This ongoing series examines Notre Dame’s 2014 opponents as they stand after the spring. We’re going down Notre Dame’s schedule, so next up: The Purdue Boilermakers.
Date: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 13 at Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis (Shamrock Series game).
Series history: Notre Dame leads 57-26-2.
Last meeting: 2013 — Notre Dame won 31-24.
2013 common opponents: Michigan State (Notre Dame W, 17-13; Purdue L, 14-0).
2013 in a nutshell
A rough start for first-year coach Darrell Hazell, who saw Purdue to a 1-11 season and winless (0-8) in the Big Ten’s weakened Leaders Division. Purdue gave Notre Dame its usual headache — and also closely fought Michigan State and Illinois. But the anemic Boilermaker offense failed to score more than 14 points in half of their games in 2013. Like Michigan, much of Purdue’s woes could be tied to its struggling offensive line.
Players/positions to watch
- Danny Etling, quarterback: Etling succeeded Rob Henry at starting quarterback four games into the season. His first collegiate starts were against Northern Illinois, Nebraska, Michigan State, Ohio State and Iowa, which makes an unfair measuring stick for a freshman quarterback of a bad team.
Once Etling found some semblance of footing, he finished the season fairly strong. He completed 67 percent of his passes for six touchdowns and two interceptions in the final three games. As long as Etling is protected, he could be special.
- Wide receivers/tight end: The good news for Etling is that all five receivers return from last year. The receiving corps features fifth year tight end Gabe Holmes, who missed 10 games last year due to injury, receiver/running back Akeem Hunt (who had 94 all-purpose yards against the Irish last year) and to-be sophomore DeAngelo Yancey, who had a team-high 546 receiving yards last year.
- Ryan Russell, defensive end: The fifth-year senior figures to be the only remaining force from last year’s pass rush — returning from 5.5 tackles for loss and two sacks in 2013. Russell has the size and quickness to be a top tier pass rusher, but he has struggled with consistency throughout his tenure at Purdue. The Boilermakers need a big season from Russell, who must lead a slew of new defensive linemen.
This will be the second consecutive week Notre Dame says goodbye to a longstanding foe. While the rivalry with Purdue doesn’t measure up to USC, Stanford or Michigan, the in-state Boilermakers have been a staple on the Irish schedule since 1946. Notre Dame and Purdue won’t meet again until 2020.
If last year’s game was any indication, an even slightly better Purdue team could spell trouble for the Irish. However, the Boilermaker defensive front has been gutted with the departure of Bruce Gaston, Greg Latta and Ryan Isaac. Top cornerback Ricardo Allen is also gone.
The good news for Purdue? This year will be better than last. Notre Dame aside, its non-conference schedule is lighter. The Boilermakers could realistically beat four or five teams on a slate that includes Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Southern Illinois and Illinois.
That said, Notre Dame in Lucas Oil Stadium won’t be one of them.