Watching the start of many early games this Saturday, you see the collective hangover that’s wreaking havoc on a few highly touted Irish opponents. Michigan was down 10-7 to Akron in the third quarter, while Stanford was hanging tight to a 20-13 lead over Army around the same time. That’s college football, where as Brian Kelly often reminds you, motivating 18-to-21-year-olds is a big part of the equation.
With that in mind, Saturday night is a game that’s mighty important to Purdue. The Boilermakers will have what is likely their only nationally televised game of the season, and that’s plenty motivation for Darrell Hazell’s troops. What kind of crowd will it be? That depends. If you go on StubHub, plenty of good seats are still available. But if Purdue can stay in this game early, the environment will be plenty hostile for the Irish.
Let’s go over a few final thoughts before tonight’s national broadcast.
How will the Irish offense attack Purdue? After two games with Greg Hudson coordinating the defense, it’s hard to feel too confident about any known tendencies. But Cincinnati ran and passed for 200 yards against the Boilermakers and the Irish have much better personnel than the Bearcats.
After last weekend, many Irish fans are hoping to get the running game started. But with safety Landon Feichter gone and a stout and veteran front seven for the Boilermakers defense, throwing the ball might make the most sense.
Still, back to the basics for the Irish, who could use a lot of pistol in the running game, where I expect to see at least four runners get carries this evening.
Can the defense get their mojo back? There’s no offense to do it against like Purdue’s. This is a group that has played horrific football, gaining just 226 yards with four turnovers against Cincinnati and followed that up with just 284 yards against Indiana State, a team that gave up 73 points to Indiana.
Quarterback Rob Henry is a mobile guy, but the offense is a mess. If the Irish can get an early lead, this is one of those games that turns into a stat parade, with the Irish likely able to cause turnovers and get to the quarterback in bunches tonight.
Will youth be served? This feels like one of those football games where the future of the Irish makes itself known in the present. After waiting a few weeks to see guys like Greg Bryant, James Onwualu, Corey Robinson and Max Redfield make a difference, perhaps tonight is the night.
After an impressive spring and fall camp, Kelly talked about Robinson helping the Irish in certain segments of the game. Well, the red zone offense is needing a spark, and the beanpole receiver with hands covered with stick-em might be a nice solution. Likewise, last Saturday night showed that the safety position and secondary isn’t quite as bulletproof as we might have thought. Bringing an athlete like Redfield into the game tonight would get his feet wet against an offense that’s pretty inept.
Anybody that thought freshmen would come in and be immediate contributors hasn’t watched this football team the past three years. But on a night like this, it could be the right moment for a talented group of youngsters.
Does this football game need to be close? Not really. But that will be determined by how sharp the Irish are and how quickly they get started. Notre Dame went three-and-out on their first two possessions against Michigan, while the Wolverines scored on their first two touches.
At this point, it doesn’t matter if the Irish offense comes out with tempo, in the pistol, under center or in the spread. They’ve just got to be efficient, distribute the ball to the open man and run the ball effectively. If that happens, it’ll be a fun Saturday for the Irish.