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And in that corner… The Purdue Boilermakers

Sep 28, 2011, 3:44 PM EDT

Michael Floyd Purdue

It’s that time of year. The Purdue game. An annual tradition that’s not entirely appreciated by one-side of the in-state “rivalry,” a term that alone makes some Notre Dame fans bristle. (Memo to those fans: Be careful about getting too uppity about rivalries. Just look at what’s happened with Navy lately.)

Anyway, if Michigan and USC constitute big calendar days like Memorial Day and Labor Day, slot Purdue in as a good solid floating holiday, ranking somewhere between Arbor Day or Columbus Day. Notre Dame fans may not get as excited about it, but it’s a annual rite nonetheless, and that in and of itself is pretty respectable. (Be wary, Irish fans. Should enough disrespect to a holiday like Columbus Day and pretty soon your bosses will stop giving you the day off. Then we all lose.)

Moving beyond mediocre analogies, there’s a football game this Saturday with Purdue. And while it hasn’t been exactly the glory days of this match-up like it was in the Joe Tiller/Drew Brees era, the Irish and Purdue have played some intriguing games lately, with the 2009 comeback victory by the Irish still eating at Purdue fans upset with head coach Danny Hope spotting Notre Dame a timeout before Jimmy Clausen hit Kyle Rudolph in the endzone for the game winning touchdown.

Purdue has been a tough team to track this season. A game with Middle Tennessee, a disheartening loss to Rice, and a cupcake against Southeast Missouri State haven’t given the Boilermakers much of a body of work. Thankfully, we’re joined by Travis Miller of the blog Hammer & Rails, who has been all over the Purdue scene for years.

I asked the questions and he answered them. Here goes:

Inside the Irish: This is our third time doing this. (2009. 2010.) Can you assess for me the direction this program is going under Danny Hope?

Hammer & Rails: A lot of people are not happy with the MTSU result and the Rice loss. Middle Tennessee State has not looked good sense the opener, but Logan Kilgore and the Blue Raiders really outplayed us in week one. Even after we took a late lead, the familiar prevent defense allowed them to get in field goal range very quickly before a block saved us. Most people are very upset about the way Hope handled the final minutes of the Rice game. He blew our last timeout (sound familiar?) then went away from what was working (three Bolden runs for 30+ yards to get us close) in order to settle for a field goal.

These are the types of decisions that have added up and have people going against Hope. The kids are playing hard, but there have been several decisions, like the infamous timeout against Notre Dame two years ago, that have left us questioning what the heck he is thinking at times. The loss at Rice was really a turning point. The offense generated little to nothing in the second half and the blocked field goal at the end was a special teams blocking breakdown. With normal blocking Wiggs makes the field goal and we’re 3-0.

ITI: Let’s talk about this team. Here’s what I’ve seen on paper. (Admittedly, I’ve seen little of the Boilers this year, thanks to sparse TV coverage.) A frantic comeback against Middle Tennessee that needed special teams heroics. An ugly loss to Rice, a team that was thought to be one of the worst in D-I. Then a curb-stomping against Southeast Missouri State, a sub-division team that lost 14 starters from last year’s squad. Give me a 1/4 of the way letter grade?

H&R: I would give it a C-, only because against SEMO we finally did what we were supposed to do. I have been very pleased with the play of Caleb TerBush in his first three starts. He hasn’t set the world on fire, but he has been consistent and has not turned the ball over. Mostly I have been concerned about playcalling and our defense on 3rd and long. If Notre Dame wants success they should get to 3rd and 15 or more, then throw to Tyler Eifert over the middle. This has been a gaping hole for at least six years, but we still refuse to fix it. Do not be surprised if Eifert has 15 catches for 122 yards and two scores because he will be open over the middle on every 34rd down. The sad thing is that everyone sees this except the coaching staff.

I have long said this team’s strength is running the ball on offense and it gives us the best chance of winning. We need to have success against Notre Dame in this area for two reasons. One, we have multiple backs who give different looks. Two, it keeps the ND offense off the field. We ran the ball extremely well against SEMO, but didn’t even try to exert our will with the ground game against Rice and MTSU. When we ran against them, we had success, so I don’t understand why we went away from it.

ITI: Robert Marve could be a character in a Greek tragedy he’s been through so much. As a guy that watched him at Miami, flipped his opinion on him a few times, and now sees him back and potentially healthy, is he the right guy to lead Purdue?

