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And in that corner: The Purdue Boilermakers

Sep 5, 2012, 1:35 AM EDT

Cierre Wood AP

After starting 2011 in the worst possible fashion, Irish fans couldn’t feel better about things after a 50-10 drubbing of Navy. First-time starting quarterback Everett Golson looked confident and smooth in his debut. The Irish ground attack was prolific, even without starter Cierre Wood. And even without defensive end Aaron Lynch, the Irish continually harassed Navy quarterback Trey Miller.

But that was Navy. The Midshipmen spent almost half a century as an Irish doormat before breaking through in 2007 and winning twice more since then, including beating Brian Kelly’s 2010 squad. Now it appears the Irish are back to their dominating ways, notching two straight 40-point wins.

Now the Irish will turn their attention to the Big Ten and in-state rival Purdue. The matchup won’t have the same heat as the games against Michigan State and Michigan, but Danny Hope’s Purdue squad shouldn’t be overlooked. Fresh off their own impressive first win, we brought in Travis Miller of Hammer & Rails to discuss all things Boilermakers.

We’ve done this three times before (20092010, 2011), a nice time capsule back as we look at the evolution of this series.

I asked, Travis answered. Here we go:

The Boilermakers did a nice job taking care of business on opening day, whipping Eastern Kentucky handily on a day where not everybody had as good of luck with their respective cupcakes. And they did so with some significant pregame distractions, like the last minute suspension of starting quarterback Caleb TerBush. After last year’s nail biter with Middle Tennessee, did you see this coming?

I did not. I expected EKU to put up a better fight, especially since they challenged a very good Kansas State team last year in Manhattan before falling 10-7. This was a rout in every sense of the word. Even giving up five turnovers didn’t hurt Purdue as the defense allowed zero points after them. Kawann Short was dominant in blocking a field goal and an extra point. Even the middle linebacker play was solid after losing Dwayne Beckford due to his recent arrest.

I expected to win, but EKU has one of the best running backs in FCS, a quality receiver, and an experienced quarterback. I didn’t expect to be so dominant on defense to where we only had one bad play, a 30 yard touchdown run by Matt Denham.

Speaking of the QB situation, Marve threw an early pick and had a fumble, but was pretty impressive as the game got rolling. Does that make you willing to scrap TerBush as a starter and roll with the veteran? I know Hope hasn’t decided yet, but is one game against an FCS opponent enough for you?

Whatever makes us ditch the crazy quarterback rotation is good enough for me. I think Marve finally showed what type of player he can be. Yes, he is a veteran, but of his 14 previous starts and through all of last year he has never really been THE guy. At Miami he split every game with Jacory Harris. In 2010 he had three starts before hurting his knee, and even then Rob Henry took a few snaps. Last year he split time with TerBush.

Marve impressed me because he was making good decisions on the roll out and making throws we quite frankly haven’t had a quarterback capable of making in some time. We got our tight ends involved as more than a last resort and most of Marve’s mobility is back. I think the upside for him is higher than TerBush, so he should be the guy. Also, I do not like that a team captain and starter did something (whatever it was) to get suspended right before the opener.

Most people know about All-American candidate Kawann Short, but I’ve heard plenty of good things about the rest of Purdue’s front four. Paired with a strong secondary, how good are you expecting this defense to be? What are your early impressions of new D.C. Tim Tibesar?

I was extremely impressed. We covered the middle of the field on third and long, something I have been screaming for us to do for years. After watching part of the Navy game I had nightmares of forcing a 3rd and 15 only to see Tyler Eifert wandering completely uncovered over the middle for an 18 yard catch. Now I have some hope.

Will Lucas really impressed me with his play at linebacker. Landon Feichter, a guy who was a very unheralded walk-on last year, has earned a starting safety spot and he responded with a pick six and two pass break ups. I also thought Jalani Phillips had a solid game in terms of being disruptive up front with Short and Bruce Gaston.

Of course, this is all against an FCS team. Notre Dame is a much better gauge of competition, so we shall see this week.

The Boilermakers have been a dark-horse candidate to make a run in the Big Ten this year, especially with Penn State and Ohio State already off the board. It’s been a tough few years for Purdue fans, do you get a sense of optimism this year?

I do. It’s really a three-team race with Illinois and Wisconsin. I thought on day one Illinois played better than I thought and Wisconsin played worse. If you’re blasting a good FCS team at home while the favorite in the division is struggling with theirs it is definitely a confidence boost.

I do view the Notre Dame game as a major test to see how we stack up against the Big Ten. It is the only non-conference game that should give us trouble, and last year we were completely uncompetitive. If Purdue comes out and rolls over just like last year I will be very concerned.

