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The Good, the bad, the ugly: Purdue

Sep 5, 2010, 10:17 AM EDT

There’s so much more good to be found here after recapping Notre Dame’s 23-12 victory over Purdue yesterday. While it’s clear that the Irish are still very much a work in progress, the key elements of a successful football team were there in spades at Notre Dame Stadium yesterday.

Not wanting to fill up the good ledger too much, I’ll cheat and give you my bullet-pointed version of some runner-up finishers in the positive position.

    * Bennett Jackson, kick-off covering dynamo.
    * David Ruffer, clutch kicker.
    * Gary Gray, tackling machine.
    * Braxston Cave, shotgun snapper.
    * Armando Allen & Cierre Wood, two-headed monster.
    * Clean play, no offensive or defensive penalties.

Now that I’ve cleared out the clutter, here’s a quick rundown of the good, the bad, and the ugly from the Purdue victory.

THE GOOD

Bob Diaco’s defense. Four sacks, two interceptions, and legitimate pressure on the quarterback was a thing of beauty for Irish fans. While the ship has sailed, it’s a pleasant reminder that you don’t have to blitz every play to get to the quarterback. Utilizing a pretty effective front-three in Ethan Johnson, Kapron Lewis-Moore and Ian Williams, the Irish were able to chase after Robert Marve all day, even with Darius Fleming, the Irish’s best pass rusher, battling cramps on the sidelines for most of the game.

If you’re looking for the difference between this defense and the unit from last year, Purdue head coach Danny Hope has your answer.

“They blitzed almost every down last year and I thought that created some huge holes that we were able to take advantage of,” Hope said after the game. “They didn’t blitz as much, and so the holes were smaller. They had good personnel. I thought at times we blocked them and manufactured some offense, but the biggest difference was the amount of blitzes they used to use.”

Giving up 10 points to a team with Purdue’s offensive weapons is a great way to start your season, but it wasn’t all lollipops and rainbows for the defense, a group that will have plenty to discuss when breaking down film, particularly in the tackling department. But Purdue was an ideal opponent to start your season against, a spread team with a mobile quarterback, almost a perfect scouting tool for a Michigan offense that’ll bring an even more explosive running quarterback into South Bend next Saturday.

THE BAD

The Irish struggled in the red zone, missing a few key opportunities to score touchdowns and instead settled for field goals. Chalk that up to some potential first game jitters for Dayne Crist and an uncharacteristic fumble by Michael Floyd. Still, when the Irish go back and look at the tape, they’ll realize they left a lot of points on the board with missed throws to Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph. To his credit, Crist knows it.

“I’ll take responsibility for that,” Crist said. “That’s on me. We have got to continue to get better and I can only speak for myself and those things will be corrected.”

Last year, the Irish struggled converting touchdowns in the red zone as well, finishing a mediocre 65th in the country by only converting 56 percent of appearances into touchdowns, a pretty puzzling number when you consider the offensive weapons the Irish had. Contrast that with Cincinnati’s 2009 offense, which was a sterling 7th in the country, converting over 72 percent of trips into six points. The Irish will improve as Crist get’s comfortable, but expect the red zone to be a point of emphasis this week.

THE UGLY

While I didn’t see it, the College GameDay preview piece on ESPN created quite a stir amongst readers. After watching it, I’m pretty surprised this got the green-light to be aired. Written by ESPN senior writer Wright Thompson, you’d think that Notre Dame was closing down the football program, instead of being the team that played in two BCS bowls the past five years.

If you want to feel like you’ve been stuck in Shawshank prison with Red and Andy for the past 20 years and they just took all the books out of the library, give it a watch.

Other than that, I’m struggling to find anything too ugly about an opening day victory for Notre Dame. The best I’ve come up with was the outfit choice by Brian Kelly and the coaching staff. They looked like bottles of Dijon mustard out there. While the golden helmets of the Fighting Irish are one of college football’s classic looks, the “golden” fleece is far from it. Stick with the blue or white, guys.

  1. willmose - Sep 5, 2010 at 3:51 PM

    About the ugly. There was a time when ESPN was the cutting edge of cable sports and decent sports internet site. They are a buggy whip industry now, watched only by beer guzzling fantasy league gamers. Very few reporters left over there, just gossip columnists.

  2. vegasmark - Sep 5, 2010 at 6:58 PM

    Was that ESPN thing a joke??? So much for focusing on what’s new and exciting with the program, I might as well just give up and follow a pro team like USC or something….

  3. Loretta - Sep 5, 2010 at 7:14 PM

    That ESPN video is truly offensive. I can’t believe they aired that.