H&R: I think he is this year. He looked good against SEMO, and I think he gives us the best chance to win through the air. TerBush has been solid, but Marve is simply a better player. I think TerBush is a guy that can build on his experience this year to have a solid senior season next year. Marve doesn’t have the mobility he had at Miami, but he has a good arm and he reads the field better. He doesn’t overthrow guys like TerBush has at times either. If we’re going to win four more games and get to a bowl, I think Marve is the guy to do it.

ITI: This will be the toughest run defense Purdue has faced this year. You think highly of the Boilermakers talent at tailback. Can they run against an Irish team that hasn’t given up a 100 yard tailback in a full calendar year?

H&R: I think we can mostly because we saw some new options at tailback against SEMO. Akeem Shavers has been a big play guy this year, while Ralph Bolden is our steady ballcarrier that he was two years ago. Reggie Pegram has shown he can get some tough yards if needed. Two true freshmen, Akeem Hunt and Brandon Cottom, saw their first action against SEMO and combined for over 140 yards and two scores. Hunt is a small, shifty runner, while Cottom is a big, bruising back that could see some time at fullback. Cottom is 6’4” and 255 pounds of beef coming up the middle. He reminds me a little of Mike Alstott.

ITI: Give me one player on offense and one on defense that Irish fans don’t know now, but will after Saturday night?

H&R: Antavian Edison has been our best big-play receiver so far in the slot. He caught the winning TD pass against MTSU and is averaging almost 23 yards per catch. He also lines up in the backfield on occasion and had a rushing touchdown vs. SEMO.

On defense, meet Ricardo Allen. The true sophomore has four career interceptions in 15 games and has returned two for touchdowns. The few times we have stopped teams on third and long have seen him line up as a nickel back covering the slot receiver. He will likely draw the assignment on Floyd, and that will be fascinating. SEMO decided to challenge him deep on the game’s first play and he physically ripped the ball away from a much bigger receiver for an interception. Obviously Floyd is a much better player, but if there is one guy on our team that can single cover him, it is Allen.

ITI: The line is 14 points. It should be a pretty electric atmosphere (even if you guys can’t sell it out), and the Irish didn’t exactly set the world in their first two road games. How does Purdue pull the upset? What kind of odds would you need to put your money on it?

H&R: I think Purdue has a chance if Notre Dame continues to turn the ball over. We need the Irish to keep making the mistakes they have made in the first four games. We also need to keep taking care of the ball. Turnovers absolutely killed us in the 1-5 start two years ago, as they cost us at least three games (Oregon, Northwestern, and Northern Illinois) So far we have only turned it over three times this year. If we can run the ball with some success, keep the Notre Dame offense off the field, and take advantage of some Tommy Rees mistakes we have a chance. If Rees takes care of the ball the Irish should be fine.

Also, we had better not call timeout with the clock running on third down when the Irish are trying to score in the last 20 seconds again. It may cause me to have a stroke and I am way too young for that.


Special thanks to Travis for taking the time with my extensive questioning. Check out the Hammer & Rails blog later today for my mediocre answers to his much better questions. You can also follow him on Twitter @HammerAndRails.

  1. sfnd - Sep 28, 2011 at 4:29 PM

    (Laughing) Even the opposition is focused on Rees’s mistakes.

    BK should not undermine his players by publicly questioning their performance and his commitment to them but he should be thinking about every option for the team to improve from drive to drive. Earlier in the season we were saying week to week. After watching other teams out-coach ND in a few games this year, I want to see improvements throughout the game (personnel, scheme, play-calling, etc to give the players the greatest opportunity for successful execution).

    • NotreDan - Sep 28, 2011 at 5:41 PM

      If the opposition WEREN’T focused on the worst turnover margin in the country, I’d be surprised.

      You’ll come back around. Just wish so many ND fans like you weren’t so jaded.

      • sfnd - Sep 28, 2011 at 7:16 PM

        Please, no ad hominen attacks. It is a logical fallacy and ill-mannered. : )

    • NotreDan - Sep 28, 2011 at 11:11 PM

      Ad hominem? I didn’t say you were wrong, I just said I wish you weren’t so jaded.

      I also referred to you as an ND fan, my mistake.

      Ill mannered is trying to look smart, when you aren’t, sfnd

      • sfnd - Sep 29, 2011 at 11:43 AM

        I tried to indicate that the reply was joking though the use of the emoticon.

        Let’s keep this forum positive. I believe that we are all ND fans who have a variety of opinions on matters.

        Go Irish!

      • socarblogger - Sep 29, 2011 at 12:26 PM

        NotreDan –

        You called the poster jaded. You said he is not smart. You implied he is not an ND fan. You can disagree or agree with the prior comments and you can reply or not. Just keep it on point.

