There’s no doubt the loss to Michigan still stings for Irish fans. But Brian Kelly’s squad has no choice but to move forward. If there was a common theme in the postgame comments from the players that spoke to the media, it’s that they’ve got 24 hours, and it’s on to Purdue.
It might have taken most Irish supporters longer than that, and it’ll likely be a conversation that continues throughout the season, but that’s why fans are fans. So as we get into the Irish Blogger Gathering, let’s check in with NDNation’s Mike Coffey, who I’m sure has more than a few thoughts on where the Irish stand after two games.
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Here are my questions and Mike’s answers. Feel free to play along in the comments.
1) With the loss to Michigan now in the rearview mirror, what’s the most important thing for this team to reestablish this weekend?
The most important thing ND can do this weekend is re-establish focus on defense. Two sub-par performances have the unit back on its heels. We’re all aware of the offense’s limitations, but that was a problem going into the season. The defensive problems have come out of the blue, and if they’re not corrected, will doom this season.
2) Postgame at Michigan, Brian Kelly was very careful with his words, but seemed to think the offense needed to do a better job picking up the slack against a team like Michigan. Yet the defense gave up 41 points. Through two weeks, what’s your assessment of both units?
The defense’s regression probably is the biggest disappointment of the season so far. There really isn’t any facet of the unit I could say is performing well, other than Jaylon Smith. What this unit needs more than anything is for someone like Louis Nix to take command on the field and start demanding more focus.
On offense, while I like the yardage totals we’re racking up between the 20s, we continue to see poor red zone efficiency, due (I believe) to imbalance in the play-calling scheme. Three pass plays after first and goal is not going to get the job done, especially with a quarterback who is not a threat to run the ball at all. Until we see more balance inside the 20 yard line, we’re still going to see field goals instead of touchdowns, and coupled with the defense’s problems, that could spell losses.
3) Name one player on offense and one player on defense that you want to see more of this Saturday?
On offense, I’d like to see more of Greg Bryant. His running style seems tailor-made for the kind of offense ND needs to throw at Purdue Saturday – a soul-crushing ground game.
Defensively, I want to hear Sheldon Day’s name get called a lot. Purdue doesn’t have a mobile quarterback or a high-powered offense, so we should see good pressure being generated by the front three guys. I’m guessing the Boilers will be focused on stopping Nix and Tuitt, which should leave Day with some good opportunities.