  4. willmose - Sep 5, 2010 at 7:25 PM

    After thinking about the ugly ESPN piece and taking off my snide remark hat, the reason for the piece is pretty simple and obvious. ESPN is owned by ABC. All the ND games are shown on NBC. Since ESPN and ABC can’t show the ND games so why not do a piece about how ND isn’t worth watching any more. It simply was a in-house piece to knock the competition’s product. Just remember that no cheap shot is too low for ESPN. Up for next week on ESPN, sexually harassing the ND cheerleaders in a special commentary from Don Imus (oh, I’m sorry, I guess that is a snide remark, but sexual harassment right in ESPN’s wheelhouse).

  5. piratey - Sep 5, 2010 at 7:35 PM

    Dana Jacobson’s remarks at the roast of Mike and Mike still echo in my head…
    Just win baby and the four letter network will have to give us our due.

  6. #1irishfan - Sep 5, 2010 at 9:12 PM

    Well I’ve done a few things in my storied life to bring one to maybe scorn me in judgment of character and reason, and I have walked the road of a thousand miles wondering if I would ever see my light at the beginning of hope. I stand here today telling you in truth that I live today because of that road, I exist because I walked through it and survived a better human being! A couple little beings came into my life within the last 4 yrs and without the press or TV available whispered to me about who I was and what I had become, I owe the rest of my life to them and they will receive it! That video reminds us all of what may have become of us as Notre Dame Nation and should only feed us internally as to who we are and what we mean to ALLL else!! Let that feeble minded person give us the strength to return to who we are!!! WE ARE ND!!! THANKS ESPN!!! GO IRISH!!! BEAT THE CHEATERS (MICHIGAN

  7. CJW - Sep 5, 2010 at 10:54 PM

    OMG….Keith thanks for the link to that ESPN video.
    Is that for real……I mean honestly I thought that had to be a rally well done spoof or something because I can’t believe anyone would air that….when did they air that???
    I can’t even be offended. I mean who else gets a video like that made about them but ND. Rich, so rich…I mean ESPN should sell this to the BigTen network so they can air it before we play MI and MIS. I could only aprove of this video being made if we had hired Lane Kiffen…..lol
    Go IRISH best MeatChicken!!!

  8. papadec1 - Sep 6, 2010 at 3:22 AM

    If I were Coach Kelly – I would show that piece before every game. Then lead the team onto the field without saying anything else. If that isn’t enough to motivate the team to play their best – nothing will. espn may have done more to inspire the team than they intended. I was very impressed by the discipline & lack of penalties in the Purdue game. It speaks well of the coaching & preparation. Thank you for all your hard work Keith. GO IRISH!!!!!!!

  9. GoIrish75 - Sep 6, 2010 at 8:34 AM

    Frustration Jesus? A grotto full of unanswered prayers? ARE YOU KIDDING ME???? It is amazing to me that a major network can trash not only a school, but a religion and way of life and get away with it…

  10. ND??? BFD! - Sep 6, 2010 at 9:42 AM

    Another non-story about another overrated college football program.

  11. Bogtrotter - Sep 6, 2010 at 9:44 AM

    Here is to a season, where the coaching staff can look like “bottles of Dijon mustard” and nobody will care! 12-0! Hell, I’ll dress up like a bottle of Heinz Ketchup and join right in!

  12. NDBonecrusher - Sep 6, 2010 at 10:09 AM

    Can I make a suggestion? If you are as stunned as I am about this piece of pseudo-journalism, hit these boys where it hurts. Write to ESPN on their website and inform them why they just lost a viewer. And mean it. “Vote with your feet” I think the saying goes.
    Revenge is a dish best served cold, so I sure hope we’re playing somewhere at New Years. Wouldn’t THAT be something! Go Irish Beat Wolverines!

  13. Badger 04 - Sep 6, 2010 at 4:05 PM

    Just win baby, just win!!!!!

  14. Art Vandelay - Sep 6, 2010 at 5:48 PM

    ESPN
    Encouraging
    Secular
    Propaganda
    Now
    How dare these morons bash my religion and the symbols of my faith. If they made a piece like this against Islam they would be targeted for death like Solomon Rushdie or Kurt Westergaard. Wright Thompson should be elected Grand Wizard…..ass. GO IRISH!

  15. john - Sep 8, 2010 at 9:38 AM

    That was a great piece, get over yourselves!!!! Go Irish!!!

  16. Art Vandelay - Sep 9, 2010 at 12:56 AM

    @john….you have a very low threshold regarding your definition of “great”.

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