in the world, or could make minimal improvements. Either way it cant hurt to try

  10. It’s all about execution and protecting JC. The offense is doing both. You are being way to transparent with your dislike of Weis when you bash his play calling. This offense is good and explosive and should overpower most teams. Defensively….well, let’s just hope they get better and we score more points.

    1. MMA83D – THere has been nothing that remotely resembles innovative regarding Charlies play calling. He simply doesnt fit at the college level – end of argument. I wish he did but to me it was evident shortly out of the gate. Good recruiter – I think….not real sure about that even anymore.

      1. That’s just ridiculous to think or even suggest Weis hasn’t been an outstanding recruiter. That’s been one of the things he’s been best at, right up there with the top coaches – and if you think it’s just because it’s Notre Dame, why didn’t Ty get these types of classes?

        I mean how can you even argue against Weis’ recruiting when he’s brought in guys like Clausen, Tate, Floyd, Teo, Allen, Rudolph and several others, plus he’s a big reason guys like Chris Martin and Christian Lombard have committed (for now) for 2010

      2. You can argue about Weis’ recruiting because as well as he’s recruited on the offensive side of the ball, he’s had some glaring whiffs on the defensive side of the ball. His inability to bring in quality d-linemen has been and will be the singular reason we lose games this year.

    2. MMA83d – I would argue it’s you who’s being way too transparent with your idol-worship of Weis. Charlie is a career coordinator, not a head coach–a guy who succeeded as long as Belichick was there to overrule his occasional ego-fueled stupidity.

  11. I’ll say it here too, this is one of the two worst teams ND plays all year. A loss here is unacceptable and if ND happens to lose this game, I don’t think anyone can say Weis doesn’t deserve to be on the hot seat – especially with Washington and USC coming up in the few weeks after.

    1. I would wait until season’s end before rating the opponents. Purdue gave Oregon all it could handle. Last week was an embarrassment, so we’ll have to wait and see. I would probably agree that they are not one of the top 4 teams the Irish will face, but certainly not one of the two worst.

  12. “lets face it, these numbers paint a picture uglier than Gene Keady family portrait”

    well done Franky, you definately got me to “LOL” on that one!

      1. Big Mac,(McSweeney)
        I’ll stick with this road come hell or high water because I am a ND fan through and through. I’m not one of these fans that predicted that ND would automaticlly loose to USC or Pitt. I felt that with the expierence and talent that we have,that they should win them all. And I’ll be happy with a shoot out win or an ugly win (like Mich.ST) rather than a loss (The alternative) Sure I would like to see the ND of old when we could beat a team a dozen different ways, and blowouts were common place.
        You can demand greatness and I’ll back you up 100%. That’s been ND’s calling card ever since they started playing college sports.
        And I still think that there is too much talent (especially next year) to be wasted on sub-par coaching.
        But since the ND administration hasn’t contacted me about a possiable solution, I am relegated to a supporting roll.
        If we can continue to find ways to win, and continue to improve the product that is ND football, maybe by years’ end we find ourselves with a good, competive team.
        Every new season raises hope. Some years more than others. They have broken my heart many times, and I’m sure they will agian.
        Maybe in your eyes I am a glutton for punishment or willing to settle for less.
        But for me personally, I find more comfort in supporting and believing in the lads with positive energy than living like a fan who is constantly under a storm cloud of doubt and conjecture.
        But that’s just me.
        I respect your views of Demanding greatness, and I hope,as a loyal fan, they come true.

    1. Good column and I don’t disagree with anything said. I but I would like to clarify and add that Keady and his wife are really very nice people. And while they may, in some people’s estimation, look like lounge lizards, they are also both of Irish descent – perhaps, pug Irish – but Irish nonetheless! Here’s hoping for a good game and no injuries.

