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Pregame Six Pack: Boiler up

Sep 13, 2013, 2:15 AM EST

US Presswire US Presswire

It may lack the wattage of last Saturday night’s primetime affair, but this weekend’s date with Purdue counts the same as the other eleven regular season games. With the Irish coming off a damaging defeat at the hands of Michigan that felt like a game that slipped away, Notre Dame will have a chance to rebound against Darrell Hazell’s Boilermakers that still seem to be finding their footing.

Hazell has already talked about the importance of this weekend’s game, and took to the school’s newspaper to implore the students “to get to Ross-Ade Stadium early, be loud and help us turn up the heat on the Fighting Irish.”

With No. 21 Notre Dame and Purdue set to play in primetime on Saturday night, let’s dig into the pregame six pack. As usual, here are six tidbits, leftovers, fun facts, and miscellaneous musings before the Irish and Boilermakers go to battle.

***

Brian Kelly has heard your plea to put Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston in the game. But finding carries is the hard part. 

If there was a question that overwhelmed the inbox this week, it was how Kelly and his offensive game plan could feature more of Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston. After looking mighty impressive in fall camp, Irish fans have waited to see what the freshman — especially Bryant — could do when he got his chance. Eight quarters later, this group is demanding an impact from one of the nation’s top freshman running backs.

When asked about his young backs today, Kelly explained that it wasn’t a learning curve Bryant and Folston were battling, but rather finding the snaps for a unit that’s already pushed Will Mahone into the slot rotation.

“They’re not being held back. The game itself and the way the game is played will determine how many running backs you can get in the game,” Kelly said. “I’m not just going to shuffle four or five guys in there if we’re in a game where I want to do a specific thing offensively. It really depends on how the game unfolds. I have confidence in all those guys.

“It’s not easy. I have no problem playing my freshmen running backs. We just have to find the right opportunities and when they need to be in the game.”

***

Let’s see if the Irish can get their red zone offense back on track. 

Whoever is carrying the ball for Notre Dame this weekend will likely get a few totes inside the Purdue 20-yard-line, especially after passing the ball on 12 of 13 snaps in the red zone against Michigan. That kind of balance could be a product of some unfriendly run looks, but also is something that the Irish need to challenge regardless.

Through two games, the Irish have scored touchdowns on just 42 percent of their red zone appearances, good for 102nd in the nation through eight quarters. And while Tommy Rees will need to be more accurate throwing the football, Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison made some interesting comments this week when talking about the Wolverines decided to defend the Irish offense last week.

“Our game plan was not to sell the farm a lot,” Mattison said. “We didn’t want to put our secondary in a position where a big play could get us. That secondary, I thought, did exactly what we hoped they would do as far as the game plan of keeping the ball inside and in front.

“We just have to hold them to no big plays and then when the field shrinks, now you have to hope that they do what they’re taught to do and how they’ve been practicing, and that’s what they did.”

With a shrunken field, let’s see if Kelly calls on his offensive line to make some room for the offense, doing so even against a sturdy Purdue defensive front.

***

Getting the defense back on track might be helped by playing a Purdue offense that’s really struggling. 

It’s still a surprise that Michigan’s offense was able to put up 41 points against Bob Diaco’s defense. But there may be no better slumpbuster for a unit feeling down than Purdue’s offense, which currently sits at 118th in the country. (Want to see something crazy? Take a look at Alabama’s offense, which enters week three at 123rd. Meanwhile, USC’s is 115th.)

Purdue offensive coordinator John Schoop talked about the challenges his offensive line faces this week playing against Louis Nix, Sheldon Day and Stephon Tuitt.

“We have to be as physical as we’ve ever been on the offensive line this week”, Shoop said. “We’re going against some guys that are just flat big, and we have to be as physical as we can in terms of protection and running the ball. I think we were a little more physical from week one to two, but we have to take it up exponentially this week against these guys.”

Also working against the Boilermakers is an injury to tight end Gabe Holmes, one of Purdue’s better offensive weapons. Hazell categorized Holmes’ injury as “pretty serious,” and all reports have him out for Saturday night and potentially the season. Holmes was the team’s leading receiver through two games.

***

After a tough loss, Kelly and the coaching staff did their best to pick up the slack. 

It’s been quite some time since the Irish had to rebound from a defeat. The team’s last three losses gave the team quite a bit of time to regroup, with defeats coming in two bowl games and a regular season finale.

But with a short week to get their confidence rebuilt and the team ready for another game, Kelly and his staff controlled things more this week than in the past, forcing the players to follow the beat of its leaders.

