It’s that time of year again. The annual Shamrock Series. For a program built upon tradition and history, consider the Shamrock Series something similar — only started five years ago. (So maybe not that similar at all.)
But the newest barnstorming efforts have warmed up even the most ardent traditionalist, and while the Irish will be taking the field in alternate uniforms (more on this later), the game has grown on people. Starting in San Antonio, moving to Yankee Stadium, the nation’s capital, Solider Field and Jerry Jones’ football Xanadu, the Shamrock Series has taken Notre Dame into geographically important locations and usually paired the Irish will an equally interesting opponent. Making it even better? The Irish have always gone home happy, rolling along to a victory in each of the five games.
Of course, battling Purdue in Indianapolis won’t get confused for playing Miami in Chicago or playing the first football game in new Yankee Stadium. But for an in-state rivalry that’s often felt like second fiddle, it’s almost appropriate that the annual battle for the Shillelagh will end Saturday night, putting a stop to a 69-game streak that was tied for the fourth longest in NCAA history.
With two Irish captains hailing from inside the city limits, returning to Indianapolis will be a homecoming of sorts. With 35 native Hoosiers taking the field between teams, it’ll serve as a regional showcase, not necessarily the original idea for the game, but nothing to be ashamed of, either.
With NBC broadcasting another primetime affair (kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET), let’s get your ready with our Pregame Six Pack. As usual, here are six tidbits, fun facts, leftovers or miscellaneous musings to get you ready for Notre Dame and Purdue.
After 69 years, a streak ends. Let’s show it some respect.
Notre Dame and Purdue are set to play again in 2020, but an annual battle that dates back to 1946 is ending. That’s a product of a nine-game Big Ten schedule and Notre Dame’s five-game scheduling alliance with the ACC.
A week after the college football world practically mourned the loss of the Irish’s rivalry with Michigan, the break in the series with Purdue is merely a passing thought. And while the Irish’s 57-26-2 record is fairly one-sided, consider this a reminder that there’s been some very good football played in this series.
Here’s a walk down memory lane:
1950, 1954, 1965 and 1967: Purdue knocked off a Notre Dame team that was ranked No. 1 in the country.
1968: With Purdue ranked No. 1 and Notre Dame No.2, the Irish knocked off the Boilermakers 37-22
1979: Purdue quarterback Mark Herrmann led a second-half comeback to beat the No. 5 Irish 28-22.
1984: In their last (and only) neutral site meeting, an unranked Purdue squad knocked off No. 8 Notre Dame 23-21.
1997: In just his second game at Purdue, Joe Tiller shocked Bob Davie’s No. 12 Irish 28-17.
1999: With 3rd-and-goal at the 1, Notre Dame can’t get a final snap off, losing to No. 20 Purdue at Ross-Ade Stadium.
2000: Returning the favor, Nick Setta’s field goal with time expiring beat Drew Brees and the No. 13 Boilermakers
2009: With an injury that looked a lot worse than “turf toe,” Jimmy Clausen hit Kyle Rudolph to pull out a win 24-21.
2012: After Purdue tied the game at 17, Tommy Rees entered to boos and led ND to a winning field goal in the game’s final seconds.
2013: Purdue scored the game’s first 10 points, but a 21-point fourth quarter and a pick six help ND win 31-24.
If Purdue managed to find a way to pull off a victory on Saturday night, it’d go to the top of this list as one of the most improbable in the series. And Boilermakers head coach Darrell Hazell knows it.
“I think we can go win this game with the mentality that no one expects us to win,” Hazell said this week.
Notre Dame has a chance to start 3-0. That’s a much bigger deal than you’d expect
Notre Dame stands a win against Purdue away from starting the season 3-0. That would mark the second time in three seasons that the Irish have accomplished that feat.
That stat likely garners a polite golf clap from a usually demanding Irish crowd. But consider that the last time Notre Dame pulled something like that off in two out of three years was during a four-year run in the glory days of Lou Holtz, when the Irish started 3-0 in four straight seasons from 1987-90.
After entering more than a few seasons over the past decade or so with lofty expectations, “Call me after September” turned into a default answer when asked if the Irish had what it takes to compete that season. But a victory over Purdue and a bye week off before heading to the Meadowlands to play Syracuse put the Irish in a place where they’ll likely be 4-0 when they welcome Stanford to South Bend, a game that could have early playoff implications.
From there, things toughen quite a bit, with the Cardinal, North Carolina and Florida State Notre Dame’s October foes. But for anyone looking for another data point that Brian Kelly has things pointing in the right direction, just look at the past 25 years.
Another week, another football game with no news on the suspension of Notre Dame’s five players.
While the resounding victory certainly muted any of the riotous volleying through Notre Dame’s fandom, another week has come and gone with no update from the university administration on the academic honesty hearings for DaVaris Daniels, Eilar Hardy, Kendall Moore, KeiVarae Russell and Ishaq Williams.
After telling the media two weeks ago that the official investigation into the matter was finished, the Honor Code proceedings, run by the Provost office, have moved forward with radio silence. While that’s been frustrating to the players, their families, their teammates and the Irish coaching staff, Kelly continues to take a “What can you do?” approach.
“You guys are anxious. I’m anxious. We’re all anxious,” Kelly said. “We all want to know but there’s nothing we can do.
“This is separation of church and state. This is the deans. They have their domain and that’s their business. It truly is their business and I respect that. They don’t give me advice about play calling and that’s the truth of the matter. Whether that’s a poor analogy or not, they handle academic honest. They handle those things. That’s their domain and that’s their world. I want my guys back but I get it.”
