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Purdue faces plenty of challenges against Notre Dame

How will this weekends game pan out?

Posted on Sept. 14, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on Sept. 14, 2013 at 7:23 p.m.

Notre Dame has a collection of stoic, straight-forward, players, and Bennett Jackson is right there. The senior tri-captain is as no-nonsense as the Fighting Irish have. Jackson led the player wave through the weekly Wednesday media paces and kept right on task -- Purdue, not Michigan. And after last season's 20-17 near-miss win over the Boilermakers at ND Stadium, the boys in Black & Gold had better be the one and only topic. Michigan talk is barely acknowledged.

"Our thoughts aren't really on it anymore," Jackson said this week. "Purdue has a talented, mobile quarterback, pretty good receviers, a pretty agile running backs and a pretty decent line. At the end of the day, every team shows up to play us. We can't take any opponent lightly. We're preparing for them like any other opponent."

Middle linebacker Dan Fox said that the ND coaches kept the practice pace lively, but there was no sense of panic. "They're pretty consistent. There's not a lot of rah-rah after a loss ... just get back to work. There's no fake bravado. I know there were plays I left out there that I thought I could have made."

PURDUE COACH ON THE IRISH

Darrell Hazell on the ND defense in general: " They're stout. I watched last year's film against -- oh, they played Pitt and they played a couple other people that I've watched so far, Stanford. But they're a good defense. They really are. They rely a lot on their front seven. They play a lot of manned coverage Defenses are catching up a little to the spread offense. You put more and more athletic quarterbacks out on the field."

Hazell on the ND defensive line and game-planning for it: "Yeah, we have to absolutely know where those guys are. I think you've got to do some things side-to-side, so they don't become an issue. The other thing is you've got to make sure that any time you can get a double team on those guys, and they don't want you to have double teams on them, so they're going to do some things, twisting, and get into a little bit of a front of covering up both the guards in the center so that you can't get double teams on them. So they protect them pretty well."

GAME-TIME NOTES: No. 21 Notre Dame (1-1) at Purdue (1-1), 8 p.m. (ABC). Line: Notre Dame by 20½. Series record: Notre Dame leads 56-26-2.

KEY MATCHUP: Purdue’s defensive front vs. Notre Dame’s goal-line offense. Both teams come into the game ranked 111th in red-zone scoring. That might not be a much of a surprise for Purdue, which has been a pass-first team for 15 years. But after last week’s loss at Michigan, it’s a good bet that coach Brian Kelly wants to clean this up. While Purdue is stout up front with 310-pound Bruce Gaston and 306-pound Ryan Watson at defensive tackle, the Boilermakers will need those players to stay fresh.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Notre Dame: CB KeiVarae Russell and S Bennett Jackson. Kelly made it clear that he wasn’t happy with how they played at Michigan and that he expects a stronger performance this week at Purdue. Purdue: RB Akeem Hunt. The 5-foot-9 junior is the Boilermakers’ fastest runner and top playmaker. Last week, he returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. If the Boilermakers intend to challenge this week, Hunt needs to have a big game. Hunt was named Big 10 Conference special teams player of the week.

FACTS & FIGURES: Notre Dame has won five straight in the series and is 3-0 against Purdue in night games. ... The Boilermakers are 34-137-2 against ranked teams when they are unranked. ... These teams have met 84 times including each season since 1946, tied for the fourth-longest streak among nonconference schools in the nation. ... Last year, QB Tommy Rees led the Irish on a drive for the winning field goal with 7 seconds to go. ... Purdue punter Cody Webster leads the nation at 49.9 yards. ... Rees is averaging more yards per game passing (330.0) than Purdue QB Rob Henry has thrown for in his first two games (311).




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