Head-to-Head: Notre Dame vs. Purdue
Observer Sports Writers | Thursday, September 6, 2012
Fifth-year senior Caleb TerBush returns from his one-game suspension for violating team rules and will certainly look to make an impression in one of the Boilermakers’ biggest games. TerBush poses more of a rushing threat than sixth-year senior Robert Marve Last season, TerBush threw for 101 yards and a touchdown on 10-for-15 passing and poses a much bigger running threat than Marve, who started in last week’s 48-6 romp over Eastern Kentucky.
Meanhwhile, Purdue is young at the wide receiver position, but returns junior receiver Antavian Edison, who totaled 584 yards and three touchdowns last year. The Irish will also have to wary of the dynamic playmaking abilities of sophomore receiver Raheem Mostert. Last week, two Boilermaker receivers set career highs in receptions as Purdue threw for 392 yards.
The young Irish secondary gave up 192 yards to a pass-wary Navy last week. Senior safeties Zeke Motta and Jamoris Slaughter constantly appeared out of position while freshman KeiVarae Russell is still looking to find his bearings after Saturday. TerBush could have an opportunity to put up some big passing numbers if the Irish don’t get to him fast enough.
In last year’s meeting between the two teams, the Irish held Purdue to 84 rushing yards in the 34-17 Notre Dame victory in West Lafayette, Ind. Starting at running back for the Boilermakers is senior Akeem Shavers, who earned Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl MVP honors after a 149-yard rushing performance in Purdue’s 37-32 win over Western Michigan on Dec. 27.
The Boilermakers also return three starters on the offensive line, combining for 48 starts in their respective collegiate careers. With TerBush’s return, however, Purdue may continue to focus on its aerial attack.
Last week, Notre Dame shut down the Navy triple option, holding the Midshipmen to their lowest rushing total (149 yards) in almost two years. Led by senior linebacker Manti Te’o, the Irish defense forced five fumbles and will try to shut down the running game early as it did last year in order to put the focus on TerBush and the passing attack.
EDGE: NOTRE DAME
PURDUE OFFENSIVE COACHING
Boilermakers coach Danny Hope has his squad healthy and will look to push the passing game, especially against inexperienced Irish corners. Last week, against Eastern Kentucky, Purdue distributed the ball to near-perfection, as 10 different rushers carried the ball and 12 different receivers recorded receptions. And seven different players scored a touchdown.
It likely won’t be the same this week, as Irish defensive coordinator Bob Diaco has the opportunity to show off his real defense after adjusting to the triple option against Navy.
EDGE: NOTRE DAME
PURDUE SPECIAL TEAMS
The Boilermakers kicking game is a bit of a scramble right now, as it looks to replace the most accurate kicker in school history, Carson Wiggs. Purdue is distributing playing time across the board to two true freshmen and one redshirt freshman.
As a freshman last year, sophomore receiver Raheem Mostert averaged just under 34 yards per kick return, only good enough to lead the nation.
We really didn’t get to see too much from the Irish passing attack last week due to the prowess of the rushing game. But Everett Golson still threw for 144 yards with a touchdown and an interception on 12-for-18 passing before getting a rest in the third quarter.
Senior tight end Tyler Eifert remains the focal point of the passing game, as Boilermakers coach Danny Hope has emphasized this week. Meanwhile, look for the Irish to try to throw the ball downfield, possibly to sophomore DaVaris Daniels and junior T.J. Jones against two young safeties.
The offensive line will try to keep Golson on his feet, especially after last week’s scary blindside hit. Senior captain and preseason All-American selection Kawaan Short will have something to say about that from the defensive tackle position after recording 6.5 sacks last season.
Purdue returns both its starting cornerbacks from last year: junior captain Ricardo Allen and senior Josh Johnson. The experienced corners will lead the way for the Purdue secondary and take some of the pressure off the two sophomore safeties. Last week against Eastern Kentucky, redshirt freshman corner Frankie Williams led the Boilermakers with six tackles, earning him Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors.
The secret’s out: the Irish can really run the ball.
Notre Dame rushed for 293 yards and five touchdowns against Navy, Led by senior Theo Riddick’s 107-yard, two-touchdown performance, the Irish completely controlled the tempo and eased its way to a victory. Sophomore George Atkinson saw plenty of action as well, racking up 99 yards on only 11 carries, which included an impressive 56-yard run. The Irish accomplished all this without the services of injured sophomore Amir Carlisle and senior starter Cierre Wood, who will finish out his two-game suspension against the Boilermakers.
Two Irish running backs recorded two touchdowns each against the Midshipmen for the second-straight year, giving Irish coach Brian Kelly a welcome wrinkle to the spread offense.
Led by Short and junior defensive tackle Bruce Gaston, the middle of the Purdue defensive line will pose a major threat to the Irish running game. It will be up to the veteran offensive line to push back the Purdue duo that combined for 24 tackles for loss just a season ago.
EDGE: NOTRE DAME
IRISH OFFENSIVE COACHING
Purdue defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar will almost certainly have his hands full with the suddenly versatile Kelly offense. It will take a solid gameplan and a few bounces to go the Boilermakers’ way to slow the Irish offense.
EDGE: NOTRE DAME
IRISH SPECIAL TEAMS
Senior kicker Nick Tausch missed an extra point against Navy while the Irish also botched another. The kicking game cannot afford to get in the way of putting points on the board, especially when top-ranked teams show up on the schedule.
The Irish will also have to look out for the dominant presence of Short on field goals, as the preseason All-Big Ten selection blocked a field goal and extra point in the second quarter alone last week.