Did watching the Irish’s impressive performance on Saturday morning have you feeling more or less confident about the upcoming game? 

I am pretty neutral, mostly because I didn’t expect either blowout to be so dominant. Obviously, Purdue cannot have five turnovers and expect to win. If Purdue fixes that, however, I think the defense can at least slow down Reddick, Eifert, and Atkinson. Those are the three players I am most concerned with. Defensively, I know we offer a different look from Navy’s triple option. Even with the turnovers we moved the ball at will just like Notre Dame.

It is hard to make a definite choice because both of our games were the result of one team being far and away better than the other. I will say that Purdue’s performance encouraged me more than Notre Dame’s discouraged me.

Vegas opened the line for Saturday’s game at 14.5 points. Cliff Notes version of how Purdue pulls off the upset.

First off, Danny Hope picks Robert Marve and sticks with him. I don’t mind the occasional Rob Henry snap as a wildcat QB that can throw, but Marve has to be THE guy. Second, we don’tturn the ball over. Third, we have improved special teams. We had an extra point blocked, kicked a ball out of bounds, fumbled a punt return, and had a punt blocked. Those would be disastrous against Notre Dame. Fourth, we have to be aggressive defensively and not let ND’s running game go wild like last season with Wood.

[Editor’s note: The guys at Hammer & Rails have already addressed Danny Hope picking Caleb TerBush as the starter for Saturday.]

  1. simmel65 - Sep 5, 2012 at 2:08 AM

    After watching the Navy game again, it is clear that the Irish are so much more athletic this year, especially on offense. Clearly the speed is there at the RB position, but it is the little things that make the difference. Two things stood out about that

    Athletic players make athletic plays which is a big difference between AH and EG. In the Navy game, when AH fumbled the snap, he just dove on the ball. In the Blue-Gold game, when EG did that, he picked it up and ran for 5 yards. When Neal got a surprise bounce on the punt, he handled it well and was able to gain some yards. Small things, but big things.

    This will be a good test for the corners and safteys to step up. They need to be able to break on plays better and not get turned around so easily. I hope Barratti gets some time again because he just goes out and hits guys!

    There is a clear difference with this years team than last years.

    Go Irish

    • sharkrun - Sep 5, 2012 at 10:51 AM

      There was also a bad low snap when the play clock was running down, but Golson picked it up so smoothly, you barely noticed it. He definitely looked like a smooth point guard on that play.

  2. yaketyyacc - Sep 5, 2012 at 4:50 AM

    our weakness at pass defense surely will not be overlooked by a much imroved Purdue football team. Purdue will mmimic the NFL commercial, in which footballs fill the air, and in this imitation, the punch line wil be: Purdue is back. With all of their mistakes, they won handily.
    Coach Kelly alluded to Purdue as not of the caliber of MSU or MIchigan. You zre right coach, they are BETTER.
    This will be one of our most important games. NOT TO BE TAKEN LIGHTLY.

    • 1historian - Sep 5, 2012 at 8:04 AM

      I could not agree more.

      If we lose this game whose fault will it be – it will be the players’ fault. That means the captains of the team are not doing their job. If the younger players are reading their headlines it is the responsibility of the older players to look to that.

      Kelly is doing his job getting these guys ready.

  3. 1historian - Sep 5, 2012 at 8:26 AM

    I keep asking this question and no one seems to know – when are the photos of the current team going to be posted in the ‘roster’ section? I know what Aaron Lynch looks like, I know what Dayne Crist looks like, etc. George Atkinson is a sophomore.

    From what I saw Saturday this could be a really good team and I’ve been saying this for 5 months and this time I promise is the last – do NOT take Purdue lightly.

    Of course maybe I’m lying.

    • irish4006 - Sep 5, 2012 at 1:42 PM

      Does anyone know when fall practice begins?

  4. 1historian - Sep 5, 2012 at 8:27 AM

    Kick their asses for 3 quarters, build up a lead and put in the subs.

  5. ndgoldandblue - Sep 5, 2012 at 8:51 AM

    14.5 point favorites, huh? Well, this brings up a couple of questions. Should the Irish be favored in this game, or is this an even match-up where either team could come away victorious? Now, I know that, on any given Saturday, any team can win or lose, but that’s not what I mean. If the Irish play a clean game (see Navy), should they be expected to win? Or could the Irish lose even if they play a clean game?

    The reason why I ask this is because the Irish could play mistake-free (meaning no turnovers, bone-headed penalties, or major mistakes) football against USC and Oklahoma and still lose. The talent is pretty even or slightly on the side of the Trojans and Sooners. You don’t have to be your own worst enemy to lose to teams like that. How does Purdue compare? How does Purdue really match up with Notre Dame in terms of talent? Even if we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot, I still wonder why we’re a heavy favorite. Anyone want to weigh in on this?