“Sometimes when you’re winning, you kind of let the players keep moving in the right direction,” Kelly said. “You’re still winning. You kind of let things go. You chalk it up to that’s the personality of this team.

“The coaches took over this week. We made sure that we did the things that we need to do. I’m sure that the players understand that that’s the way that practice has to go and they embraced that.”

It’s interesting that we’ve had all sorts of discussions about this team’s leadership and that after the loss Kelly made sure he and the coaches were providing the direction, not just the team’s three captains. Especially with a group without a transcendent leader like Manti Te’o, listening to the voices of the coaching staff should be one of the quickest ways to get mentally back on track.

***

When Purdue and Notre Dame play, there are always lots of connections on both sidelines. That’s certainly the case this weekend. 

Two in-state teams that have faced off every year since 1946 are bound to have things in common. Let’s check out a couple interesting layers to the Purdue-Notre Dame rivalry.

First let’s get to the obvious one. Running back Amir Carlisle is facing off with his father Duane, Purdue’s strength and conditioning coach. I had a chance to chat briefly with Carlisle after the Michigan game, and one of the few things that brought a smile to his face was thinking about playing against his dad. Duane, who is in his second year as Director of Sports Performance for the school as well as head strength and conditioning coach, talked about facing off with his son this weekend.

“You can think about how you’re going to feel, but I don’t know that I can actually plan for something like this,” the elder Carlisle told the Lafayette Journal Courier. “It’s a situation where Amir is playing for Notre Dame and I get an opportunity to see him.

“I’m just so thankful he’s on the field, because he’s battled through some adversity. It’s an opportunity for us to get a win as a team. I want us to win, but of course I want to see my son play well.”

Coaching against Notre Dame is one-time Irish linebacker Greg Hudson. Now the defensive coordinator under Hazell, Hudson returns to Indiana after coaching linebackers at Florida State.

“It never gets out of your system,” Hudson said of playing against his alma mater. “The (emotions) are probably a little higher, just because you’re directly in charge of that defense, and it’s also back here in Indiana. It feels like home. It’s a home game. And it has the bright lights and the big crew is coming in.”

Hudson was well known in recruiting circles probably for one of his biggest one-on-one battles against the Irish, when FSU went head-to-head for Aaron Lynch. Hudson ended up losing that battle (one that Notre Dame eventually lost just a few months later, when Lynch quit on the team.)

Lastly, key recruit Drue Tranquill will be in West Lafayette watching both teams intently. A soft commitment to Purdue, many believe it’s only a matter of time before Tranquill flips his commitment to the Irish, who see the high school safety following the path of Dan Fox and sliding down into the middle linebacker position. Tranquill will be on campus in South Bend next weekend to watch the Irish play Michigan State.

***

After turning over all three kicking jobs to Kyle Brindza, the Irish have another field position battle on their hands. 

It took exactly one week and a snap-hooked field goal attempt for Kyle Brindza to retake the field goal kicking job and become the Irish’s lone kicking specialist. While there’s time for Nick Tausch to fight his way back into the rotation and punter Alex Wulfeck has the ability to spell Brindza if needed, it’s the junior job.

Brindza talked about the increased workload and even acknowledged the need to put himself on a personal kick count, for fear he could leave his best stuff on the practice field.

“Even though my body might feel good, I’m still going to have a number count or else I might push it too much and wake up the next day and say ‘oh man, I feel horrible,’ ” Brindza told JJ Stankewitz of CSN Chicago.

If there’s one match-up you probably haven’t heard much about, it’s the battle at punter this weekend. Purdue’s Cody Webster is one of the nation’s top punters, and the Ray Guy Watch Lister carries an average of 49.9 yards a boot this year, besting everybody else in the country by more than a yard. With the Purdue offense still struggling to get the hang of their new offensive system, Webster will be a true weapon in the field position battle, a game that Brindza is still getting the hang of with his struggles directionally kicking.

Perhaps there’s one outlier that might actually flip this Purdue advantage in Notre Dame’s favor. While they haven’t been all that good in the red zone, Tommy Rees and the Irish offense have started four drives inside their own 20-yard line. They’ve scored touchdowns on three of them.