        SFND –

        You do not need to continue the battle. You made your point. let it go.

        I read this blog to get away from the shouting and fingerprinting that is so common at other sites. Please do not ruin this community.

  2. cameronemclaughlin - Sep 28, 2011 at 5:20 PM

    Notre Dame will dominate this game. I rarely have the confidence to make such statements, but this week the Irish will continue cleaning up the mistakes and punish a team whose claim to fame is a huge rushing day against Southeast Missouri State (a team that gave up 228 and 240 rushing yards to Tennessee Tech and Southern Illinois, respectively).

    Notre Dame’s defense will stifle the running game, force third down after third down, and punish Purdue with the pass rush.

    • 808raiderinparadise - Sep 28, 2011 at 7:21 PM

      You obviously don’t watch enough ND football. Dominate? lol

      • gtizzo - Sep 29, 2011 at 4:25 PM

        I wouldn’t laugh at ND’s ability to “dominate” a football game. The offense has been troublesome but the defense has played well in every game except the 4th quarter of the Michigan game. ND has the ability to stuff Purdue’s running. I think running the ball more on the offensive side of the ball would help things a little. The Pitt game was close because I thought Brain Kelly let Pitt take away Michael Floyd way to easily. ND can dominate Purdue they have to not turn the ball over and limit the flags…but then again isn’t that true of any team in college football?

  3. NotreDan - Sep 28, 2011 at 5:39 PM

    Agree. ND rolls this week.

    BK has appropriate focus and I hope he takes this game as an opportunity to work tempo.

    GO IRISH!!

    • brendanunderscoreg - Sep 29, 2011 at 8:45 AM

      Not so sure BK plays anything but vanilla this week. Not very concerned about Purdue’s offense, so I think he just plays ball control some more and lets the D do their job. Next week he might start introducing some wrinkles to force USC to study some more.

      I’d love to see the breakneck pace of the beginning of last year, too. It just doesn’t make sense to do it when you have a dominating defense, though.

  4. smurphdoggy29 - Sep 28, 2011 at 6:53 PM

    PU Beat the Body Odor !

    GO Irish ! We shall overcome (again) !!

    • alsatiannd - Sep 29, 2011 at 6:44 AM

      Please, no ad hominem cheering.

      • 1historian - Sep 29, 2011 at 11:40 AM

        what the hell is ‘ad hominem’ cheering?

      • notredamegrad - Sep 29, 2011 at 12:58 PM

        I’m pretty sure it’s a joke. If so, a funny one.

  5. TriniND - Sep 28, 2011 at 7:08 PM

    As much as I would love to proclaim that “ND rolls this week,” this team hasn’t shown the ability to complete dominate all three facets of the game this season. While I have full faith in Kelly and his process/philosophy to return the Irish to the CFB’s elite class, our offense is still one that couldn’t capitalize on playing one of the worst pass defenses in the country. That being said, I like the progress that Rees/the offense is making in the TO department (5. 5. 3. 2) and the ability to refocus and put together some solid drives when needed – a testament to Kelly’s developmental skills. The best thing about this team is that we have an exceptional front 7 (especially the defensive front) that will keep us in any game. Hopefully Kelly has put in the work with Rees on ways to better process Pitt’s defensive plan to take Floyd out of the game – as Purdon’t will most likely copy that to some degree.

    I think this will be a 24-16 type of game that’s close until the 4th quarter – with the defense contributing a TD and setting up the offense with a few short field drives. Here’s hoping I’m wrong and NotreDan and cameron are right, and we see the offense click so the offense makes it rain TDs, and the game’s over by halftime.

    • TriniND - Sep 28, 2011 at 7:09 PM

      … and GO IRISH!!!

      (forgot that last part)

    • ndfanwabashman - Sep 28, 2011 at 10:17 PM

      I think this is a pretty spot on analysis.

      Much like Michigan State, this will be one that feels closer inside the stadium than it looks on the scroll at the bottom of ESPN.

      I will add that West Lafayette is the second worse place to go from a visiting fan standpoint after East Lansing. With Breakfast Club starting way too early for an 8 PM start and Purdue fans looking to drown their sorrows this could be the worst year yet. I hope the Irish win convincingly so the Boilers leave early.

      • TriniND - Sep 29, 2011 at 10:22 AM

        Thanks. Think I can do Tom Hammond’s job? haha

        I haven’t been to West Laff, but having been to 06 game in East Lansing with the monsoon, I’ll have to agree with you that that’s a pretty terrible location to visit as an Irish fan. Still one of the best games I’ve ever been to though!