    • gtizzo - Sep 5, 2012 at 9:11 AM

      Purdue starting eleven on defense are pretty good. They lack the depth on defense which is why ND needs to run the ball well. Purdue won’t beat an ND team that takes care of the ball, and plays good defense. While the Purdue front four on defense is getting press, I wouldn’t sell short the Irish front four either. I would also be willing to bet the Irish offensive line can handle the Purdue front. This season is no different than last year the offensive line is getting sold short. Purdue needs to run the ball well and keep there QB upright. I don’t think they can do either against the ND’s defense T’eo and Nix and just to much. Also keep in mind Purdue is on there 3rd defensive coordinator in 3 years.
      Prediction: ND shuts Purdue down in the run game. Tuitt, Ishaq Williams and Shembo spend the game chasing the Purdue QB all game. That leads to 4 Purdue turnovers. The ground game dominates for ND and Golson throws for 200 yards and 2 touchdowns. ND-52 Purdue-17

      • alsatiannd - Sep 5, 2012 at 1:38 PM

        Your 1988 Waybackmachine is broken. For this game, it should read ND-52 Purdue-7.

    • dmac4real - Sep 5, 2012 at 11:28 AM

      Reasons were favored:

      1. Purdue managed to score 3 points on us last year until the last 10 second TD.

      2. Manti Te’o had more sacks, and Tackles for loss than the ENTIRE Purdue defense in last years game.

      3. We completely dominated them with Tommy Rees at quarterback.

      Honestly, if we play a clean game like the Navy game, I dont see how we dont cover the spread.

      • 1historian - Sep 5, 2012 at 11:50 AM

        That was LAST YEAR.

      • dmac4real - Sep 5, 2012 at 12:35 PM

        Did Purdue suddenly recruit 20 5 stars, and acquire anystud transfers? It may have been last years, but the team is still full of players with a losing history. Why are things suddenly different for Purdue? Not guaranteeing a win, but damn, its Purdue, not Alabama.

      • gtizzo - Sep 5, 2012 at 3:48 PM

        The way the media is harping on the ND secondary and talking up Purdue. You might think Purdue just hit the top 5 in every poll, has a Heisman trophy candidate at QB. Has managed a top 3 recruiting class every year under Danny Hope, and there defensive backs eat nails and crap thunder. The really strange thing is after all that “talk” they still pick ND to win.

    • idratherbeinsouthbend - Sep 5, 2012 at 1:14 PM

      The ONLY reason we’re favored by 14.5 points is because too many people are betting on the Irish to win this game. So, by creating larger spread (14.5), Vegas generates more bets for Purdue. Watch as the week goes on. If the spread increases, there still isn’t enough betting on the Boilermakers. If the spread decreases, there wasn’t enough betting on the Irish.

      I’ve said this before. Point spread has nothing to do with final score. It’s a calculated number to generate equal betting on both teams.

      • alsatiannd - Sep 5, 2012 at 1:42 PM

        Completely right. ND spreads are weighted by too many over-optimistic Irish fans. It’s why always betting on the underdog in an Irish football game is a bona fide retirement strategy.

  6. dudeacow - Sep 5, 2012 at 8:53 AM

    38-20. I think if we played them later in the season they would have around 10 points, but this is the first real test for our secondary. I think that Golson (or is it Golston, Gholston, Goulson, or Gholstonson?) throws more than he did in the Navy game, and again only throws on pick. A big key in this game is not allowing 3rd down conversions, which we were succesful at stopping last time against Purdue. Purdue is an improved team, yes, but ND is also improved. (and better)

    • don74 - Sep 5, 2012 at 10:39 AM

      I was going 35-20 but the field goal is good! It will be close for the first quarter. As long as it’s injury free ND will dominate the later part of the game. Purdue is better this year but so are we. This team is light years ahead of what we have seen for the past 12 years. 2005 was an illusion. A credit to CW’s ability on offense. This year’s squad is the beginning of the climb back to top 10.

      • jerseyshorendfan1 - Sep 5, 2012 at 12:42 PM

        I’m at 38-17. Not taking this game lightly but I think our ground game will grind their D into a fine powder.

  7. mmcss690 - Sep 5, 2012 at 9:15 AM

    Ok, I will be in transit in the car at 3:30 Saturday. Anyone know how (or where) to watch the game live on my iPhone. (I won’t be driving).

  8. bearcatirishfan - Sep 5, 2012 at 9:24 AM streams the game on their website. I think there’s an iPhone/iPad app for it as well. Hope u got a good data plan.

