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Opponent preview: Purdue Boilermakers

Aug 17, 2010, 1:00 PM EST

This will be the first of many opponent previews, leading us into the opening week of the season. Any suggestions or comments, please leave below or send me an email.

The Overview:

The Brian Kelly era kicks off against one of Notre Dame’s traditional opponents, in-state rival Purdue. Danny Hope enters his second season as the head coach of the Boilermakers, returning after a debut season that had its share of heartbreak, with gut-wrenching losses to Oregon, the Irish (more on that later), Northwestern, and Michigan State. While the end result was a wobbly 5-7 season, Purdue’s 4-4 conference record included a upset win over #7 Ohio State, a sign that the Boilermakers had the talent to play with just about anybody when they kept their turnovers in check.

Last time against the Irish:

It’s tough to forget the late-game heroics of Jimmy Clausen, who rifled a two-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kyle Rudolph to escape West Lafayette with a win. The Irish, playing without starting running back Armando Allen and wide receiver Michael Floyd, were dogged by penalties, including a procedure call on Golden Tate that cost both the Irish and his stat ledger a touchdown.

Purdue quarterback Joey Elliott built on the alarming trend of quarterbacks having career days against the Irish with 289 yards passing and three touchdowns, with Keith Smith catching 11 balls while tying a then personal record with 136 receiving yards and a touchdown. Purdue took the lead with four minutes to go on a play-action pass with broken coverage, resulting in Jaycen Taylor running untouched out of the backfield for a 38-yard touchdown. While Clausen’s heroics are what remain in the memory of Irish fans, some befuddling play-calling that included a failed draw play to Robert Hughes with no timeouts left and a defensive timeout by Danny Hope that stopped the clock for the Irish resulted in the final touchdown with 24 seconds left.

Said after the game by the Purdue blog Hammer & Rails:

“Even when we did stop them on 3rd down, I knew we couldn’t do it on fourth down. We’re Purdue. It does not work out that way for us.”

Degree of Difficulty:

Ranking the 12 opponents of the Irish, I slot Purdue in as the eighth-most difficult game on the schedule. That said, getting Purdue on opening day is both a blessing and a curse, as the Boilermakers will have all summer to get up for a game in Notre Dame stadium, a place they only won twice in the last 26 years. 

The Match-up:

Purdue played some pretty solid football down the stretch last season, going 4-2 in its last six games including the upset win over Ohio State. They’ve also added high-profile transfer quarterback Robert Marve to the mix, giving them a dual threat former blue-chip recruit to replace Joey Elliott. While running back Ralph Bolden is still recovering from an ACL tear that has him at only 50-60 percent, wide receiver Keith Smith returns along with three of the top four receiving targets. The offensive line is a question mark, returning only two starters.

On defense, the secondary needs to replace all four members, but early returns on freshman Ricardo Allen are good. The front seven returns almost in tact, with the defensive line considered one of the best in the Big Ten, anchored by All-Big Ten defensive end Ryan Kerrigan.

How the Irish will win:

Want to neutralize a good pass rush and swarming front-seven? Get the ball out quickly and spread the field, a Brian Kelly specialty. While Robert Marve isn’t a freshman, walking into Notre Dame stadium for Game One of the Brian Kelly era is hardly ideal. Doing it behind the least experienced offensive line the Irish will see all season doesn’t help either. Plagued by penalties, a gimpy Jimmy Clausen, and missing two of the Irish’s best offensive weapons, the Irish still managed to win in West Lafayette, bad game management and all. On home turf, the new defensive system will bring effective pressure from near and far, and torture a Purdue offense that needs to find time to throw. Vegas has this a double-digit victory for the Irish. If things go the Irish’s way, that should be the case on September 4th.

How the Irish will lose:

Nothing takes a crowd out of a game like an effective opposing offense, and a mobile quarterback like Marve will take his cues from Tate Forcier and keep the chains moving with his feet. Keith Smith wreaked havoc last season, and he’s a year better on the edge, racking up big gains and explosive plays. Ryan Kerrigan feasts on newbie offensive tackles, forcing a turnover and spending much of the afternoon in the backfield. Dayne Crist, in his first start as the Irish quarterback, turns the ball over a few times, giving the Purdue offense the extra chances it needs. Purdue has a chance to surprise some people, and they begin on opening day.

Gut Feeling:

I’m having a hard time trying to figure out how Purdue wins this football game, even though I think they’ll finish the season in a bowl game. I wouldn’t run to Vegas and lay down the point spread, but I think Bob Diaco’s defense, with very little game tape of the Irish personnel available, is the key to victory.  

  1. John - Aug 17, 2010 at 1:36 PM

    You seem to forget the complete shellacking they handed us at home in 2004.

  2. Kevvy LeBlanc - Aug 17, 2010 at 1:40 PM

    I’m pretty sure that the Boilermakers beat Notre Dame in South Bend in 2003 or 2004…whichever was at home. I…think?

  3. Keith Arnold - Aug 17, 2010 at 1:42 PM

    Yep — You guys are right, it’s been fixed. Did my math wrong. Thanks.

  4. John - Aug 17, 2010 at 1:47 PM

    I seem to remember Dwight Ellick getting toasted repeatedly, especially on that 99 yard touchdown on 3rd and 10. Just as QBs set personal records against us last year, WRs sent personal records against Ellick.

  5. TLNDMA - Aug 17, 2010 at 4:54 PM

    We’ve been conditioned, the last 15yrs., to doubt. I don’t get the impression that Kelly is blowing smoke though. He plans on winning. I plan on believing.
    Interviewer,”who’s your horse?” Kelly, “Mantei Teo.”

  6. Ted Kazmar - Aug 18, 2010 at 2:37 PM

    Please note the opponent’s officials call penalities against ND’s offense when ND’s offense makes a big play. Conversly the opponent’s officials call penalities againt the opponent’s offense when ND’s defense makes a big play. In this way the penality yardage looks the same but the big significance is in points on the board and player psyche.
    Bdfuddling play calling is an issue of the past, Kelly always calls the right play at the right time.

  7. WES HOLTZ - Aug 18, 2010 at 7:34 PM

    Lets get it ON

  8. jimbo - Aug 19, 2010 at 12:07 AM

    I see this as one of the 7 Irish wins this year with losses to USC, Pitt, MSU and 2 other losses spread out between Utah, Stanford, BC, Navy and Michigan. Should be in interesting opening game but a double digit win?

  9. Cheesy Beef - Aug 23, 2010 at 8:48 AM

    I’m thinking this will be a repeat of the double digit win in 2004 for the Boilermakers. ND is not good – new QB, new coach, lots of communication issues. Kelly is ok but Hope has our number. Tate is good but a one man show he is not and that is what this will turn into. Robert Marve is a really good QB and very mobile which the Irish always have a problem with.
    Boilers win 35 – 10.

  10. Alex Coquillard - Aug 26, 2010 at 2:31 PM

    I’ll take the Irish and 25 pts.

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