Kelly said that in a hypothetical world where any of his players are cleared to return to the team even on Friday, he’d dress them and bring them to Indianapolis. Unsure of how prepared they’d be, he’d welcoming them back with open arms.
But result is still unexpected, so the Irish will likely do battle down three projected starters and two veteran reserves for the third time this year.
In Notre Dame’s two opening victories, Everett Golson and the Irish offense have finished the first half with a flourish.
While both of the Irish’s first two victories looked to be of the blowout variety, both football games would’ve had a much different complexion if Everett Golson didn’t play incredibly dynamic football in the minutes before halftime. The Irish scored a combined 28 points in the final four minutes of the second quarter, putting up two touchdowns against both Rice and Michigan.
“Offensively, obviously the quarterback is a special guy. He makes a lot of plays,” Hazell said this week when asked talking about Golson. “He got himself out of trouble against Rice, he got himself out of trouble against Michigan and made some huge plays for them, especially right before the half. I thought that was the big deciding factor in both of those games, he made some very big plays.”
Golson’s numbers in these critical moments are ridiculous, with the Irish scoring touchdowns on their final two drives before half in each football game. Against Rice, Golson was a bit more heroic; against Michigan more methodical.
Golson was three of four before scampering into the end zone from 14 yards out to score with just 3:18 remaining. But after Matthias Farley’s interception of Driphus Jackson, Golson threw two perfect long balls. The first was dropped by Will Fuller, but C.J. Prosise made amends for an earlier drop, converting a 53-yarder for a touchdown with just five seconds remaining in the half.
Against Michigan, Golson’s penultimate drive before half was a time-consuming march. The Irish went 13 plays over 5:14, with Golson going six of seven before hitting Amir Carlisle on a rollout on 3rd and Goal. The critical throw on that drive was a 4th and 3 conversion, where Golson threw a perfect strike to Will Fuller who beat Blake Countess on an inside release.
With only 1:24 left on the clock, Golson went to work again, escaping danger before finding Fuller, Cam McDaniel and Ben Koyack. But the dagger was the perfect throw to the corner of the end zone, with Fuller beating Countess on 3rd and 1 for a back-breaking 24-yard touchdown.
That staggeringly good football in the minutes before halftime serves as a bullet to the heart of an opponent. We’ll see if Golson delivers another one on Saturday night.
In the short history of the Shamrock Series, Under Armour’s first effort is a good one.
Few things in college football are as hallowed as the golden helmets and traditional blue and gold of Notre Dame’s uniforms. But even fewer things are more beloved to recruits and 18-to-22-year-old college football players than alternate uniforms.
So while the men on the front porch will never get past seeing the Irish wearing some uniform that makes them look like a team straight out of Any Given Sunday, give Under Armour credit for playing to the soul of the university when it designed this year’s uniform.
While we’re talking alternate uniforms, let’s turn back the clock and take a look at the recent tweaks made.
Notre Dame vs. Army in 2010:
Review: Man, that helmet used to be ugly. But it’s tough to screw up that classic green jersey.
Notre Dame vs. Maryland in 2011:
Review: Look at all the mismatching golds, all on George Atkinson. And don’t get me started on the helmet swirls.
Notre Dame vs. Michigan in 2011:
Review: Everything about this game looked pretty good until the fourth quarter. Even the retro uniforms.
Notre Dame vs. Miami in 2012:
Review: Inverted leprechauns, unbalanced helmet colors. The Irish sure played better than they looked.
Notre Dame vs. Arizona State in 2013:
Review: Not much to complain about with these uniforms. The all-white look was really smooth.
After mastering the fundamentals under Bob Diaco, the Irish are playing a new game on defense under Brian VanGorder.
While the fist pump may be the thing that went viral, Brian VanGorder’s work coaching the Irish defense is doing the same thing to future opponents. After a flurry of third down blitzes and packages suffocated Michigan’s offense, Purdue is just one of ten remaining opponents that are hard at work breaking down tape of Notre Dame’s multiple looks.
Tim Prister over at Irish Illustrated took a deep dive ($) into VanGorder’s exotic third down looks against Devin Gardner and came out thinking no two looked the same. That evaluation may be mirrored by Purdue offensive coordinator John Shoop, who talked about the multiplicity of the Irish blitz packages while complimenting the personnel as well.
“They’re a talented group. They’re a talented group at every level, up front, at the linebackers, in the secondary,” Shoop said. “Scheme-wise, they have as much volume as anybody we’ve seen in a long time.”
Darrell Hazell was adamant about Purdue needing to succeed on first and second down, likely calling on running backs Akeem Hunt and Raheem Mostert, the Big Ten sprint champion.
“Their makeup is completely different on third down than it is on first and second down,” Hazell said, talking about the Irish defense. “You can’t let them get into 3rd-and-9s or 11s, because then they’re going to heat you up.”
For all the worries that existed this offseason about a young Irish defense struggling to mesh with a complex, scheme-heavy defensive coordinator (don’t lie, the name Tenuta came into your head a few times), Notre Dame’s defense has been one of the surprising early successes of the season.
Interestingly, Kelly credited the guy who was no longer on the sidelines for making it all possible.
“It was a big shift. But the fundamentals are there,” Kelly said earlier this week. “When we came here, Bob was the right fit for me, as we needed to reestablish the fundamentals of defense here at Notre Dame. We did that. We laid those principals down, and now we were ready for that next step. And Brian’s brought in some very aggressive packages, especially on third down. Those teams that come in to the game on third down have been very disruptive, and I think it’s the next step for our defensive progression.”