  13. Everyone is dangerous on ND’s schedule….the Irish post Holtz make everyone look like BCS bowl contenders and freshmen QB’s look like Tebow are you kidding me? This is going to turn out to be another mediocre year due in most part to an anemic defense that just can not contain anyone. Dont forget we haven’t played a ranked opponent yet (top 25). I am also already beginning to see very similar play calling like last year being repeated. I can not understand why if Weis has a playbook the size of the phone book I am seeing the same formations and routes and plays week after week already. I thought this was really going to be the year but after watching the Irish give up 900 yards in the last two games – every game will be a nail biter except the ones folks have already predetermined we will lose namey USC – Pitt.

    1. Chris,

      I don’t think you need a phonebook to dial 9-1-1.(at least for the defence)

      I’m willing to give the players and coaches some slack
      for the first few games. Unlike the pro’s, they don’t get any meaningless pre-season games.
      But understand now, after 3 games you should know your team, what you have, and what needs fixing.
      You can’t spend any more time “evaluating” or “experimenting”. It’s time to put all the pieces together and make it work.
      Outside of the wildcat that they ran for a TD, things do look the same. But I gaurentee you there are other teams out there that would love to have the offensive numbers that the Irish have put up so far this year. Last I looked ND was ranked 15th nationally in total offence. That’s not too shabby.
      USC has some demons of their own to deal with for a change.
      They look beatable to me.
      But smart money says that they will figure it out. Question is, Will we?

      1. Like Nimentz said in the battle of Midway – “We can’t keep trading battleship for battleship!” I am not surprized by the offensive #’s thus far but the play calling is still predictable and precisely because it is early. I recall the Pitt game last year the Panthers were reading that fade route early and had it covered often.

        There are big numbers from ND on offense no doubt due to our great wide receivers however there has been nothing terribly innovative about the plays in general. We have in these few games put up some points but having to outscore someone without a stout defense makes not a thrilling season for this fan. I have yet to realize the schematic advantage we supposedly have since Charlie arrived. The Irish have simply thrown more. Nothing that I have seen in 5 yrs that made me step back and marvel at the play call. Know what I mean? I am not feeling good about this season. I think we continue to struggle against teams we should be dominating and losing to teams that have dominated us in the recent past. Hurts to say that big time but I have been down this road too many other times in the last 20 yrs.

      2. 3 years ago ND couldn’t run, couldn’t pass, and couldn’t protect the QB.
        Last year they did a better job of pass protection, but the running game was still dismal.
        This year they are finally showing some balance. With that, perhaps we will start to see a few new wrinkles on Offence. Having to score 35-40 points a game and win in a shoot-out every week isn’t the preferred style for long term success. But there isn’t any law agianst it.(Look at Texas Tech last year)
        If it means we win ugly,so be it. It’s better than the alternative. But even to win ugly or in a shoot-out, our defence needs to be somewhere in the top 50. Not 96th out of 119.
        Over the last 20 years we have traveled the same road my friend. The oppertunity is still there, but the road is riddled with painfull similarities.
        But it’s the only road we have. I’m gonna stick with it come hell or high water.

      3. WHY stick with this road come hell or high water? If Weis can’t win at least 10 games this season, his ass needs to be shown the door. Demand greatness, not “at least it’s better than the alternative.”

  14. This game will be hard if ND makes it hard.
    Understand what your team is up agianst.
    Purdue hasn’t played very well up to this point. I would exspect that they are embarressed, angry, a little desperate perhaps. And they are at home.
    For them to win on Saturday Night, they will need to play wiyh a lot of emotion. They will need to be flawless. They will probably need to take some chances. And they will need some help from the visiting team.
    These are all things that ND can control or influence.
    Get a fast start, score early. Put a dampper on the home crowd.
    Be fast, aggressive, and sharp on defence. Purdue has a habit of turning the ball over, especially when pressured.
    Stay alert. When they gamble or take chances, we have the players and talent to make them pay. So make them pay.
    Give them no help. Protect the football.(Remember, they are a desperate team.)Cut down on the peniltites. Manage the game. Play smart football. No second chances.
    The pre-season is over. Let’s play to our abilities, Let’s elevate our game. Let’s play some ball!

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