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The good, the bad, the ugly: Notre Dame vs. Purdue

Sep 9, 2012, 11:30 PM EDT

Robert Maci, Joe Gilliam, Everett Golson AP

Say this: Brian Kelly certainly gives you something to talk about.

A week after spending most of the afternoon pounding the ball on the ground, the head coach needed to rely on the passing game to beat the scrappy Purdue Boilermakers. He also needed to dig deep into his bench, with seven regulars hurt during the game.

There’s been enough discussion about Kelly’s decision to bring in junior Tommy Rees to close the game out, which he did successfully as he led the Irish to the game-winning field goal without any timeouts.

A win is a win is a win is a win. Don’t believe me? Go ask Arkansas, who had their hopes dashed with a loss to Louisiana-Monroe. Or Oklahoma State, who just gave Rich Rodriguez the signature victory he desperately craved in Ann Arbor.

After winning with style in Dublin, the Irish fought their way to an ugly win and crawled up two spots in the AP poll to No. 20, as they await a primetime match-up in East Lansing with No. 10 Michigan State.

Let’s close the book on Purdue and take a look at the good, bad, and ugly of the Irish’s 20-17 win.


Being 2-0. Maybe some of you missed it, but the Irish are 2-0 for the first time since 2008. A season after the Irish had BCS aspirations and proceeded to open with two mind-numbing losses, the Irish handled their business in adversity, not melting down after the Boilermakers tied the game at 17 and finished the deal.

Was it pretty? No. But with a schedule like this, style points are unnecessary. Advance and survive. Especially dealing with the adversity the Irish faced on Saturday.

Everett Golson’s passing game. In his second start, the sophomore answered any questions there might have been about his arm. Tasked with moving the Irish offense as the running game sputtered, Golson completed 21 of 31 throws for 289 yards and a touchdown. Obviously, the young quarterback wasn’t on the field for the game’s final drive, but Kelly had this to say about his performance.

“I thought he threw the ball very well yesterday,” Kelly said. “He missed one pass that we thought that we should have connected on.”

Missing one throw out of 31 isn’t all that bad, and while the reliance on the passing game may leave many Irish fans wondering what happened to the running game, it also gives Mark Dantonio a little bit more to think about when he starts his game plan for the Irish offense.

Tyler Eifert. After being neutralized in the season opener thanks to the game plan, Eifert reminded everybody why he’s the most dangerous tight end in the country. His four catches for 98 yards would’ve been more if he didn’t sit out much of the fourth quarter with a slight concussion, which has already been cleared. After not utilizing the vertical seams in week one, the young quarterback and the All-American tight end showed improved chemistry.

Stephon Tuitt. That’s four sacks through two outings for the 6-foot-6, 305-pound sophomore. Tuitt matched Purdue’s All-American candidate Kawann Short with four tackles and two sacks, and continued his assault on offensive lines. With Kapron Lewis-Moore on the sidelines for most of the game, Tuitt carried the load at defensive end.

Louis Nix. He may have been overshadowed by Tuitt, but Nix played possibly his best game in an Irish uniform, with 1.5 sacks and four tackles of his own. It appears the junior defensive tackle has elevated his game, proving himself a capable run-stuffer and teaming with Tuitt and Lewis-Moore for the most physically imposing defensive front in recent history.

The Secondary. After worrying much of the Irish fan base with its pedestrian work against Navy, the young Irish secondary did its job against Purdue, holding Boilermakers quarterbacks to 19 of 37 throwing for 198 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. More impressive, the Irish managed to defend with more youth in the back-end, getting solid contributions from freshmen (eligibility-wise) KeiVarae Russell, Matthias Farley, Elijah Shumate, and Jalen Brown.

For those worried that the Irish wouldn’t have the personnel to run multiple defensive backs onto the field, defensive coordinator Bob Diaco might have put out the first dime defense of his tenure, with six Irish DBs on the field: Zeke Motta, Jamoris Slaughter, and Matthias Farley manning the safety slots, with corners Russell, Bennett Jackson, and Shumate in coverage as well.

