Notre Dame’s 27-13 win against Purdue on Saturday lacked the dramatics of a quarterback change or the definitiveness of a four-touchdown win, but it still felt familiar to fifth-year receiver and captain Avery Davis. Perhaps more precisely, the pair of three-point wins to open the season felt familiar.
They reminded Davis of the 8- and 5-point Irish wins against Ball State and Vanderbilt, respectively, early in the 2018 season.
“We knew we had a very talented team,” Davis said of that frustrating September. “It’s not that we didn’t practice hard, we just needed to pick it up in practice.”
Swapping in Ian Book for Brandon Wimbush on Notre Dame’s first road trip in 2018 sparked the Irish to a 56-27 win at Wake Forest and eventually a Playoff bid. But to Davis, it was a mindset shift that mattered more than the quarterback change. The success then found was a lesson he tried to impart last week, both in practice and during the game in which he caught five passes for 120 yards and a score.
“The over-arching theme this week was a sense of urgency,” Davis said after the Irish topped the Boilermakers. “We just wanted to up our preparation with a sense of urgency, so putting ourselves in these stressful situations in practice so when a game happened we were more comfortable or ready for the situation.”
Davis then acknowledged a dynamic unique to Notre Dame in 2021. Most teams across the country are ripe with experience, filed with players taking advantage of extra eligibility courtesy of the universal pandemic eligibility waiver, but the national average for returning production was 76 percent. The Irish roster returned barely half its production from 2020, a natural byproduct of reaching two Playoffs in three years, as those leaders saw their next challenge coming in the NFL.
“I just know how those teams, those successful teams of the past have been,” Davis said. “There’s not too many guys in the locker room that have been a part of those undefeated teams, those teams that went to the Playoff.
“I know how hard we worked in practice, and I just want to translate that over.”
Notre Dame needed to find a sense of urgency in 2018, and it did. It may have again last week against Purdue, but as often as not, that is a success found only in retrospect.
SPEAKING OF 2018 …
Social media mojo does not extend to the field, but Notre Dame’s public-facing treatment of Purdue’s (not) “The World’s Largest Drum” conjured up memories of 2018.
That is not to compare this season to that Playoff run — though this is obviously the second such nod within a few hundred words — but the social media rimshots deserved some recognition both then and now.
If behind on the inane drum conversation: For whatever reason, valid or not, Notre Dame did not allow the Purdue marching band to lug its trademark drum into Notre Dame Stadium. The Boilermakers made a stink, which accomplished nothing. That’s the story.
Drummin’ up a dub.
— The Fighting Irish (@FightingIrish) September 18, 2021
One of a few such drum lines, they were all similar to the Irish social media team’s weekly subtle dig at an opponent during the 2018 unbeaten regular season. Most famously, Notre Dame took umbrage with the hype bestowed upon Virginia Tech’s entrance and atmosphere driven by “Enter Sandman.”
— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) October 7, 2018
And then the Irish beat Northwestern on the shores of Lake Michigan. The declaration made afterward could set up Notre Dame for yet another 2018 parallel this weekend.
Final score: ND 31 – NU 21
— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) November 4, 2018
For the record, Purdue’s drum is not the world’s largest, something The Indianapolis Star disproved nearly a decade ago. It is not even the biggest drum in a marching band in the Midwest.
If it were the world’s largest drum, then it would have been worth squeezing into Notre Dame Stadium. This would have been a sight …
World's largest drum https://t.co/Jrt1iBNrjo
— Jason "Dr. Victory" Kirk (@thejasonkirk) September 18, 2021
ON WISCONSIN …
Let’s be clear, it is not within Jack Coan’s demeanor to get riled up about facing his former team. Literally, Coan is too even-keel to add those emotions. Insisting otherwise will be an exhausting story line, especially since Coan and the Badgers split on good terms, not to mention the fact that he never actually was beaten out by current Wisconsin starting quarterback Graham Mertz in a quarterback competition. That is another myth.
“All the people ask me if I’m taking this game personally and things like that,” Coan said. “Not really, there’s no reason why I should take one game more personally than the next. I just want to go out there, win this one like all the rest.”
Coan facing his old team is a nice sidebar that should fill one lull on Saturday (12 ET; FOX), but nothing more than that.
JD Bertrand’S PACE
Only three games in, but JD Bertrand is on pace for 140 tackles and 18 tackles for loss. Which is like, a really good season.
— Greg Flammang (@greg2126) September 20, 2021
The Notre Dame record is 187 tackles in a season, set by Bob Crable in 1979. Two years later Crable would log 167.
In more recent times, Te’von Coney had 123 tackles in 2018 after making 116 in 2017, and Manti Te’o went 133-128-133 in 2010-12.
INSIDE THE IRISH
— Kelly ties Rockne atop Notre Dame’s record books the same way he got his first win, by beating Purdue
— Highlights: No. 12 Notre Dame 27, Purdue 13 — Featuring Kyren Williams & an explosive offense
— Things We Learned, Part I: Notre Dame’s aggressive defense finds looks that ‘fit’ in shutting down Purdue
— Things We Learned, Part II: Notre Dame turns to creativity to spark its offense, to inconsistent but productive results
— Notre Dame should change its COVID-19 testing policy
— Alcorn State pushes FBS team after troubling week
— SI’s Top 10: Georgia stays on top, Oregon breaks into top 2
— My Lost Vegas weekend with Norm Macdonald
— VSiN (@VSiNLive) September 21, 2021