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Prister: For once, Irish play to their potential (Oct. 3)

Eric Prister | Sunday, October 2, 2011

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Through five games so far this season, the Irish have experienced an entire season’s worth of parity.

They lost to an inferior South Florida team simply because they could not execute in the red zone and made error after error, which cost them the win.

They lost in heartbreaking fashion to Michigan, giving up a touchdown drive in the last 30 seconds of the game.

They defeated a solid Michigan State team handily despite too many mistakes.

They proved they could win in a close game against Pittsburgh even though they played their worst overall game of the season.

And Saturday, against a team that did not even belong on the same field as them, the Irish dominated Purdue in every facet of the game, and finally earned a decisive victory.

But now, it’s time to stop the parity and start doing what this team should have been doing all year — winning games consistently.

Notre Dame is a good football team. It may not be one of the best teams in the country, but it is a solid football team with more talent than most of the teams remaining on the schedule. It is time to stop the parity and get down to business — the business of winning games.

The Purdue game showed just how dominant the Irish can be when they execute and avoid turnovers (despite their best efforts). Granted, Purdue is a terrible team that had no clue how to stop Notre Dame from doing exactly what it wanted. But the Irish did what they needed to do and dominated a game that they certainly should have dominated.

Brian Kelly knew exactly what was at stake against Purdue. He never let his team take its foot off the gas and tried to move the ball even when the game was out of reach. He knew that consistency against Purdue means consistency as the season moves forward.

Not only that, but the win over Purdue provided a solid recipe for success for the rest of the season. Tommy Rees is not going to win games on his own for Notre Dame, so the offense needs to start with the running game. Cierre Wood and Jonas Gray are running hard and seeing the field incredibly well — they have to be a main focus of the Irish offense moving forward.

But the top option has to be Michael Floyd, just as he was against the Boilermakers. He is almost always the best, most athletic and most dangerous player on the field.

Notre Dame is a very talented team, but has trouble using that talent as well as it should. Turnovers have plagued the season and are the only thing standing between the Irish and a perfect record. They clearly have the capability to play like they did against Purdue. That doesn’t mean they need to beat every team 38-10, but that level of execution is what should be expected.

It’s time to end the parity. It’s time to let teams like Pittsburgh hang around; Pittsburgh is talented, but Notre Dame is much better. It’s time to play more games like Purdue, and fewer like South Florida. It’s time for Notre Dame to play up to its standards and win games its should win — win them handily, like it did against Purdue.

This year’s Irish squad is a good one. It’s time for them to play like it.

Contact Eric Prister at eprister@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.