Tommy Rees. Brian Kelly called his number and the junior quarterback delivered. Welcomed by boos and hecklers in his home stadium (not to mention vitriol and anger across the interwebs), Rees calmly did his job, putting together a key drive with reserve wideouts and a missing All-American tight end.

Brian Kelly gave Rees the game ball after the victory and Rees led the Irish as they sang the fight song. He also calmed down any worries that Rees would assume a Mariano Rivera like role at the end of tight football games.

“No, it’s not a role. I see it as if we feel like Tommy can help us win a game or he can come in in a situation where we believe it’s the right fit, then he’ll be prepared to do so,” Kelly said. “But no, I don’t see this as, you know, and I use this baseball analogy: We would like our starters to finish the game. We want them to go all nine innings. But occasionally, you may need some help. Maybe you need long relief and maybe you need some short relief. I don’t want to take anything off the table, but we like our starter to start and finish it.”

Kyle Brindza. After badly missing a kick earlier, the sophomore pounded through the game winning without hesitation. He’ll now be in competition with Nick Tausch for the placekicking duties when Tausch is cleared to return from a groin strain.

The injuries. Usually you’d file this under bad, but it appears there’s nothing but good news after the Irish were missing seven players as the game wore on. Both Eifert and Slaughter are already cleared for practice this week. Golson is cleared as well. Daniels has an ankle sprain, which might nag him for a bit, but he’ll be back, building on another strong performance.

The turnover margin. Don’t look now, but that’s another positive game in the turnovers category for the Irish. After spending last season ranked No. 119 out of 120 at -16, the Irish now sit at No. 7 in the country through two games. Breaking in a new quarterback, that’s a heck of an accomplishment.


The running game. After mauling Navy on the ground, the Irish were stuck dead in their tracks against Purdue’s talented front. (Yes, it does bear repeating — Purdue’s front is talented. Kawann Short looked every bit the part of a first round draft pick. And word out of West Lafayette is that Ryan Russell, who had seven tackles and 2.5 TFLs Saturday, is a player the Boilermakers coaching staff thinks has more talent than Ryan Kerrigan.) Regardless of the personnel across from them, the Irish offensive line played a poor football game. Mike Golic Jr. routinely got beat at the line of scrimmage against Short, and Zack Martin played an uncharacteristic game for the senior, noticed far too often for mistakes than his usually reliable self.

Whether it was because of Purdue’s scheme or the Irish game plan, the run was a secondary option to the pass on Saturday. While you might not agree with it, the strategy worked for the Irish. Notre Dame still controlled the time of possession, while gaining 8.3 yards per passing attempt versus only 1.4 yards per rush.

Third down defense. The Irish did just fine for most of the game on first and second down, but Purdue continued to extend drives with third down conversions. The Irish gave up 11 of 19 on third down, turning what could’ve been a dominant defensive performance into a game that almost got away from Notre Dame.

Quarterback Caleb TerBush was Purdue’s most effective runner, gaining 6.8 yards a carry and scrambling for a few key first downs. With multiple key contributors off the field, we’ll give the Irish a free pass this time around. But the difference between a good defense and a great one is the ability to get off the field, and Bob Diaco’s guys didn’t do it on Saturday.

4th and 10. When push came to shove for the Irish defense, linebacker Carlo Calabrese got beat on a play that could’ve closed out the game. Here’s how Kelly described the play on Sunday.

“They attacked our will linebacker,” Kelly said. “So our will doesn’t come out of the game. And they set him up with a pretty good double move… The will linebacker is a guy that we have confidence can play that No. 2 receiver.”

There’s a lot of things Calabrese can do, but playing one-on-one with a team’s inside receiver isn’t one of them. Whether it was due to injuries or inexperience, Kelly leaned on Calabrese on the inside while Dan Fox, a much better player in pass coverage, shifted outside. Don’t expect to see that again.

Penalties and Clock Management. After playing a clean game, the Irish had eight penalties against the Boilermakers. That’s too many, especially when captains Manti Te’o and Martin are picking up personal fouls. And for as good as Golson looked throwing the ball, he struggled identifying fronts and getting the play called and run, burning multiple timeouts early in each half.