  9. mmcss690 - Sep 5, 2012 at 11:36 AM

    Thanks bearcat, I still have the “grandfathered” unlimited data with AT&T. It will come in handy!

    • audomer - Sep 5, 2012 at 12:04 PM

      I officially declare that the next person to mention that Aaron guy has to run naked through a car wash! (tassels are optional)

  10. indyron - Sep 5, 2012 at 12:05 PM

    I think we’re losing sight of the fact the secondary was playing against triple option & their assignments were different than they’ll be against Purdue. They are inexperienced but let’s not make Purdue out to be Drew Brees & company. ND will win handily IMHO. Bobby D. will scheme for help from safety positions & our front 7 will put the pressure on.

  11. 1historian - Sep 5, 2012 at 12:41 PM

    From an old fart – please don’t mention former Purdue QBs. They have a habit of playing much too well against ND and we do NOT want Terbush having a career game this weekend.

  12. oldestguard - Sep 5, 2012 at 1:10 PM

    I hope Purdue airs it out alot – the secondary needs the game experience and better now than later on.

    Once again our lines will dicate the outcome. Golson will probably have to check down from Eifert and this will be good experience as well. Daniels showing good hands.

    Home opener…get rowdy !!.

  13. runners00 - Sep 5, 2012 at 1:27 PM

    I think we’ve all seen so many letdowns in the last ten-plus years we don’t know what to expect. But the players haven’t. They didn’t see the 29-24 loss at North Carolina in October of 2008. They went from 4-1 to 4-2 and, eventually, to 6-6. They didn’t see the 47-21 whooping that Michigan put on us in South Bend after we’d just blown out JoePa’s Nittany Lions in 2006. Heck, last year’s wins against Pittsburgh and BC were unfulfilling and obvious letdowns.

    So. Anyone inside the program who thinks that Purdue is a cakewalk is obviously clueless about college football and about recent Notre Dame struggles. Purdue has a football team. It has Big 10 players and a Big 10 program. Clearly, it has talent. It has motivation. Purdue will be a tough opponent. It’s coming off a decent win and while there is a bit of a qb battle, it looks like the guys in the rotation are pretty solid.

    Now, we should be better given that we’re pretty healthy and we’re coming off a season opening victory in Ireland that showed that our quarterback is poised and quick and capable. Our defensive front 7 looked powerful for most of the game and, while our secondary wasn’t great, it was okay. Our kicking game still needs a lot of improvement.

    No matter what, though, we should not and cannot be overconfident heading into this important matchup. Purdue wants to get on a roll and it wants this game. Let’s hope and trust that our guys want it as well, and are willing to play their hearts out to get another victory.

  14. dietskunkbears - Sep 5, 2012 at 9:13 PM

    I think that we should dominate as long as Purdue doesn’t take advantage of our secondary(or lack of). At least 35 points for us and around 14 for Purdue. 2-0 to start the season!

  15. loadofwash - Sep 5, 2012 at 9:32 PM

    Purdue wins easy. ND smells like the same old crap.

  16. seadomer - Sep 6, 2012 at 3:00 AM

    Purdue improved, with no disrespect to them and their turducken QB situation, if we are the caliber that I think-hope-wish we are this year, the score should be 37 (5 TDs, 1 FG, 1 missed PAT), vs 10 before AH training quarter.
    Final score 44-17.

  17. loadofwashmother - Sep 6, 2012 at 9:04 AM

    Load of wash , get out of my basement you need to do your laundry and fold I am tired of cleaning up you tire track in you underwear ! That’s enough living in my basement ! 😉

  18. Patrick Hannegan - Sep 6, 2012 at 3:05 PM

    Honestly, this should not even be a single digit win for ND. If we play as clean as we did last week, we will put up another big score on offense. All Golson will do is get better with the experience, the stadium will be rocking (I will be screaming my mind off there), and we will put the game away early. Yeah, we might let up 17 points due to a weakness in the secondary but our defense with Teo, big ole Louis Nix, Tuitt, and Williams should hold them to under 20 points. I feel like we should be able to ride an early momentum swing to put up 21+ in the first half. If we are big time and the real deal, we should win by 20+. I feel like we are the real deal this time and that is why I feel like we will win 48-17.

    • dickasman - Sep 7, 2012 at 3:48 PM

      I agree. Bottom line is purdue stinks. I’m expecting another navy game basically but I’ll take a dubya here for sure. We have no room to lose to subpar teams this season. If we lose this game the entire football team deserves to remain virgin for rest of their lives. If the fans aren’t loud, the entire ndnation deserves to remain virgin for rest of our lives.

      • tradertrik - Sep 7, 2012 at 11:48 PM

        Too late……….

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