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Football

Lorton: Irish must avoid complacency (Sept. 12)

| Thursday, September 11, 2014

Michael Yu | The Observer

Although many Notre Dame fans might not consider Purdue one of Notre Dame’s top rivals, recently the Boilermakers have made the games between the two teams very interesting 

Notre Dame needed a last-second field goal from Kyle Brindza to win 20-17 in 2012 — the same season the Irish reached the BCS National Championship Game — and a 21-point fourth-quarter comeback to win 31-24 last season. In both instances, Notre Dame had come off an eventful game the week before. In 2012, the Irish had just completed a long weekend in Dublin, Ireland, where they beat Navy 50-10. Last year, the week before playing Purdue, the Irish were unable to overcome Michigan at the Big House, losing 41-30. 

This year, the Irish are entering the Purdue game after a 48-17 home-opener win over Rice and an unexpected 31-0 shutout over Michigan, and they have looked strong in all three aspects of the game. 

Their offense is everything Notre Dame fans had hoped for when Brian Kelly took the helm: fast, aggressive and high-scoring. The young defense has had flashes of brilliance and looks as if its personnel fit Brian VanGorder’s system better than VanGorder’s fist-pumping fits the DJ Snake and Lil’ John song, “Turn Down for What.” 

But three out of the last five meetings between the two programs have been decided by a touchdown or less, and Purdue places an extra emphasis on this matchup, according to coach Darrell Hazell. When asked if the Notre Dame game matter more than others Hazell said to reporters, “Probably so; I know our guys will be fired up.”

He added,  “This one has been going on for 95 years, and it’s getting ready to go away and I’m sure the guys will be fired up about this great game plan and a great venue down in Lucas Oil Stadium. So all of those things will add to the energy level that will be in the stadium on Saturday night.” 

With 85 career meetings, the Irish have played Purdue the second-most out of any team, behind only Navy. Also, the Notre Dame-Purdue series is the second-longest continuous series the Irish play, having occurred every year since 1946. Similar to the Michigan game, this Saturday’s matchup will mark the end of the streak, as Notre Dame is not slated to play Purdue again until 2020. 

To the Boilermakers, Notre Dame represents an important in-state rival, Hazell said

“This has been such a great series, it really has,” Hazell said Tuesday. ”It’s an in-state rivalry, and it’s bragging rights for a year. Obviously, there is some disappointment that it’s going away, and it’s unfortunate that we won’t see them again until 2020.” 

To Notre Dame, this game is usually not the hardest matchup on their schedule, and the Irish have won 56 of the 86 meetings. With the game  being part of the Shamrock Series and in Indiana, there may be some extra dimensions added to it, but it still comes down to the Irish playing a Purdue team similar to the one that finished 1-11 last season. A team that still doesn’t even have a definitive starting quarterback. 

The Irish must set these thoughts aside and challenge themselves to not become complacent in their game. 

After the past two games, it is understandable to look past Purdue to the daunting tasks of Florida State, Stanford, Arizona State and Southern California. Contrary to popular belief, there is nothing wrong with that. By knowing what they have ahead of them, the Irish will know how hard they have to work on their own game against Purdue, in order to improve to the level of those other top-tier teams. 

Irish head coach Brian Kelly said the Irish still have things to fix on both sides of the ball, and the time to sort out these issues is now, by putting them into practice against Purdue. This is not simply a game to get by, but a game for the Irish to work towards something. 

“We’ve talked about we don’t rise to the level of our competition, we sink to the level of our preparation,” Kelly said. Tuesday “That will be the case this week. It will be about what we do and our preparation that will determine what happens on Saturday, because we know Purdue and what they’re going to do. They’re going to play their very best.”

If Notre Dame plays to the best of its ability, the win will follow. The Irish have proven a lot in their first two games, but they still have more to prove against Purdue.  

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

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