Game Management. This isn’t knocking Kelly and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin for taking too long to get the offensive plays in, this is a knock on them for not getting the ball into the hands of George Atkinson more. Whether or not the running game is neutralized, the Irish need to make an effort to get the ball to Atkinson. He’s too big of a home run threat not to. Adding Cierre Wood back into the offense this week will only make this even more of a challenge, and credit Kelly for acknowledging the need to figure this out.

“We really have to make sure we get him into the game and find ways to get those touches to him,” Kelly said of Atkinson, who only had one carry. “So I think it’s something we’ll have a heightened awareness in making sure that those guys get the ample touches necessary to help our offense. So I think that falls on my shoulders and Coach Martin’s shoulders to make sure that happens.”

Special Teams. Brindza may have made the game winner, but that’s another missed kick for the Irish early this season. The Irish also let Raheem Mostert get outside of containment on kick coverage, turning a very good kickoff into even better field position when Mostert got around end. Ben Turk was also hot and cold punting, nailing two nice kicks but also throwing a few wobblers out there.


Booing Tommy Rees. That a home crowd would shower boos on Rees as he prepared to take the Irish down the field to win the game is unfathomable to me. The junior quarterback, who was a punching bag all offseason and the primary scape goat for the Irish’s disappointing 8-5 2011 campaign, did nothing to deserve the heckling. At a place like Notre Dame, the classless gesture was more than a little surprising.

Rees can’t undo the sophomore season he had. He took his demotion and suspension with grace, acting as a model teammate as he helped prep Golson for a starting job many inside the program still thought should be his. Rees roomed with Golson during fall camp and has acted like another coach as he only took mental reps up until this week.

There’s no doubt that the overwhelming majority of Notre Dame fans believe Golson should be the starting quarterback this year. So does Brian Kelly. But if the Irish are going to maximize their wins in a season where Ws won’t come easily, they’re going to need to use all of their assets. And Tommy Rees is one of them.

Why a large group of Notre Dame “fans” can’t figure that out is beyond me.



126 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. dmac4real - Sep 10, 2012 at 2:14 PM

    I knew Tuitt has played well, but my his stats are ridiculous. Wow. Dude is a freak.

    I still will not support the decision, but ive moved past anger and into the content stage as we are finally 2-0.

    Show em what ya got Everett. Go irish.

    • ndbcs2013 - Sep 10, 2012 at 10:47 PM

      Mr. Tuitt is tied for 18th in all of NCAA for tackles for loss at 2.0 per game.

  2. irish2011 - Sep 10, 2012 at 3:26 PM

    CAN WE MOVE ON!!! Bring on MSU!!!!! GO IRISH

  3. fnc111 - Sep 10, 2012 at 3:38 PM

    Keith easily forgets the Michigan, SC, Stanford and FSU games. Tommy is good against Purdue and Maryland. Who wouldn’t be against teams like that? Shocking KA doesn’t understand that TR cant compete against the big boys.

    I don’t like TR as a player or a person after he ran ND’s name through the mud this off season after turning the ball over 20 times last season. MAC level talent should be thankful to be at ND. He better stop acting like a child.

    I do not boo it is embarrassing to hear that in the stands. I’m pretty sure the fans were booing Kelly for the change not TR himself. Kelly is an idiot and people in the stands are starting to see he his Bob Davie all over again. If Kelly would just let the guys go out and play and stop getting his ego in the way ND could be very good.

    • nudeman - Sep 10, 2012 at 7:59 PM

      I am not crazy about Tommy as a player or person
      The beer incident was no big thing – could have happened to any one of us
      Thought he outright quit on them vs. FSU last year. The YouTube of that is embarrassing
      And was a big baby when benched vs. Stanford, when we all know he should have been benched weeks earlier

      As much as BK drives me nuts with his Rees man crush, still think he’s a good coach
      Keith, BK and Rees should consider a menage a trois

      • dickasman - Sep 11, 2012 at 1:02 AM

        So you don’t like Chris webber either, do you? I sure don’t…

    • 9irish - Sep 11, 2012 at 5:45 PM

      MAC level talent? I get your point….but Ben Roethlisburger might disagree. In other words, find a better insult!