 

 

 

 

  1. rpbags - Sep 14, 2013 at 2:08 AM

    this is the offense that BK said he was gonna bring to ND and we have yet to see it, so does that mean he had better players at UC than he does at ND. I just dont get it and why recruit kids and sit them on the bench? Too much talent is being wasted in my opinion and GA0 as i like to call him has been the biggest let down since Ron Powlus, he might do things vs Purdue but he should and the whole team should. This game should not be in doubt by the time halftime gets here but something is telling me that its gonna be alot closer than we think it will be.

    The loss of EG to this team is the difference between 12-0 and 8-4…….

  2. 1historian - Sep 14, 2013 at 8:31 AM

    Could we have a moment of silence for Frank Tripucka? I remember watching him on a b&w tv in Farley Hall with about a 6 inch screen wearing those hideous uniforms Denver had with striped socks.

  3. thefightinfloyds - Sep 14, 2013 at 8:50 AM

    Nothing to do with ND but I just have to say…
    Of all the great moments in mankind…the beginnings of life, the formation of the written word, the signing of the magna carta. The Texas A&M, Alabama game will cast a long shadow over all…truly the absolute most monumental moment of all time. Scientists around the world agree that the calendar and time itself will start over again immediately after the game in what they are calling “zero hour”. Im so excited, im literally shitting blood all over myself…

    Sorry, I think the hype is getting to me a little bit. Im a fan but jesus, lets have a little perspective here.

  4. bearcatirishfan - Sep 14, 2013 at 10:24 AM

    How bout a moment for machine legaux.

    Anyone else see what happened to his knee against Illinois.

  5. nudeman - Sep 14, 2013 at 10:58 AM

    For anyone who thinks I’m hard on Tommy Rees, you should check out some of the other sites, particularly the 4HL. One guy is posting that he’ll never watch another ND game as long as he is the QB. And people are agreeing with him.

    Jesus …

    • don74 - Sep 14, 2013 at 12:29 PM

      Nude, you WERE hard on TR, past tense. Since EG’s, as they say “untimely departure”, your posts have been pretty even keeled re Tommy. He is what he is. Good enough to win when most everything goes right and when everything goes right, including a defender falling or missed assignment, better than many.

      When I read comments on some of the other sites I truly wonder what they expect from Kelly. Gunner left in the spring, EG took liberties with a balance sheet. (Not to digress but EG’s penalty for cheating in accounting was more severe than many Wall St firms received.)

      I laugh at the cry for MZ. He may be great but the kid has mono……………..I am positive fnc thinks on of ND’s hostesses gave it to him….oh yeah, ND doesn’t have hostesses. Or as dick would say HOstesses……….

      Let’s hope for an old fashion ND Purdue game………..48-0 to quiet the mob.

      • papadec - Sep 14, 2013 at 2:23 PM

        don – that’s ND with the 48 – right? I agree with your post!

  6. goirishgo - Sep 14, 2013 at 12:52 PM

    I agree. Nude, your comments re: Rees TY have been level headed and fair. As for the other sites, how much vitriol is directed at Golson? He’s the one who put the team in this position!

    As for watching the game, I can confidently say I will watch every game until I physically cannot. My wife and I got married in my parents’ house on 9/16/2000. We thought the Purdue game would be over by 4pm so scheduled the ceremony for that time. Game ran late and we paid the priest to stay until ND kicked a FG at the end to win it. Then we got married.

    • nudeman - Sep 14, 2013 at 1:01 PM

      There are some who take shots at Golson for his transgression but not a lot.

      • don74 - Sep 14, 2013 at 2:31 PM

        Golson was selfish and received the appropriate penalty. His teammates are the ones that need to get an apology. It will be interesting to see, IF he comes back, whether the team will see him in a leadership role.

  7. mdirish - Sep 14, 2013 at 2:35 PM

    I read almost every post by everyone on this site. By in large, this is the most intelligent group of bloggers I’ve come across. With that said, I’ve lost a lot of respect for anyone that thinks this teams problems are anything but the defense. Sure there are other things that need to improve on offense and special teams, but look at the numbers….the defense is struggling and they’re the reason the Irish are 1-1. Brian’s comments about the offense are to protect the image of the highly touted players on defense and Bob D. When they figure it out, and I’m betting they will, the team will go on a roll. If they don’t this will be a long and frustrating year.

  8. dbldmr - Sep 14, 2013 at 2:53 PM

    Commit to the run. Control the line of scrimmage and the clock. Rely on TR not to lose the game. Don’t expect him to win the game for you. Play some damn defense!

  9. dbldmr - Sep 14, 2013 at 2:56 PM

    Akron is beating Michigan???? Are you kidding me? Akron? Glad they’re not on the schedule.

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