        GO IRISH!

  6. seanb20124 - Sep 28, 2011 at 10:20 PM

    Turdue!!! Jajaja

  7. tlndma - Sep 29, 2011 at 6:00 AM

    Allen’s gonna single cover Michael Floyd?…. lots of luck!

  8. jimkress999 - Sep 29, 2011 at 9:13 AM

    Underestimate ANY opponent at your own risk. The Irish have played down to the level of every opponent this year. I see no reason this won’t happen with Purdue.

    I will never forget the Notre Dame – Purdue game in which the Irish were ranked #1 in the country, Purdue was unranked the game was at ND Stadium and Purdue whipped the Irish.

    Ara was quoted after the game say “I tried to make the team understand they could not take Purdue lightly but their heads were so inflated by being ranked number 1, they just wouldn’t listen.”

    We’re not ranked #1 but we still cannot take ANY game for granted, ever.

    • 1historian - Sep 29, 2011 at 11:41 AM

      This team is not good enough to take a

    • ndfanwabashman - Sep 29, 2011 at 9:39 PM

      “The Irish have played down tot he level of every opponent this year.”

      They played “down” to the #16 team in the country when they beat them by three scores?

      I don’t think they would take this team for granted, but this is a bad Purdue team. Also, just because they struggled against Pitt doesn’t mean they’ve played down to their opponents. Notre Dame has played four really tough teams this year. Purdue has played none. Michigan State found out what gearing up with a cupcake schedule gets you.

    • ndfanwabashman - Sep 29, 2011 at 9:39 PM

      “The Irish have played down to the level of every opponent this year.”

      They played “down” to the #16 team in the country when they beat them by three scores?

      I don’t think they would take this team for granted, but this is a bad Purdue team. Also, just because they struggled against Pitt doesn’t mean they’ve played down to their opponents. Notre Dame has played four really tough teams this year. Purdue has played none. Michigan State found out what gearing up with a cupcake schedule gets you.

      • ndfanwabashman - Sep 29, 2011 at 9:40 PM

        Damn double post, how do I delete posts on this thing?

      • jimkress999 - Oct 1, 2011 at 2:36 PM

        If you watched the game, you know the vast amount of luck the Irish had as well as the really dumb mistakes by Michigan State. The Offense STILL turned the ball over recklessly and the special teams were awful, with a single exception.

        Also, it has been well established that MSU is over-rated (as were we) so yeah, we played down to their level but got lucky and won.

  9. NotreDan - Sep 29, 2011 at 9:47 AM

    I don’t think ND is under-estimating Purdue, which is why I think they roll.

    As with MSU, I am guaranteeing a win. This time, by 2 touchdowns.

  10. TriniND - Sep 29, 2011 at 10:31 AM

    Not to sounds dismissive (although the fact that I’m starting off with that probably means I am) but it’s pretty easy for us Irish fans to make guarantees and think we know what the team is thinking of an opponent from our perch in the stands. I also think it’s hard to say that this team will roll (I hope you’re right though!) against any opponent given what we’ve seen so far this season. In my opinion, if this team continues its growth in Kelly’s system then there may be some domination to come later in the season or next year. I think we should prepare ourselves for several more too-close-for-comfort type games this season. Still think we win though!


    • NotreDan - Sep 29, 2011 at 3:51 PM

      If I’m wrong, I’ll quit posting.

  11. NotreDan - Sep 29, 2011 at 3:51 PM

    I wonder why all the comments don’t have “reply” buttons for me. Hmm.

    • TriniND - Sep 29, 2011 at 5:21 PM

      I was wondering the same thing.

  12. herringbonesports - Sep 29, 2011 at 6:09 PM

    I’m with a lot of people who struggle to break down this Purdue team with the schedule they’ve faced so far. Like recent weeks, it’s a prime opportunity to jump out early on a team that has played some unimpressive football against low quality opponents thus far.

    On the other end, this Notre Dame offense refuses to take over a game completely and finish a team off. I’ve posted in here before: new Notre Dame blog and I’ve got some takes on this game as well as the QB situation. Please check out if you’re looking to devour as much ND content as possible.

    Go. Irish.

  13. trbowman - Sep 30, 2011 at 3:45 AM

    Purdue has surprised me this year, better than I expected. Got Robert Marve back. Purdue usually gives Notre Dame a game and you know Lafeyette is gonna be pumped.

    Let’s go Notre Dame.

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