  4. jommy995 - Sep 10, 2012 at 5:28 PM

    I hope I wouldn’t have booed out loud had I been at the game. Agree that’s classless. But subbing in a turnover machine rather than giving EG a little length on his leash sure seems like a boo-worthy coaching move. Yeah, we’ve seen the upside. Won a game we might well have won regardless. Whoo hoo. But the downside may be festering invisibly beneath the surface for some time. Who knows whether the move will prove to have been good, bad, or inconsequential.

    EG’s completion % and yards per attempt were off-the-charts good, by the way. This despite having to run the ball himself and having his offensive line revert to Charlie Weis form. So why’d he get yanked? The thumb, I hope.

    • 9irish - Sep 10, 2012 at 5:52 PM

      Forget the booing, that horse has been beat to death. They could’ve put Golic in there at QB and I wouldn’t have cared, as long as the job was done. I did NOT want that thing going into OT. Don’t know the exact numbers, but in my memory they are not good.

      • tpdsdomer - Sep 13, 2012 at 2:33 PM

        Notre Dame is 3-8 all-time in overtime games.

        I was in attendance at the Purdue game and was disgusted when I heard the booing whether it was for Reese going into the game or Kelly deciding to put him in. While I certainly did not agree with the move at the time, Notre Dame students, alums, staff, fans, etc., should NEVER boo our own people because it will never help our team win and it looks absolutely terrible. We should all be better than that! GO IRISH!!

  5. nchdomer - Sep 10, 2012 at 6:31 PM

    I agree with Keith’s analysis and appreciate his insights. No. 44 is the weak spot on our defense and fear he will be the opponent’s target the same way No. 4 was last year. He did not just get beat on the last Purdue score. He also had a hand in their first touchdown as well, at least from the replays I saw. Hopefully the coaching staff will do something to minimize his negative impact on the passing downs.
    Overall, this is a team on the rise. It just seems that the team and coaching staff are growing and getting better. Yes, mistakes continue. But there is a sense that the coaches learn from those and try not to repeat them. Go Irish!

  6. ndbcs2013 - Sep 10, 2012 at 11:05 PM

    With BYU cracking the top 25 this week, ND now has 5 of the top 25 teams on their schedule this year. That includes 3 of the top 10, and 2 of the top 5. I don’t know how it will all turn out this season, but I believe that this schedule will be a great builder of character for the program going forward. (Thus my monicker, which I have had for almost 2 years now.)

    I think that we are building up to something very good, and I think that the almost inevitable setbacks this year will be painful, but powerfully valuable. Patience will be a great virtue for all of us as we watch this process continue to slowly unfold. Stay thirsty my friends.

    The hotter the fire, the harder the steel.

    No pressure, no diamonds.

    • ndbcs2013 - Sep 10, 2012 at 11:11 PM

      CORRECTION: 6 of the top 25! I forgot the Cardinal… probably due to the whupping they’ve put on us the last three years.

  7. c4evr - Sep 10, 2012 at 11:40 PM

    On behalf of those who post here – both negative and positive – I take exception to the “fans” reference at the end of the article. Everyone that regularly posts comments here cares deeply enough about this university to passionately share their opinion and should never have their loyalty called into question. The negative posters possibly care more and hate to see a once proud tradition languish for this long. As far as the booing, debating the merits is moot… it is what it is. It’s up to the players and coaches to sort through the meaning. As far as I’m concerned, it perhaps was a collective boo for the perceived ‘three steps backward’ feeling it represented. Time will tell. Just don’t question our fanhood. I’ve seen fair weather fans. I lived in LA for 20 years where people come late and leave early for title contenders. The result – 20 years without a professional football team. That’s apathy. The truth is, the positive posters need the negative posters here just as much as Keith needs both. The bottom line, everyone wants success on the field… just don’t marginalize those who happen to disagree with you.

    • dickasman - Sep 11, 2012 at 1:00 AM

      Wellput…also we are fans, we always have to have something to btch about!

    • irish4006 - Sep 11, 2012 at 1:01 PM

      This man speaks truth! Now that we know EG is still our starter, now that we know that we won the game, the self-righteous attention seekers decided to come out of the woodwork to boo the boo-birds. “I (would have) booed (if I was there), because I cared”, how about this for a slogan?

