NOTRE DAME — Another week, another rivalry.
That’s how head coach Brian Kelly sees Notre Dame’s visit to Purdue on Saturday, Sept. 14. He knows the Irish can’t afford a letdown after last week’s rivalry loss. Kelly knows Purdue will be ready for what will be the 67th consecutive faceoff between the in-state foes.
“In front of our offices, I think we have five or six rivalry trophies sitting in front of our office, and each and every week, it’s a rivalry game,” Kelly said. “We know who we’re playing. We’re playing a Big Ten opponent and any time you’re playing a Big Ten opponent, you’d better be ready to play.”
For the Irish, it’s an opportunity to bounce back from a bitter loss at Michigan. For Purdue, it’s an opportunity to earn some credibility after two ugly games to open the season.
How do these teams match up?
Rob Henry heads a Purdue offense that has scored only two touchdowns in the first two games.
Henry is another scrambler, so expect him to irritate Notre Dame on the ground, but he’ll likely be more along the lines of Temple’s Connor Reilly than Michigan’s Devin Gardner. In other words, Henry will gets his yards, but he’ll be ultimately ineffective against the Irish defense.
With Purdue’s top receiving threat, tight end Gabe Holmes, out with an injury, the Boilermakers will likely rely on Henry’s legs more so than his arm. Running back Akeem Hunt returned last week’s opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, so the Notre Dame front seven have to be wary of his speed.
However, Purdue struggled to convert in short-yardage situations against Indiana State. The Boilermakers will likely fare far worse against Notre Dame’s All-American defensive line.
Purdue has been as ineffective as Notre Dame in red zone scoring (both teams are ranked 111th in that regard), so don’t expect a lot of points from the home team.
Purdue’s greatest strength will be up front with defensive tackle Bruce Gaston and defensive end Ryan Russell matching up against Notre Dame’s solid offensive line.
Last year, the Irish managed only 52 rushing yards against Purdue, which is partially why the game stayed so close. Amir Carlisle is emerging as the top running back and should be fairly successful against Purdue like he was against Michigan.
Expect to see more of Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston. Kelly says the freshmen tailbacks are “factors in the game plan.” For all of Purdue’s shortcomings, its strength at defensive line will prove a true test for the young Irish running backs and give Notre Dame a better idea of where they stand at the position.
Notre Dame will likely be on the receiving end of long, time-chewing drives. Purdue punter Cody Webster leads the nation in punt yard average (49.9) and has the talent to give the Irish the long field all night.
As long as the offensive line holds steady, quarterback Tommy Rees should be comfortable against the Boilermaker secondary. The only player to truly worry about is cornerback Ricardo Allen, who will provide an interesting match up with receiver TJ Jones.
Purdue always gives Notre Dame trouble, especially in recent years. Undoubtedly, the Boilermakers will be a good team after a few years under new coach Darrell Hazell.
Just not this year.
Despite what the game against Michigan may have shown, Notre Dame is still a very talented team — not undefeated talented, but still a double-digit win team. Purdue just isn’t there yet.
Notre Dame 34, Purdue 10