      Next thing you know, we will be in who is better, TR or EG debate the first time EG has a bad game. I am sure that will be very good for the team. Bottom line, we all saw where TR can take us, not very far. Let’s have some faith, give EG a fair chance. The playcalling too needs to be simplified, I don’t see any other team using so elaborate hand signalling that takes about 5 seconds to get in and another 5 to understand. What happened to the armbands?

      • tonynohopeturk - Sep 13, 2012 at 8:12 AM

        I agree !

  8. dickasman - Sep 11, 2012 at 12:58 AM

    Guys, can you imagine what we’d all be talking about if the ref hadn’t bet on the Irish and called a delay of game penalty? Nobody noticed that all Tommy Rees is a white Chris Webber? He should transfer to north Carolina, he could call timeouts he don’t have there all day, they’re use to it.

  9. irisheyesnate - Sep 11, 2012 at 5:41 AM

    Rees was solid in drive.

  10. ihatemistate - Sep 11, 2012 at 9:05 AM

    The good: Brian Kelly didn’t scream at the QB the entire game like he normally does. The Bad: He never used George Atkinson. What a coaching error. The Ugly: The offensive line. Geesh. MSU will have a field day with them. Now it’s clear that Navy is really bad and we’re not really good.

  11. irishayes - Sep 11, 2012 at 10:47 AM

    I am embarrassed to admit that I was one of the fans booing when Rees came in the game. Too many bad memories, I guess. Mr. Arnold is right to cast this as “ugly” and not what we want to do nor portray. My apologies to Rees and the rest of the team — I’ll be a better fan next time!

  12. ihatemistate - Sep 11, 2012 at 11:15 AM

    Rees should have been expelled when he fought with a police officer this summer. No excuses. ND has got to stop allowing this crap, football or no football. That is what makes Notre Dame what it is. Nothing personal against Rees, doesn’t matter who it is.

  13. wisner74 - Sep 11, 2012 at 1:28 PM

    I’ve followed this site for years, and love KA’s reporting and analysis. I’ve never commented before, but this discussion fascinates me. No argument from me that Golson should be our QB, but two facts about the Purdue game that I’m not sure have received enough consideration here:
    – After approximately 56 minutes of play the Golson-led offense had scored a total of 17 points, and three of those points were with a mighty assist from the defense with the INT deep in Purdue territory.
    – We had no timeouts left.
    I was at the game, and I also watched it via DVR on Sunday. It was less apparent on TV than it was from the stands, but in the second half Golson was being spoon-fed direction from the sideline on almost every single play. Play clock was usually < three seconds when the play got off. NBC used much of the extra time to show more replays. Another fact:
    – Yesterday's Chicago Tribune reported that BK said that in the second half Purdue "started doing complicated things on defense, forcing Golson to look to Kelly for 'check-with-me' adjustments."
    That's why all the timeouts had been burned. Golson may become a great QB for us, but right now he's still learning, and there was a game to be won.
    Many interesting arguments here from those who do not agree with BK's move, but given these FACTS, they don't hold up. When Rees came in I turned to my buddy and said "Oh, we might actually win this game."

  14. domer75 - Sep 11, 2012 at 4:02 PM

    The booing of a Notre Dame player by Notre Dame “Fans” is not acceptable. I remember being a Freshman at ND and Fans booing Cliff Brown when he was a part time starter. Couldn’t believe it. These players are not pros, they are kids playing a sport. Very disappointed by that. I am glad Tommy Rees came thru. Much more than the Fans did.

  15. irish4me - Sep 11, 2012 at 4:28 PM

    The best thing about the Purdue game is we won a game we would have certainly lost over the past several seasons. I am in 100% percent agreement that Golson is the QB this year. I think that Tommy has shown that he has limitations. That said, I was excited that he was entering the game. The team needed a lift. Golson had a great game if you look at the stats, but if you examine closely almost all of his passes were underthrown, I can’t honestly recall a single pass where the receiver was hit on the run, most of the passes were BY DESIGN of the buttonhook variety. Look at the game film and you will see what I mean. He was not really moving the team the last few drives and fumbled the ball at a critical time in our red zone. Tommy Rees on the other hand did not have great stats, but he played SMART football, look at the game again, he makes every throw to a spot where ONLY his receiver can catch the ball, even the so-called lame duck as someone posted that he threw up with an in your face intense rush to Goodson on 3rd down was up in the air where Goodson could easily out jump his shorter defender. Give the kid his due, he saved the day and the game, it’s just a fact. It doesn’t mean that he should get the start or Golson gets an early hook next time. It’s what the situation called for and I give BIG props to coach Kelly for having the testosterone to make the right call.
    What I didn’t like on the day was the quick abandonment of the rush, it didn’t work for a few plays and was rejected for the remainder of the day. Also the unexplainable absence of George Atkinson III in the offense, what the heck was that about? This kid could be the next “Rocket” Ismail, get this speedster some action for crying out loud. I am expecting a return to basics (smash mouth football) with the return of Woods this week. I would also like to see some passes that actually lead the receiver by Golson, we’re not gonna beat the heavyweights on the schedule with those kind of rudimentary passes.
    It’s good that we play Michigan first as they are the lesser of the 2 Michigan teams, I believe we can go in their house and win for 60 minutes this time. It’s very early and we just don’t know yet how good we are or even Purdue is for that matter. Let’s win one, not for the Gipp but for all of us that have hung with this team through the lean times. If we win this one, we’ll take the next one too, and then who knows after that. Think positive, it costs nothing.

    • c4evr - Sep 12, 2012 at 12:58 PM

      My only fear is that your first paragraph is exactly what Kelly was thinking. It’s the same thinking that got Cryst pulled time and again. If EG starts hesitating now, expect the next round of musical QB’s.

    • tonynohopeturk - Sep 13, 2012 at 8:20 AM

      I like and agree with your commentary. Thanks.

  16. irishdodger - Sep 11, 2012 at 6:30 PM

    I don’t care if Cierre Wood or Jerome Bettis is in the backfield this Saturday, Sparty has a better D than Purdont & will crush ND.

  17. nchdomer - Sep 11, 2012 at 6:33 PM

    I had forgotten but now remember the booing of Cliff Brown, too. First time I saw a student player being booed by his own school. Disappointing to see then and still disappointing to see. Still believe in this team and the coaches. MSU will be the better test. As I recall, Purdue is generally a tough out, especially in those years when ND is in the hunt for a good season.

  18. tonynohopeturk - Sep 12, 2012 at 11:58 AM

    “im coming for ya Keith” (ask dan schofield about CHAMPS SPORTS BOWL incident… strange man knocking him off platform) your a “hater” ….. putting Ben Turk on the “Bad” performance list for the game proves it . Turks 1st punt was 51 yrds in the “redzone” which eventually resulted in a Purdue punt. The two “wobblers” (one of which was still 41 yrds), you speak of had no-returns on them. And Turk’s last and MOST IMPORTANT punt…..”54 yards” . ND needed that last punt of Turk’s to be good….he delivered with a 54 yarder. That’s not good…it’s “great” ! It’s called “clutch” . Turk also handled a not so great snap and got it down for Brindza’s “game-winner”. . . that’s also “clutch” . . . in a “gameWinning” moment .
    So , tell everyone , why’s Turk on the “Bad” performance list again ? YOU don’t have to tell me. You’ve never had anything good to say about Turk since he chose Notre Dame 4 years ago . Just like Dan Schoefield…..Turk puts Notre Dame in a position to WIN last years CHAMPS SPORTS BOWL in the 4th QT with a 51 yard punt (in the air) that bounced at the 2…and was downed at the 1. . . “clutch” . Aaron Lynch and company got “fired-up” and promptly forced FSU to punt and their “All-American punter “chocked” under the pressure and “shanked” a 25 yarder. Unfortunately , Rees threw (bad play call anyways), an interception in the” Endzone” (on 1st dwn too), or we would of been talking about “TURK” being one of the heroe’s of the game . Turk has picked up right where he left off last season….coming thru in the “CLUTCH” !
    Like i said …..”i’ll be seeing YOU” .

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